Music and dance coordinators, made-to-order sushi, cosplay competitions, and anime are displayed on the walls. Walking into a pop-up party at Trap Sushi means experiencing not only Atlanta, but a bit of Japanese culture as well.
Musical artist Tolden Williams, better known by his stage name Troop Brand, and his wife Stephanie Lindo host the bimonthly Monday Night Garage in the West End to celebrate the interests and cultures they love. Through Trap Sushi, the couple wants to welcome anime buffs, expose more people to aspects of Japanese culture and food, and host a quality party to celebrate Atlanta in the process.
Anime has been a part of the brand’s life since he was a kid. Originally from Mississippi, he remembers walking into a store as a teenager and taking over Shounen Jump manga magazine and Akira Movie.
“I think those two were my introductions to the anime and manga,” says Brand. He would notice the food in the comics — sushi, dango, ramen, takoyaki — and find himself wanting to try more of it. It wasn’t until he moved to Atlanta around 2014 that he really started diving deeper into Japanese cuisine. This, and a trip to Japan with his father when he was 15, gave him an appreciation for the country’s culture.
“Universe [in Japan] And I just tested the culture, it was so psychedelic because I was really a fan of culture — like I love sushi, I love cuisine,” says Brand. These influences kind of generated the idea of Trap Sushi, in order to bridge the gap between these two cultures. [Atlanta and Japan]. “
The brand has been hooked up to the hip-hop, sushi, and anime scenes in Atlanta for a while now, but has noticed there’s no place or experience where all of his interests intersect. Most animation conferences only happen once a year – and at a very high price many people attend. It can range from $40 to $100 per ticket. Brand says these events are “safe spaces” for the animation community, but he wanted that to also be true outside of the annual conventions.
In January 2020, Brand teamed up with Erinn Knight to launch Trap Sushi at Our Bar ATL on Edgewood Avenue. Now, he and Lindo plan regular events at Monday Night Garage, while Knight is focused on promoting Trap Sushi to host events in other cities. Depending on the ticket—general admission, early bird, or VIP—the Trap Sushi pop-up costs anywhere from $15 to $30 per person, putting you in for a decorated party.
Chef Donny Luqman of Atlanta’s Wagaya Japanese Restaurant oversees Trap Sushi, using ingredients from the restaurant’s Japanese market on downtown 14th Street to make rolls, nigiri, and sashimi on demand. Complimentary Japanese snacks, such as Yan Yan, Pocky, Hello Panda, and roasted seaweed, are spread across multiple tables for people arriving early at the Trap Sushi pop-up party.
“Not everyone can take a trip to Japan, or not everyone may even know where to go to try some of these snacks, or not everyone may be aware of sushi or the culture,” says Brand. “So, we just try to mix cultures [from Atlanta and Japan] as much as possible to give people that opportunity to see and experience it.”
Aside from sushi, other local pop-ups like Phew’s Pies and The Real Mexican Vittles serve up their dishes while Sunday Night serves drinks. The event also showcases Atlanta music and retail businesses. Trap Sushi taps DJ, DJ Lachii, and other local music talents and invites Atlanta vendors like Complete Designs, Grillz by Scotty and Kimono Gang, who park “Tokyo Drift-style cars” wrapped in cartoon characters (also known as itasha) on a night out. The two back chandeliers room near the DJ and dance area.
Although costumes are not required, there is always a runway show-style cosplay competition. A DJ plays a track for each contestant as they compete to either choose the judge or the audience’s favorite title, both of which come with prizes. The overall winner of the cosplay competition gets $100, and the winner of the crowd favorite gets a mystery bag, which in the past has included anime stickers, Japanese candy, anime car stickers, and more. After that, there is a lot of dancing and other types of entertainment, such as shooting areas and board games.
“Trap Sushi was really meant for people like us who like [anime] The culture… who love food, who love Atlanta,” Lindo says. “But it’s also for Atlanta folks who might not know much about it but really want to have a good time.”
Having grown up watching cartoons, Monday Night Hospitality Director Anthony Drago was personally excited about the brand and approached Lindo about hosting Trap Sushi at the brewery. But she also supported Monday Night’s mission to invest in the West End community.
“It supports local artists in Atlanta, and all the vendors they have are all local as well as in the West End,” says Drago. “Okay, let’s support our community and do something we love and resonate with.”
Larry Stark, CEO of Beltline Cosplay, first attended Trap Sushi after Brand and Lindo invited her to judge a cosplay competition at a November 2021 event. Since then, she and members of the cosplay organization have appeared at each individual event. She came dressed as a Pennywise clown He. ShePrincess Morbucks from The Powerpuff Girls seriesand Domino from dead list.
“It’s just a great vibe,” says Stark. It is interactive and lively. The music is great and everyone is dressed. Plus, Trap Sushi creates a welcoming space for people of color, which is hard to find at some cosplay conventions. “It’s a comfort I enjoy and something I can relate to a lot easier” from an environment that doesn’t feel receptive to people of color, she adds.
What started with just hundreds of attendees hosted nearly 800 people during the last party held at the brewery. With several events under their belts, Brand and Lindo are looking toward the future and expanding the Trap Sushi experience. Some of the big names have already noticed the popup as well. Back in February, Trap Sushi teamed up with BoB and his brand Send Noodz for a ramen event. Every now and then, the Atlanta rapper stops by at a party.
Brand also hopes to eventually turn Trap Sushi into a music and food festival in Japan’s Atlanta, but knows it must expand slowly, considering the community the pop-up is already creating.
“That’s the ultimate goal: taking these steps to do that, but also making sure that we don’t grow so fast that we lose our community,” he says.
The next Trap Sushi event is scheduled for late August.