Chicago’s ‘Saved By The Max’ is More Than a Nostalgic Experience

Despite missing out when the initial dinner tickets went on sale nearly 2 months ago, a good friend invited me to checkout the Saved By The Bell pop-up cafe in Wicker Park. With a 7:30 PM reservation, we arrived early enough to grab a beer at Piece, just a few doors down, while a line of walk-ups stretched down North Avenue toward the Milwaukee intersection. It feels cruel yet cool when you can pass the whole line to make your reservation.

Entering the SFCO doors (formerly Geek Bar), you’re greeted by a giant Bayside logo, Zack Morris’ row of lockers, and a long walled-off hall to the check-in point.

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It eerily gives you similar excitement and anxious intrigue as Wonka’s boat ride. Okay, that might be extreme but that’s what I felt walking 20 feet and unsure of what I’ll see around the corner…

…then the relief that followed.

It’s not big by any means, but it’s very comfortable inside. That is probably thanks to the reservation system To the left, around the corner of the host’s station, there is a bar surrounded by stools and a few hightop tables. You’ll notice at times that there are some empty barstools and it was explained to us that the staff will try to be as accommodating as possible for single walkups or parties of 2 to fill them up.

When seated at our booth, we were given separate drink and a dinner menus to skim over.

 

Our server, Amy, gave us great recommendations off both menus. Starting with the “Mark Paul 75”

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A French 75 with G.H. Mumm Champagne, Plymouth Gin, Lemon Juice, Simple Syrup, Lemon Twist and Luxardo Cherry.

I’m not sure if the kids at Bayside ever drank out of a martini glass this fancy on the show, but I highly doubt that Kelly would mind it.

Included with your $45 reservation ticket, you got an appetizer, entree and desert with your meal. The drinks and sides aren’t included, but that’s really okay. Going in a party of 2 or more allows you to pick and try multiple dishes from Chef Brian Fisher, formerly of Michelin-starred restaurant, Schwa.

When asked about my thoughts on the experience, I have to lead off by gushing over how good the food was. Crediting Chef Brian’s menu and Amy’s recommendations, I’ll just share my selections.

Appetizers

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“AC Sliders” – Goose Island braised pulled pork and Lillie’s Q gold barbecue sauce with a touch of Jameson.

“Snow White and the Seven Dorks” – Lebanese seven spiced chicken wings with herbed yogurt.

It’s hard not to get the sliders based on the name alone, but they truly are an excellent choice. The pork is tender, the sauce is delicious and the pickle compliments it all perfectly.

The wings were a nice surprise. We anticipated them to be a little spicy but it’s sweeter than you’d expect. The “Mac and Screech” would have been another choice that made me wish we had one more person to sample with.

Entree

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“Tori’s Fried Chicken” – Goose Island 312 and coconut milk waffle with Korean Fried Chicken and spiced maple syrup.

Have you ever placed an order and felt like “I JUST WON AT ORDERING DINNER” after eating it? That’s exactly how I felt here. The sweet syrup combined with the spicy sauce, plus fried chicken and waffles in between, is a mouth experience that deserves an “achievement unlocked” immediately after.

We were warned before checking out the menu that the kitchen was out of biscuits. I don’t know if it from was reading the description for “Mr. Dewey’s Honey Buttermilk Biscuits and Gravy” or being told we couldn’t have them, but that’s something I’d really like to go back for.

Dessert

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Snack Attack – Twinkie Ice Cream topped with Strawberry Feulletine, fresh strawberries, vanilla wafers and whipped cream. 

Great palate cleanser. I can’t say that I knew what Twinkie ice cream was beforehand, but I do occasionally crave it since trying it. Where you at, Ben & Jerry’s?!

Since I know you’re wondering, this is the only reference you need from the cafe’s bathroom…

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The food, the service and the atmosphere were all excellent. I would love to go back again sometime this summer to find out what #BaysideAfterDark is all about. Here is a whole schedule of events from now until the end of June, starting at 11 PM. “Late Nights” appear to be available for walkups only too. For times, press and contact info, checkout the Saved By The Max website.

Follow for more on Facebook or Twitter. You can subscribe to The Piffcast on iTunes too.

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Guinness World Record: Naples Chefs Make World’s Longest Pizza

Stretched 1.5 miles across the seafront between the U.S. consulate and the Castel dell’Ovo in Naples (Sunday, May 15th 2016), was the World’s Longest Pizza. Over the course of 11 hours, 250 chefs worked in shifts of 100 to construct the 6,082 foot Margherita style pizza.

To build this delicious Neapolitan behemoth, it took

  • 4,400 pounds of flour
  • 3,500 pounds of tomatoes
  • 4,400 pounds of cheese
  • 52 gallons of olive oil

Take THAT, Pinterest!

The record breaking pizza in Naples surpasses the former one that was made just less than a year ago in Milan, where 250 pizza-makers met to make a pizza that was less than a mile long (1.6 km). However, the world’s longest pizza shouldn’t be confused with the World’s LARGEST Pizza, which covered 2 soccer fields in Rome.

All ingredients were locally sourced from the Campania region, which Guinness has dubbed “The Home of Pizza”.

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Once the record was officially confirmed by Guinness, spectators and chefs were welcome to grab themselves a slice. All leftovers were donated to those in need.

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If you are a frequenter to MichaelPiff dot Com, then you know we have quite the affinity for pizza. Check out last year’s #PizzaChallenge list, which will be updated to 60 Chicago-Area pizza places by this Summer.

Follow for more on Facebook or Twitter. You can subscribe to The Piffcast on iTunes too.

Ballpark Foodie: What To Get During White Sox ‘Homecoming Weekend’

It hasn’t been a shabby year to be a White Sox fan. The team’s in 1st place, Chris Sale is undefeated (both as of 10:30 AM CT on May 19th), and the food is absolutely delicious. More on that shortly…

The White Sox are also celebrating the 25th anniversary of U.S. Cellular Field with an awesome “Homecoming Weekend” series against the reigning champion Kansas City Royals. If you attended the 10th Anniversary celebration of the 2005 World Series “Win or Die Trying” White Sox last year, then you know it will be a good time. Along with Fireworks Friday night and cool promotions all weekend, players of White Sox-past like CY Young winner Jack McDowell, 7-time All-Star outfielder Tim Raines, 2-time All-Star closer Roberto Hernandez, and Lance “One Dog” Johnson will all be in attendance.

So what will taste best with your South Side baseball, sunshine and temperatures in the mid-60s all weekend? I’ve made a few visits to the ballpark this season and these were some of the items on the concourse that I can’t wait to go back for.

Bacon Cheddar Pretzel Dog

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Pretty self-explanatory. A big Vienna Beef hot dog on a fresh pretzel bun, topped with nachos cheese and bacon pieces.

Found at the All-Star Stands along both foul lines and behind home plate. 

Tater Tachos

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Who doesn’t love tots? Topped with nacho cheese and jalapeno peppers. Can also be served in a souvenir green batting helmet.

Found in Sections 110 and 544.

Merkt’s Cheesy Beef Sandwich

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Merkt’s should have sold you by itself. Thin-sliced ribeye steak grilled and infused with the Merkt’s cheese, topped with Comiskey Pico.

Found at the Burger Barn stands in Sections 112 and 528.

Also found at theBurger Barn stands…

Bacon on a Stick + The Comiskey Burger

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As my friend Night Train Veeck once described it, here’s the #ProTip:

Step 1. Order both the double-thick maple bacon on a stick and the double-patty Comiskey burger (with Merkt’s cheddar and pico).

Step 2. Remove the stick from said bacon.

Step 3. Place double-thick maple bacon on the burger.

Step 4. Enjoy…and eat like nobody’s watching.

Other Delicious Items

Beggars Pizza – Section 163

  • Barbecue Chicken Pizza
  • Italian Beef Giardinara Pizza
  • Chicken Parm Sandwich
  • Fried Caprese Ravioli
  • Cheese-filled Breadsticks
  • Deep Dish Chocolate Chip Cookie

Hooters Buffalo Chicken Sandwich – Section 156

  • Also wings available with medium, hot and honey Thai sause

35th Street Tacos – Section 127

Avacodo/Bacon Grilled Cheese – Sections 110 & 544

 

Cuban Sandwich – Along LF on 100-level and Club

Elotes & Tamales – Sections 104, 127, 142 and 529

 

Wow Bao – Section 158

 

Funnel Cake & Churros – Sections 110, 155 and 531

 

Grilled Hot Dogs, Polish Sausage and Brats – EVERYWHERE

 

…and gluten-free options. It’s cool. My my mom needs this guide. via the White Sox Website.

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Be sure to share your foodie photos at the ballpark or follow along for more on Facebook or Twitter

Ballpark Foodie: Much More Than a ‘Sausage Race’ in Milwaukee

Saturday, I took the trip from Chicago up I-94 to take in some baseball, beer and delicious encased meats. Celebrating my dad’s birthday a little early, we made a day pairing the Lakefront Brewery with Milwaukee baseball. Very thankful the fine people at the Brewers shared this so I knew what to look forward to before getting to Miller Park.

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Getting to Miller Park early is a fun experience. There’s tailgating, bags, grilling and every Wisconsin team logo present. Even in 30 degree temps, there’s a pretty solid party raging. Under the dome is a different kind of party though, and way more than the mid-game Sausage Race that you’ve heard so much about…

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During batting practice, I took the opportunity to walk the 100-level concourse, engulfing myself in the smells of ‘Stormin Gorman’ pulled pork sandwiches, Banh Mi brats (with asian slaw and cilantro lime mayo), and assorted sugar-coated, roasted nuts.

On the 200-level, toward right field, I was directed to the “Brat Boys” concession stand where the real fun was…

The Wisconsin Dog

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With homemade beer jam, sauerkraut and a big pile of bacon.

 

The Jalapeno Popper

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Deep fried jalapeno peppers and nacho cheese.

If you crave something sweet, I highly recommend heading toward right field on the 100-level concourse and finding the bright green “Hoely Moley” Doughtnut + Frozen Custard Sandwich stand.

There are a litany of topping options, like pecan pie pieces, peanut butter, Nutella, and more. I went with the first choice on the board though.

The ‘Baby Spice’

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with cinnamon donut pieces, caramel and fudge.

Oh, and the game went 12 innings, Padres won 8-7, and Andy Grammar played a post-game concert!

Thank you for the good time, Milwaukee. I will certainly be back to explore some more this summer.

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For more, follow along on Facebook or Twitter. Be sure to subscribe to The Piffcast on iTunes too. 

‘Saved By The Bell’ Pop-Up “The Max” Diner Location and Details Announced

Many Bayside fans have waited for the details on the Saved By The Bell pop-up restaurant, that was reportedly coming to Chicago this summer. They are finally here, thanks to actor Ed Alonzo…who played Max.

The “Saved By The Max” Pop Up diner will be taking over SFCO in Wicker Park (formerly Geek Bar) at 1941 W. North Avenue, Chicago starting June 1st. The pop-up will last a month long before it turns back into a pumpkin, err, geek bar. Reservations can be made on the SavedByTheMax website starting this Friday, April 22nd, at 11:00 PM CT. There will be 80 seats available inside, so I plan on making my reservation and asking someone to go with after.

The menu at the pop-up will feature references to episodes and characters from the show, but also “chef-driven fare”. Weekday dinner and weekend brunch services will be offered, as well as a late-night menu that will be available till 2 AM on most days and 3 AM on Saturdays.

Get excited because info on special episode-themed events and schedule are still to be announced. Until then, get ready to make plans and prepare your Slater Dance moves.

For more, follow on Facebook or Twitter

#NationalGrilledCheeseDay: Send Me Your Grilled Cheese Pics

If there’s one thing I make as well as anyone, it’s a damn good grilled cheese sandwich.

I imagine you make a mean one as well, or have a line on tasty item from somewhere and I’d love for you to send a pic of it my way for a #FoodPornParty.

Send your Grilled Cheese photo my way via Facebook or Twitter and I will include it here, giving you a shoutout as well.

For reference, and strong recommendations for you to pick a sandwich up today…

The Fat Shallot

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Follow them on Twitter and to see where they are next

 

Cheesie’s Pub & Grub (and truck)

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For info on their restaurants and trucks, follow on Twitter.

 

Jack’s Fork in the Road

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See where they are next on Twitter

 

Toasty Cheese

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If you’re in the Northwest Chicago suburbs, you’ll want to check and see where they are at on Twitter.

 

Chicago White Sox

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From last year’s U.S. Cellular Field menu: bacon, guacamole grilled cheese. See what’s on this year’s docket here. 

 

From Facebook

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Be sure to submit your Grilled Cheese pics on Facebook and Twitter. Then check back to see your photo included here!

Jordan Spieth Brings Texas Barbecue to Masters Champions Dinner

We all have that friend from Texas that’s never too shy to say, “You don’t know what REAL barbecue is.” Since winning the 2015 Masters at Augusta National, Jordan Spieth has been that friend.

Tuesday night, Spieth hosted the annual Champions Dinner and ordered “authentic Texas Barbecue” for all his green jacket wearing colleagues.

The Champions Dinner tradition began in 1952, when Ben Hogan suggested and hosted it. Each year, the winners of the Masters get together on Tuesday night before the tournament. It’s setup to welcome the winner from the previous year to their exclusive club of champions, which is officially known as The Masters Club. The previous year’s winner then selects the menu for the evening and also pays for it as well. You can do that after cashing the giant checks at the giant check bank.

Here’s what Spieth’s menu looked like for the evening.

Champions Dinner

It was the first time the group had Texas barbecue since Spieth’s fellow Longhorn, Ben Crenshaw, hosted in 1996. Apparently the meal went over well, according to Tiger Woods.

After Woods won his first Masters, he treated the champions in 1998 to cheeseburgers, chicken sandwiches, french fries and milkshakes. After both of his wins, Bubba Watson had an entree of grilled chicken breast with sides of green beans, mashed potatoes, corn, macaroni and cheese, served with cornbread, and a dessert of confetti cake and vanilla ice cream.

Competition for the next green jacket (and next year’s menu) begins Thursday, April 7th.

If you won The Masters, what would you have served at the Champions Dinner? Let us know on Facebook and Twitter!