We Went Full ’90s Nostalgia At The New ‘Saved By The Bell’ Diner

Photo by David Miller

Get ready preppies!

It's hard to believe that it's almost been a quarter of a century since Saved by the Bell made its debut. It feels like only yesterday A.C. Slater was challenging Zack Morris to a Spandex-clad dance-off to win Kelly Kapowski's heart. The iconic halls of Bayside never really went away, especially for superfans who totally realized that Jessie was ahead of the feminist curve and modern-day Screech would be a fashionable hipster king. With '90s nostalgia currently in full swing, from M.A.C's new mood-changing lipstick to Opening Ceremony bringing back Anna Sui's '90s grunge collection, it was only a matter of time before someone realized we were overdue for a visit to the Palisades, right? Well, this week, pop-up diner Saved By The Max opened its doors in Chicago, and we were invited to take a peek.

Inspired by The Max, the show's local restaurant hangout, Saved By The Max is not only a near-exact match to the on-screen version (down to the jukebox and servers' T-shirts), it's an operational restaurant with Michelin-starred chef Brian Fisher at the helm in the kitchen. What really sets it apart, though, is that it was born not out of a corporate PR grab (like the Friends' Central Perk), but the passion of one Saved by the Bell superfan, namely event and nightlife planner Derek Berry. Considering Berry used to be in a DJ duo named Team Bayside High, and continues to run successful '80s, '90s, and '00s throwback parties throughout Chicago, it's only fitting he made The Max official, just like Zach's seat in detention.

While the decor is as true to life as it possibly can be, the food is a step above what you would normally find on a typical diner menu. Snow White and the Seven Dorks is their take on a Lebanese spiced chicken, while the Snack Attack has... get ready... Twinkie ice cream, frozen marshmallow, and bubblegum mochi topped with strawberry feuilletine (that's crispy little pieces of sugar cone). We die. Because Saved By The Max is for adulting, there's also a full bar with goodies like a spiked root beer float, boozy malts, and mimosas. Excuse us, we meant Stacey Carosi's Sofie Mimosies.

Dinner tickets are sold out through Saved By The Max's entire planned run, but there are limited walk-ins for dinner accepted, as well as for weekend brunch. Even if you can't nab a proper dinner slot, SBTB fans shouldn't feel down as there's a whole slate of late-night programming done exclusively on a walk-in basis called "Bayside After Dark." From "TV-Oke" Wednesdays where guests act out famous scenes from the show à la Rocky Horror Picture Show to '80s and '90s parties on the weekend (Berry's specialty), there's literally something to do every night, no reservation needed... except the one for your plane ticket to Chicago. Channel your inner Lisa Turtle, grab your most rad light-wash denim and oversize hoop earrings, and check out Saved By The Max before it's gone forever. 

Saved By The Max is at 1941 W. North Ave in Chicago and will run from June 1 to August 31. Hours are 5pm to 2am Monday-Sunday and 5pm to 3am on Saturday. Dinner runs from 5pm to 11pm nightly; late-night service is offered from 11pm to 1am/2am on Saturdays. Weekend brunch is from 11am to 3pm. To find out more, visit Saved By The Max's website. Read about our full experience below.

Photo by Phives Photography

The hallway leading to the restaurant is decked out in all the show's catch phrases, like "time out!" and "RIP Becky." Berry only had about three weeks to pull together the entire interior of Saved By The Max, and enlisted the help of local tastemakers, restauranteurs, and artists to help bring everything to life in no time flat, including Dan O., who did this mural. But seriously, can we pause and have a moment of silence for Becky?

Nail polish is for novices

Fashion label The Blonds is known for its high-intensity looks that you'd only wear if you wanted to stand out (and who doesn't?). For its runway shows, wild press-on nails are the beauty step that can't be missed. So, since the brand has partnered with CND since it was founded, we thought it best to get prepped for the show with Jan Arnold, CND's co-founder.

See why you should take your nail look from a zero to a 10, in the video above.

Shot by Charlotte Prager
Edited by Gretta Wilson
Produced by Alexandra Hsie
Production Assistant: Polina Buchak
Featuring Jan Arnold of CND Nails and The Blonds



Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.

It would've been nice if someone said the word "fat"

Back in November, Rebel Wilson claimed to be the first plus-sized lead in a romantic comedy when she appeared on Ellen to talk about her role in Isn't It Romantic. Wilson was not only wrong, but she was—even if inadvertently—erasing the work of Black plus-size actresses like Queen Latifah and Mo'Nique, both of whom have expansive resumes that include romantic comedies.

Wilson's comment isn't the first example of white women taking up a little too much space in the fat acceptance ethos. It's actually quite common. But there is a reason why women like Wilson—women who are blonde, pretty, successful, and white—get put front and center in calls for body positivity. In the same way that feminism—the movement from which body positivity was born—has often failed to address how gender intersects with other identities like race and class; so, too, has body positivity been championed as a cause for otherwise privileged women. And that's why it's no surprise that Isn't It Romantic, which aspires to be both a spot-on mockery of rom-coms and a celebration of body positivity, is actually a perfect example of how very white both the movie genre and the body positivity movement tend to be.

In the film, Wilson plays Natalie, an architect based in New York, who is single and plus-sized—the archetypal rom-com underdog. Very early on in the movie, she endures the double humiliation of both being hit by a runaway food cart and then accosted by its owner for not stopping it with her "cement truck"-like body. At work, Natalie is similarly disrespected: The office manager hands off troubleshooting tasks to Natalie; another colleague always tasks Natalie to throw out his trash; her assistant Whitney (Betty Gilpin) won't stop watching movies (rom-coms, naturally) while in the office; and Natalie is so afraid to present her ideas for more innovative parking garage designs that she isn't even widely known in the firm as an architect, and is treated like an intern.

But is Natalie just a doormat? Or is it that she isn't asking for what she wants? And isn't very nice about not getting it? If Natalie's life is any example, the bar on suffering is set pretty low for white women. In her personal life, Natalie lives alone with her dog, and seems to be pretty well-off, financially; her best friend is actually her slacker assistant, Whitney, and she's close with another coworker, Josh (Adam Devine), who gives Natalie constant emotional support. She's decidedly anti-romantic, having been told by her mother from a young age that there's no such thing as real-life fairy tales; she's level-headed and practical. But also, she's filled with self-loathing. This leads her to be crass, sarcastic, and disconnected from people. And it was this last part that was hard for me. As a fat Black woman who grew up broke, does not have an assistant, and would get fired if I didn't do my job well, it was hard, if not impossible, to root for her.

For Natalie, though, everything changes when she bangs her head while fighting off a mugger. Her mundane life is tinted through rosy rom-com glasses. Suddenly, all the things that sucked about her life are gone, and everything is beautiful and perfect. But was her life so bad before? It didn't really seem to be.

And yet, looking around the theater at the mostly white, female audience, I accepted that my feelings didn't seem to be shared. But that almost seems to be by design; this feels like a movie for a white, female audience. There is only one person of color in the movie who even has a name: It's Isabelle (Priyanka Chopra), who shows up about halfway through the film—after everything has been rom-com filtered—as a yoga ambassador and swimsuit model. But a name is all Isabella has. A supporting character at best, she doesn't have any connection to anyone other than her white boyfriend, and is sketchily drawn. We learn nothing of her familial or ethnic background, and, even when she is shown at her wedding, there is nobody from her family celebrating with her. This huge oversight is particularly bizarre, given that Natalie has already bemoaned the lack of diversity in romantic films.

Another huge oversight? The presence of the word "fat." I don't think I heard it used a single time. Natalie only references her weight indirectly, by commenting on the appearance of straight-sized women; when talking about her own body, the word "fat" is replaced with "girl like me." But by ignoring this aspect of herself, and refusing to address it head-on, Natalie is succumbing to the same fatphobia that shapes her world, whether she identifies it as being a problem or not.

Before her life becomes a rom-com, Natalie feels invisible at work and in the world. Some of this is certainly her fault, but fatphobia is also at play. Fatphobia chips away at the humanity of fat people from different angles. It means that Natalie gets used to being dehumanized; she doesn't expect others to have empathy for her when she's physically hurt, because they don't value her body. And it's no coincidence that Natalie's fantasy world includes a magically bigger apartment with unlimited clothing options, because discrimination against fat people isn't just a matter aesthetics and preferences—it affects everything from our ability to dress ourselves to our ability to make and save money, since there's a price to pay for being fat, even if it's just having to pay more to travel. Just as much as gender and race intersect with fat bodies, so, too, do economics and class.

I knew I could count on a plus-sized white comedian to take down a genre of films that prioritized thin women. But I ventured to see if Wilson could go further than that, and challenge what it means to be white and well-off and fat in the process; it isn't just about taking down rom-coms but about doing so in a way that isn't just a mouthpiece for white feminist values. But, in the end, that isn't what happened. Isn't It Romantic is fine, but it needed to do more than target an audience of girls who are 10 to 30 pounds overweight and still too jolted by the word "fat" to ever apply it to themselves, so they go for acceptable alternatives, like curvy, plus-sized—or thicc, if they're hip. But I'm not afraid to say I'm fat, I'm just disappointed I will be waiting even longer to see a realistic reflection of that experience onscreen.

Isn't It Romantic is in theaters now.