Chicago restaurants like playing ‘dress up’

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Cheesie’s Pub & Grub employee Spencer Evans goes about his day dressed as Tina Belcher from the popular cartoon television show “Bob’s Burgers.” | Alexandra Olsen/Sun-Times

On the outside it’s Cheesie’s Pub & Grub, the humble grilled cheese restaurant. On the inside, for Halloween night only, it was transformed into Bob’s Burgers, a family restaurant made famous by a cartoon TV show with the same name.

The staff at Cheesie’s scrambled to get everything in order for the expected crowd. Some were in costume and in character hours before the start of the Halloween celebration.

Spencer Evans, dressed as Tina Belcher from the show, stared blankly at the camera — in true Tina fashion — as two customers who asked him for the photo smile next to him.

No one at Cheesie’s expected the Facebook event, created on Oct. 25, to gain such much traction, said Amanda Gasperson, assistant general manager of the Lake View restaurant at 958 W. Belmont Ave.

It has around 3,200 Facebook users listed as “going” and more than 10,000 listed as “interested.”

“We thought it was just going to be our regulars showing up, and then it blew up and everyone is just really excited about it,” Gasperson said.

Expecting the event to be much smaller, the restaurant never contacted the TV show about approval. It came anyway last week.

“The show contacted us and is actually really excited about it,” Gasperson said. “They loved that we are a local business and are fully behind us.”

Cheesie’s — or rather, Bob’s Burgers — planned to serve 10 different “burgers of the day” that have been featured on the show, including the “Baby You Can Chive My Car” burger and the “To Thine Own Self Be Blue” burger.

Annika Stensson of the National Restaurant Association said leveraging pop culture isn’t new in the restaurant industry, although applying a show’s aesthetic to the entire restaurant is a new development.

In early October, more than 200 diners and coffee shops nationwide became Luke’s Diner from the popular television show “Gilmore Girls.” Two Chicago coffee shops took part in the event, Osmium Coffee Bar, 1117 W. Belmont, and Elaine’s Coffee Call, 1816 N. Clark St. Both locations offered free coffee to fans and donned Luke’s Diner signs and decor.

The publicity stunt, orchestrated by Netflix, drew thousand of fans to the pop-ups as a way to promote the show’s much-anticipated return.

Sometimes, the pop-ups are so popular that their owners decide to keep them awhile. This was the case with Saved by the Max, a “Saved by the Bell”-themed restaurant that opened in June in Wicker Park.

Originally meant to only be open through June, high demand from fans has extended its run until New Year’s Eve.

“Restaurants oftentimes play iconic roles in television entertainment,” Stensson said. “So it makes perfect sense to transform the place viewers have come to love on-screen into a real-life experience.”

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