On a busy street in the middle of the Wicker Park neighborhood in Chicago, a brand new blast from the past has opened up. Part art installation, part elevated burger joint, and all nostalgia, “Saved By The Max” is the “Saved By The Bell” pop-up restaurant you never knew you needed in your life.
About three months ago, as a joke, I mentioned to my husband that it would be fun to travel to Chicago to go to this pop-up restaurant when I saw a mention of it in my Facebook feed. I knew it was opening on June 1, my birthday, and I was raised on “Saved By The Bell.” It sounded perfect.
Matt said to me, “what if it sucks?” I’d be lying if I told you I hadn’t thought the same thing.
“It’ll be a great story either way.” I told him. I’m a sucker for a good story.
So, the day the tickets went on sale, my husband, who navigates the internet and social media like some sort of ninja, hopped right on it.
The concept for the pop up was licensed by NBC, they were able to share the set plans so that the Max, the popular hangout on “Saved By The Bell” could be recreated to the finest detail in this Wicker Park storefront.
We were seated in “Mr. Belding’s Office” – a special corner of the restaurant that paid homage to another popular set on the show.
And wouldn’t you know it, for the first few days of the restaurant’s opening, The Max himself, Ed Alonzo was on the scene chatting with all the preppies.
Ed is very familiar with the Twin Cities, having been a resident performer at Valleyfair for the past few years, so we felt comfortable chatting him up. He is one of the kindest people I’ve ever met, and that is not hyperbole. When you step back to think about the fact that he not only starred in one of the seminal TV shows of the 90’s, but has also consulted stars the likes of Britney Spears and Katy Perry on illusions for their stage shows, it’s surprising how down to earth and kind he is. He took the time to talk with us about all the detail that went into the planning of the restaurant. I remarked that for him it must have been a trip to walk into a scene from his past like that. He confirmed that it was very awesome for him.
The pop-up is open until August 31, and then will fade away into the night quietly. Allegedly. I’m not sayin’, I’m just sayin’, it was mentioned on the down low to us by someone who shall remain nameless who served us our delicious food that there was whisper of extending the run through the year. In any case, if you find yourself in the Wicker Park neighborhood of Chicago, they DO have limited room for walk-ins if you haven’t gotten a ticket, but you’ll be waiting in line for over an hour. Dare I say, though, if you’re a fan, it’s well worth it. We were there for 90 minutes, and the novelty NEVER wore off.
The food was good, but who cares, it was all about the experience!
Here are some more pictures from our pilgrimage:
In the bar they serve a full list of “Saved By The Bell” themed cocktails plus beer and wine.
The menu is an elevated diner menu with tons of creative reference to our favorite 90’s TV show.
Mr. Belding’s file cabinet contains an entire drawer for Zack Morris.
According to Ed Alonzo, each measurement is identical to those on the set of “Saved By The Bell.” In other words, this layout is as true to form as possible. Note, the pay phone to the right of the “door” and the jukebox.
The wall hangings were so 90’s, and identical to those on the set of “Saved By The Bell.” They had the ambience down. Including the background music, which was a compilation of the music used for transitions in the show along with some of the hits, like “Put your mind to it, go for it” and “Friends Forever,” as well as some of the hits sung by Zack Morris’ band “The Zack Attack.”
Ed even had the original “Applause Meter” from the dance off episode that featured Casey Kasem.
Many people celebrated by dressing in their finest 90’s attire, but this gal went all out dressing as Jessie Spano in the famous episode where she becomes addicted to speed. “I’m so excited, I’m so scared.”0