Chicago’s “Saved by the Bell” pop-up hits the nostalgia spot

When I was a kid, I always looked forward to Friday afternoons. Not for the obvious reasons – although, of course for the obvious reasons – but because Friday was the day our usually TV-free household finally was allowed to turn on the tube. And my show of choice? Always “Saved by the Bell.”

Meet Mr. Belding

Dennis Haskins, the actor who played Mr. Belding on “Saved by the Bell,” will stop by Saved by the Max for a one-day-only brunch event on Sunday, July 17. Tickets are available here for .

Keep an eye out for more special guest visits later in the year.

So when I heard that there was going to be a Saved by the Bell-themed pop-up diner in Chicago’s own Wicker Park neighborhood, my nostalgia-loving heart skipped a beat. My long-ago fantasies of spending time with Zack Morris and the gang at The Max could finally come true! And let me say, my experience at Saved by the Max, which just opened on June 1, definitely lived up to those expectations.

First of all, the décor is spot-on. Saved by the Max has managed to perfectly re-create the diner in all its technicolor early-‘90s glory, from the vintage video games to the shiny red plastic booths. Superfans like myself will get a kick out of spotting subtle shout-outs throughout the whole space. (Remember that episode about the teen line? You’ll want to check out the payphone.)

And while the majority of the restaurant is dedicated to the diner concept, there are also reminders of other Saved by the Bell moments, from the remade principal’s office to the locker bay and radio station.

You’ll also see TVs broadcasting episodes of the show, so you can easily recall your favorite moments from the series. I was surprised by how quickly the plot line from one particular episode came flooding back.

The menu items are also cleverly named and described – it’s obvious whoever put it together has pretty rad knowledge of exactly what was happening at Bayside High from 1989-1993. The menu includes appetizers, sides and entrees, all elevated versions of typical “diner fare.” So while the Bayside Burger may sound like your fast-food mainstay, it’s actually more like what you’d get at a name brand restaurant. (For good reason: the kitchen is helmed by local chef Brian Fisher.)

You can also choose from a number of malts, shakes and fizzes, not to mention desserts – including pies from Logan Square’s Bang Bang Pie – all guaranteed to satisfy your sweet tooth. And for those over-21 high-schoolers-at-heart, The Attic’s full menu of cocktails adds a pleasant kick to all the nostalgia. The “I’m So Excited,” named after one of SBTB’s most famous scenes, definitely hit the spot.

As for logistics, you’ll want to get a reservation, or else you risk waiting in a long line when you could be dancing along to the music of Zack Attack. Saved by the Max is only in Chicago through the end of December, so unless you have a Time Out in your back pocket, you’ll want to nab your spot now. A $35 reservation gets you an appetizer, entrée, dessert and soft drink and is available at savedbythemax.tocktix.com.

For extra fun, the Chicago Parent team recommends dressing in period-appropriate clothing. The silliness of wearing Keds, off-the-shoulder shirts and high ponies added to our photo ops – and I also spied at least two other patrons in Bayside High gear.

So whether you’re looking for a chance to throw it back to your own childhood of Friday-afternoon TV, or you’re busy introducing your kiddos to the wonder that is Saved by the Bell via Netflix, Saved by the Max is a must. You’ll leave with some epic Instagram pics, a satisfied tummy, and the chance to sing “I’m So Excited” at the top of your lungs. And really, what more could you want? (Call me, Zack.)

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