Punk rock was partially a reaction to vacuous mainstream pop culture, but it’s merely a coincidence that the follow-up to a restaurant devoted to Saved by the Bell is a pop-up with a Riot Fest theme. The same team behind Saved by the Max—a re-creation of the diner from the popular 90s sitcom—opens Riot Feast for a three-month run in the same Wicker Park space beginning tomorrow.
The Day-Glo Saved by the Bell decor has been removed and sent to Los Angeles for a just-announced pop-up. What’s replaced it isn’t exactly CBGB but is borrowed heavily from Riot Fest’s own turn-of-the-century traveling carnival aesthetic: an old ticket booth greets diners near the entry, circus tent canvas hangs from the ceiling, a vintage car from an amusement park ride sits along a wall on which hangs a photo of Douglas Park during Riot Fest. (Mercifully Riot Feast didn’t go so far as to install a porta-potty.) The crimson curtains, steel goblets used for some cocktails, and the long wooden tables often give the place the feel of Medieval Times.
The menu from executive chef Brian Fisher (Schwa, Entente) is elevated fair fare: fried chicken plopped on top of a poppy-seed funnel cake, sausage corn dogs, massive turkey legs glazed with smoked honey, and for dessert cotton candy and fried Oreos. The cornbread comes with a John Stamos-shaped pat of butter, which references a bust of the actor made of butter that was displayed at the 2013 festival.
The cocktail menu consists mostly of classics named for bands that have played Riot Fest (the gin and tonic, for example, is called Bad Religin). I quite enjoyed the Jawbreaker-inspired Chesterfield King, a bourbon drink cut with tobacco.
The restaurant is open Wednesday through Sunday with two ticketed seatings at 6 and 8 PM both for the communal dining areas and reserved tables. On Fridays and Saturdays starting at 10 PM, Riot Feast advertises that it’ll “transform into a carnival speakeasy” and offer a late-night bar menu.
There are no plans yet for Riot Fest bands to perform at the restaurant around the September festival—which is probably for the best. Gwar spurting fake blood all over your chicken is a sure way to spoil an appetite.
The Riot Feast 1941 W. North., 7/8-9/8. Dinner: Wed-Sun; open late: Thu-Sat till 2, other nights till midnight.