Diners had a choice Wednesday night, as dinner service commenced at the "Saved By The Bell" pop-up diner in a Wicker Park: Dust off their vintage 1990s gear or search the web and order a brand new Bayside High School sweatshirt. Enthusiasm was contagious as staff and fans united for their taste of delicious nostalgia.
The first diner in line, Chicagoan Henry Pon, donned his 1992 NBA Finals hat, held his flip phone and sported 1992 Clinton/Gore campaign buttons. Pon arrived at 3 p.m. without a reservation. Behind him stood a woman from Miami who was in Chicago until Thursday. She also had no reservation, but dressed as Lisa Turtle (Lark Voorhies).
But what good "Saved By The Bell" episode lacks drama? Shortly before 5 p.m., a staffer told the 30 or some in line that service would be limited to those with reservations. Pon and others held slumped postures, sad that their efforts would go unrewarded. But that was just a build up, as actor Ed Alonzo greeted them 10 minutes later and escorted the pair inside. Pon raised his arms and erupted with a cheer as he entered, passing by the look-alikes dressed as the show's cast.
Alonzo played Max, the diner's owner and social media connected him with the Chicago crew. He read about the pop-up and hit "like" on his Facebook feed and days later they contacted him. He'll be in Chicago until Saturday and was performing table-side magic tricks for diners. That included solving a mini Rubik's Cube by placing the 80s relic in his mouth: "Some magicians are slight of hand, I'm slight of mouth," the actor said.
Bright pastels worn by diners only added to the sensory overload inside. It's easy to get overwhelmed by the attention to detail workers took to copy the TV set. The late-night crowd began filling up space around 11:30 p.m., and after that Zack Attack, the diner's house band took the stage.
Check out the photos below. The pop-up lasts through August.