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I turned 30 this year. A big birthday, for sure – especially for me. I had always had this inkling that I was going to die before I turned 30 (I know this is a very strange intuition to have, but I started feeling it when I was very young and it always kind of lingered.) I felt a little pressure to really make my birthday super memorable – to do something unique to commemorate the occasion. At first I considered recreating my 21st birthday (when I drove to Chicago with some of my friends – by midnight, I was so exhausted that I merely walked across the street to drink a cosmo at the bar with my best friend, then retreated to the hotel where I fell asleep as my under-21 friends partied around me) but in December, I got the email I had been dreaming of. Back in May, the Saved by the Max pop-up diner opened in Chicago – it was scheduled to close quite a few times, and I never made it. Around Christmas, they sent out an email that they were staying open for one more “semester,” and I excitedly bought tickets for Brendan and I for my birthday dinner.
When you walk in, you’re immediately in the locker hallway at Bayside – complete with Zack’s cell phone and rally posters. Ms. Bliss’ classroom is one of the tables, and you can even dine in Mr. Belding’s office. Saved by the Max even has the pay phone featured by the “door” of the diner.
I was so excited (so excited, so… so… scared!) I was bouncing off the walls. I forgot to take pictures of any of the food we ordered, but with the pre-purchased tickets we got, we could order three courses. I got the AC Sliders, the Kelly Kapowski (a Monte Cristo sandwich,) and Max’s Magical Sweet Tooth for dessert while Brendan ordered Snow White and the Seven Dorks (chicken wings,) Tori’s Fried Chicken (with a waffle!) and Snack Attack for dessert. They also had Goose Island’s Sofie, so I had a nice goblet of that as well – treat yo self. At the end of the meal, they dropped off two packs for Saved by the Bell: The College Years baseball cards in lieu of after-dinner mints. We could see three TV screens from our table and all of them were airing different episodes of Saved by the Bell. Any time a scene at the Max was on, I’d crane my neck around, comparing details and decor – it was remarkably similar. After we finished eating we ran around to take more pictures of everything because I didn’t want to feel like I had missed or forgotten any part of it.
The food wasn’t amazing and I probably wouldn’t go eat there again, but it was worth it once for the experience. (And I would consider going to sit and drink at the bar, because their cocktail menu was super creative.) It was a really great and nostalgic way to spend my 30th birthday, and if you find yourself in Chicago before the “semester” is over, I definitely recommend checking out Saved by the Max!