The pandemic dented one of Chicago’s most-loved pastimes: pop culture-themed pop-ups. But that side of the restaurant industry is roaring back with an unlikely figure leading the charge: Barbie.
Earlier this week, filmmakers dropped a new trailer previewing the movie based on Mattel’s classic doll. In June, Chicago will debut the Malibu Barbie Cafe. Tickets go on sale on Wednesday, April 19 and organizers will disclose the location then. The movie releases on Wednesday, June 21. Much like the Super Mario Bros.restaurant in LA, Barbie hopes to create culinary synergy to help the box office.
Bucket Listers, a new company that emerged during the pandemic, organized the pop-up, and a familiar name is onboard. Derek Berry, who in 2016 came up with the wild idea to create a pop-up based around NBC’s Saved by The Bell, is back. Berry, a pop culture fanatic who DJ’ed at Beauty Bar in West Town (he’s now a partner at the venue, Berry’s also a co-owner of Dorian’s in Wicker Park), has also worked on pop-ups including one based on Clerks filmmaker Kevin Smith’s Mooby’s and a Golden Girls pop-up in San Francisco and New York. Chicago will allegedly soon get the chance to honor Dorothy, Blanche, Sophia, and St. Olaf’s own Rose. Stay tuned.
Six months ago, Berry and his team proposed a Pink Cafe but Mattel’s team thought it was too predictable. Berry says they pivoted and are leaning more into a ‘70s aesthic, matching the movie: “The ‘70s were a big era for the doll,” Berry says, adding: “This is less about walking into a doll house, but more about creating a cafe that Barbie would visit.”
Promotion of the movie has produced several memes thanks to a selfie generator. Barbie, of course, is doctor, scientist — even a chef. This is an official pop-up done with the blessing with Mattel. Organizers describe the restaurant as fast causal with all-day brunch and a menu created by Becky Brown a semifinalist from Master Chef. Berry is friends with Brown and says the menu will feature lighter California fare. It doesn’t make sense for Barbie to visit a cafe an order a filet mignon or pesto chicken. They’ll serve creative club sandwiches, skewers, and sweets like macaroons. And for the first time, Berry says he’s working on a pop-up with a children’s menu.
The cafe’s also coming to New York, but despite the Malibu theme, it’s not heading to LA. Mattel didn’t want the pop-up competing with World of Barbie, an experiential attraction (in the same vein as Museum of Ice Cream) that’s debuting later this month in Southern California. Like the Saved by the Max pop-up, there will be plenty of Instagram-worthy photo opportunities.
Berry, who lives in LA with his wife and three kids, is excited to bring more pop-ups to Chicago. Expect more news about future events in the coming months.
Malibu Barbie Cafe, opening Wednesday, June 7, location TBA; tickets go onsale Wednesday, April 19 via Bucket Listers.