As Chicagoans once more approach pop-up fatigue, the staff at Timothy O’Toole’s, home of one of the city’s best pub menus, is calling all Bears super fans. The Streeterville sports bar next week will launch Swerski’s Chicago Pop-Up Bar for Superfans. It’s a tribute to the Chicago Bears, the Saturday Night Live sketches that lampooned Chicago sports fans, and Mike Ditka — the head coach of the franchise’s only Super Bowl winner.
Bears fans haven’t had a winner in 34 years. Nostalgia provides the catalyst for many pop-ups, focusing on ‘90s TV shows, video games, or other pop-culture items. Timothy O’Toole’s is applying that formula through the football season. SNL launched its “Bill Swerski’s Superfans” sketches in 1991, a series that featured a group of die-hard Chicago sports fans. The sketch featured actors like Chris Farley, George Wendt, and Dan Aykroyd. They would speak in exaggerated Chicago accents and worship Bulls legend Michael Jordan and the Bears’s Ditka.
Timothy O’Toole’s Humberto Martinez Jr. worried that younger customers may not understand what these sketches mean to older Chicago sports fans. His team knew it wanted to do something special for the upcoming NFL season, as the Bears celebrate its 100th birthday. They’ll have cut outs made to look like the SNL set and vintage photos. In the ‘90s, fans made “Da Bears!” a rallying cry, thanks to the TV show. Martinez hopes to return to those glory days. He imagines customers trying to reenact sketches by faking heart attacks and the rest. They’re also creating a special video to explain the sketch and the players involved.
This is the bar’s first pop-up, and Martinez knows how some feel pop-ups are gimmicks. O’Toole’s is normally at capacity during Bears games, so ownership doesn’t see the pop-up as a marketing ploy. It’s more about giving regular fans, especially for former Chicagoans in town visiting, an added bonus.
“We’re not going to make any more, we’re not going to make any less money because we did this,” Martinez said.
Besides having Instagram-friendly props — like fake mustaches, aviator glasses, and orange and navy sweaters (“Hopefully the stuff doesn’t walk,” Martinez said.) — they also will feature a special menu with some deep cuts for fans. There’s a drink that refers to the rivalry between Ditka and then-defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan. Payton’s Punch is a reference to the greatest running back in league history. There’s also a drink, Honey Bear, named after the team’s now-defunct cheerleading squad. Food also includes Trubisky’s Tacos, and Mack and Cheese Bites, references to current players. Unfortunately, there are no Polish sausage plates.
The unofficial pop-up debuts on Thursday, September 5. It lasts through football season four days a week, on Thursdays through Sundays.