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Inside Chicago's Halloween Tradition of Restaurants Dressing Up as Other Restaurants

Antique Taco as The Max [Photos: & marc klutznick]

Dressing up as another restaurant has been a Halloween tradition for Chicago's Lula Cafe for many years now. Owner Jason Hammel tells Eater it's been a running gag for about seven years, with each year's gimmick usually a play on a name: Not Doug's (Hot Doug's), Luma's Corner (Kuma's Corner) and Taco Hell (Taco Bell). This year, two more Chicago restaurants are getting in on the joke — cocktail bar Scofflaw is transforming into a dive and taqueria Antique Taco is becoming fictional diner The Max from Saved by the Bell.

Hammel tells Eater that this is the first year he has heard of other restaurants joining in his Halloween tradition — and mused whether it's time now to retire the gag. But, he says he doesn't mind the imitation: "I don't know if anybody will ever go as all-out as we go because we make a pretty massive production of it. But we'll see. That would be cool if more people did it. And if the idea has run its course, then it's run its course. We've put in a really good run." Here now, a look at how all three restaurants have become masters of disguise.

1) Lula Cafe — Violet Hour


Lula Cafe. [Photo] Violet Hour. [Photo]

This year, Lula Cafe will be doing its best impression of Chicago cocktail bar Violet Hour, redubbed Violent Hour to fit with the holiday. Special guests are somewhat of a hallmark of the Lula Cafe Halloween — last year, Rick Bayless dressed as a devil while working the Taco Hell line — and this year is no different. According to Eater Chicago, Hammel has enlisted top bartenders from around the city to serve up their own Halloween-themed creations — such asthe Zombie Apocolypse, Undead Unicorn, The Die-quiri and You're Dead, Let's Disco — at cocktail stations set up around the restaurant. Violent Hour will also have a small menu of dishes like the Croaked Madame at the one-time-only event.

As for the decor? Hammel tells Eater that they're doing a "100 percent redecoration" of the space, even building a new storefront to imitate the boarded up, mural-covered facade of Velvet Hour. They're changing everything from the staff uniforms to music to logo and covering the walls in velvet to channel a cocktail bar feel. They even launched a video earlier this month to mock the trend of restaurants promoting their openings with silly trailers.

2) Antique Taco — The Max


Antique Taco. [Photo] The Max. [Photo]

For its first Halloween in Chicago, Antique Taco is taking on its own version of the Lula Cafe tradition — though owner Ashley Ortiz tells Eater this isn't so much inspired by Lula but rather fitting with her restaurant's own creative spirit. Rather than morphing into another Chicago restaurant, Antique Taco is transforming itself into The Max diner from Saved by the Bell, a show that she and chef-husband Rick Ortiz grew up with.

So for today only, the taqueria is a diner: they've brought in a red booth, a juke box, a neon pink Max sign and will be serving everything in burger baskets with checkered paper. The menu will switch from tacos to burgers and other diner food named after characters from the '90s show. So the curly-haired Screech is curly fries and the "politically correct" Jessie burger is a vegetarian portobello burger. The staff is dressed up as characters, too (Ashley is Jessie Spano, while Rick is A.C. Slater) and any customers who come dressed in customer get a discount.

3) Scofflaw — Bonny's


Scofflaw. [Photo: Urban Daddy] Bonny's. [Photo]

Finally, Eater Chicago also notes that cocktail bar Scofflaw has decided to honor its fallen comrade this year by dressing up as the now-shuttered dive Bonny's. While the bars share an ownership team, Bonny's was more of a late-night hangout for Chicagoans. From 8 p.m. to 2 a.m., Scofflaw is bringing in the old Bonny's DJs and eschewing its fancypants cocktails for $5 PBR-and-whiskey. Scofflaw will serve tamales tonight, since apparently a "tamale guy" used to hang out at Bonny's, but otherwise a poster indicates that the night will be "just a crazy drunken dance party."

· All Halloween Hijinks Coverage [Eater Chicago]
· All Halloween Coverage on Eater [-E-]