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Chicago restaurants come as they're not for Halloween

October 30, 2012|By Zara Husaini @zarhus | RedEye

This Halloween, Chicagoans won’t be the only ones sporting costumes. Two local restaurants are slipping into costumes as well. 

Lula Café has been doing it for years, and this year the Logan Square eatery will transform into “The Violent Hour”--guess which cocktail lounge inspired that name. 

Owner Jason Hammel said the idea to dress the restaurant as another place entirely was just a “wild suggestion” seven years ago. Since then, he's transformed Lula Café into a mix of national chains and Chicago originals including Olive Garden and Heaven on Seven. Last year, Lula Café became Taco Bell for the night. Hammel said that’s been his favorite event so far.

According to Hammel, the Halloween makeover is a huge undertaking every year. He said it’s just meant to be fun and creative, a chance for the restaurant to “mix it up.” And, speaking of mixing things up, Chicago’s top mixologist Paul McGee created a special cocktail list for the night. 

New Wicker Park restaurant Antique Taco is doing something similar to celebrate the holiday--but instead of dressing as an existing restaurant, the eatery is fulfilling teenage dreams by becoming “The Max,” the fictional burger joint frequented by the "Saved by the Bell" crew. 

Owners Rick and Ashley Ortiz came up with the idea during a conversation about possible Halloween costumes for themselves. Rick, the restaurant’s chef, had always wanted to do a burger night at Antique Taco, and since they’re both "Saved by the Bell" fans, it seemed like a great idea.

Ashley said the entire restaurant will reflect the night’s theme--there will be jukeboxes, a costumed staff and, most importantly, a menu reminiscent of a retro diner. They’ll be serving burgers that each have a Mexican twist, and the entire menu is named after characters from "Saved By The Bell."

Neither restaurant will charge cover for the special one-night events. Hammel said there’s generally a line down the block outside Lula Café on Halloween, and guests will be seated on a first come, first serve basis (no reservations.)  The hours are 7 p.m. to 1 a.m.

Ortiz said the Antique Taco event will run all day--it is open from noon to 10 p.m. but may extend the hours for the event if there’s a need.

And if you’re planning to head toward Antique Taco this year, Ortiz has two suggestions: order “The Kelly,” a corn and poblano burger with garlic aioli, parmesan and avocado, a special item that’s sweet and spicy, just like the Bayside heartbreaker who inspired it. The second piece of advice?  Break out your varsity letterman’s jackets, neon leggings and scrunchies. Any patrons who are dressed up as "Saved by the Bell" characters get a discount. 

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