Fans of Kevin Smith, the filmmaker known for littering his comedies with comic book and stoner references, is coming to Chicago for a pop-up restaurant. As previously announced, the pop-up will go from October 30 through November 6, but now organizers have revealed that Saint Lou’s Assembly in West Loop — a restaurant familiar with dressing up for Halloween — is the pop-up’s host. Mooby’s is the fast-food chain that appears in the filmmakers’ flicks including Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back and Dogma. Tickets go on sale Thursday, October 15.
Mooby’s apes fast-food chains like McDonald’s and Burger King. In Smith’s movies, the chain features a singing cartoon cow which slings beef burgers to children. Smith made that statement in his films years before he turned vegan. For the pop-up — which sells meaty and vegan options — he’s teaming up with the crew that brought Chicago Saved by the Max, the temporary restaurant based on the ‘90s sitcom Saved by the Bell. The production (which began in 2016 in Chicago’s Wicker Park before moving to LA) kicked off a golden age of pop-ups in Chicago and proved to people that pop-culture restaurants, if executed properly, could be successful. That gave bar and restaurant owners a gimmick to lure customers while irritating critics who can’t stand pop culture. From Stranger Things, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, to Fleetwood Mac, Chicago has since become the pop-up capital of America.
Smith loves pop culture, cramming his movies with references to Marvel and DC comics. The New Jersey native also managed an Illinois connection in his 1999 movie, Dogma. Two reoccurring characters in his movies, Jay (played by Smith’s good friend Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (played by Smith) searching for a fictional town called “Shermer, Illinois.” That’s a reference to another filmmaker, John Hughes, who used Shermer as the setting (believed to be in Chicago’s North Shore) for his ‘80s movies like Ferris Buller’s Day Off. McHenry, Illinois isn’t near the North Shore, but Smith and Mewes will appear November 1 at the McHenry Outdoor Theater for a socially distant-friendly drive-in appearance.
For the pop-up in Chicago, organizers promise plenty of props so Smith’s fans can snap photos and post them to Instagram. As COVID-19 affects the restaurant industry, pop-ups — which sell customers on an immersive experience where they can pretend to be part of a movie or TV property — had to switch their strategies. Pop-ups need to either focus on outdoor seating or takeout to ease health concerns. Even though it’s fast food, Mooby’s will sell tickets that will help control the number of people inside.
Smith has also inspired Chicago’s bar and restaurants during the pandemic. Goose Island Beer sent out banners to several bars to hang outside reading “I assure you we’re open.” The signs were to advise customers that businesses remained serving even during city’s stay-at-home order. The reference comes from Smith’s first movie in 1994, Clerks, as the protagonist hangs a sign written with shoe polish with the phrase outside a convenient store. Smith is ready to sell swag to Chicago, including a hoodie inspired by the Chicago Blackhawks hockey team. The shirt’s topical, given the Columbus Day news outside the United Center where a team monument was defaced to protest Native American cultural appropriation. Sounds like fodder for another reboot.
Organizers tested out the concept in LA and New Jersey, while also offering a takeout and delivery option in Chicago and New York. The menu is full of inside jokes for fans with items like the “Cow Tipper,” “Cocksmoker,” and “Hater Totz.” Arguably, the most infamous food reference in a Smith movie is a scene in 1995’s Mallrats that features chocolate-covered pretzels. Those were available in LA, but without the gastrointestinal chaos caused in the movie.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that Mooby’s will pop up at Saint Lou’s. Pop-up organizer Derek Berry was a regular fixture as a DJ at Beauty Bar, the West Town club co-owned by Bruce Finkelman. Finkelman’s 16” on Center hospitality company owns Saint Lou’s and neighboring cocktail bar MONEYGUN. In years past, staff has dressed up the restaurant and bar for Halloween. In 2017, MONEYGUN transformed to a TGI Fridays, with Fridays sending the bar officially licensed flair. Last year, Saint Lou’s dressed up as an Olive Garden.
- Vegan Filmmaker Kevin Smith Bringing His Fast Food Pop-Up to Chicago [ECHI]
- Kevin Smith’s Celebrity Reboot [Vulture]
- Blackhawks statue outside United Center vandalized [Sun-Times]
- Kevin Smith Brings His Movie-Famous Fast Food Franchise Mooby’s to Life [ELA]
- TGI Fridays Won’t Sue MONEYGUN Over Pop-Up, Sends Them Flair [ECHI]
- West Loop restaurant turning into a faux Olive Garden — for Halloween [Tribune]