As a child of the ’90s, I grew up watching reruns of classic TV shows like Saved by the Bell. Even now, the big hair, DayGlo colors, and sitcom cheesiness is fun to rewatch.
Earlier this year, my equally ’90s-loving best friend sent me an article about Saved by the Max, a Saved by the Bell-themed pop-up restaurant in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood. So obviously when we learned they’d added additional dates to the restaurant’s sold-out calendar, we jumped at the chance to enjoy a throwback dinner there together.
From the outside, the Wicker Park building is fairly inconspicuous—a white brick exterior with pink neon signs proclaiming “The Max” blaze in each large window. Once inside, a towering Bayside High mural and lockers belonging to each of the show’s principle characters greet visitors. As we waited in line excitedly, fellow diners (some in full ’90s attire) snapped photos around us.
When it was time for our reservation, a server in a red “The Max” crop top and side ponytail led us to our seats at the Saved by the Max bar. We quickly learned that eating at Saved by the Max isn’t your typical dining experience.
Here guests are encouraged to get up and walk around during their meal. Different spaces within the restaurant are decorated like the titular restaurant, Principal Belding’s office, and Miss Bliss’ homeroom, which provides lots of great photo ops. Or grab a giant cutout of your favorite character and pose with your friends. For maximum nostalgia, episodes of Saved by the Bell play on constant loop throughout the restaurant.
Since we’d pre-payed with our reservation, we each received an appetizer, entree, and dessert to ourselves. When we sat down, our server warned us it would be a lot of food, and she was absolutely right.
Right away we decided the best way to try new things was to divide and conquer. To start, we opted for the Mac and Screech (which we overheard a server telling other diners takes two days to make) and the AC Sliders. While the mac and cheese was incredible creamy, the highlight of our appetizers were the pulled pork sliders. For our entree we enjoyed the Kelly Kapowski and the Preppy BLT, which were both gigantic and deliciously savory. But the real highlight was dessert.
I ordered the incredible Hey, Hey, Hey Pie of the Day (pumpkin, given the proximity to Thanksgiving) from Chicago local Bang, Bang Pie Shop. But Max’s Magical Sweet Tooth blew it away. This delicious sugar rush includes blueberry muffin ice cream topped with fresh blueberries, candied lemon, and blueberry jam. Needless to say, I’m still dreaming about it.
If you visit Saved by the Max
Time is running out to get yourself to Saved by the Max! Unless dates are extended again, the pop-up restaurant will only be open through the end of 2016. While reservations are filling up quickly, trying to dine here as a walk-in is always an option as well.
If you do plan on making reservations, I recommend visiting with a small party (no more than three) so you can make individual reservations to sit at the restaurant’s bar. Simply make a reservation for one at the same time as your dining partners and the servers will be more than happy to seat you all together when possible.
Saved by the Max, 1941 W. North Avenue in Chicago, Illinois