All decked out: Restaurants, bars spread holiday spirit with seasonal pop-ups
Watching holiday movies in December is a classic tradition, but this month you can actually step inside one. Hey Nonny in Arlington Heights is hosting a pop-up based on "A Christmas Story." The bistro and music venue is all decked out with props from the film such as a flagpole, leg lamp and Red Ryder BB gun.
"We just thought it would be fun to do some sort of holiday decoration that had a theme to it," said co-owner Chip Brooks. "A lot of people love the movie 'A Christmas Story' and there's obviously a lot of really fun visuals that go along with it."
The venue also will be airing the movie throughout the season and serving specials inspired by the film such as Randy Hates Meatloaf, Chinese Christmas Egg Rolls and Doggone Turkey, which is turkey rolled in stuffing. And for a treat, consider the Christmas Story Tart, a cranberry and citrus tart with a hazelnut crust. On the drink side, you can get themed drinks including Drink Your Ovaltine, a blend of vanilla vodka, crème de menthe and cocoa; the Triple Dog Dare, which combines bourbon, RumChata and eggnog; the Leg Lamp, a mix of spiced rum apple cider and pear nectar; and the shot special -- Shoot Your Eye Out -- otherwise known as Fireball.
Hey Nonny first used the theme in 2019 but was closed in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now it's just one of many Chicago-area spots transforming for the holiday season.
"Especially this year, people are looking for things to do," Brooks said. "Everybody got cheated out of some of their Christmas exuberance last year and I think we and other restaurants are trying to give people the opportunity for fun."
Hey Nonny is at 10 S. Vail Ave., Arlington Heights, (224) 202-0750, heynonny.com/.
If you want to make up for lost time, here are some of the other holiday pop-ups open throughout the Chicago area.
Buffalo Creek Brewing brings back its German-style Alpine Biergarten this winter.
- Courtesy of Buffalo Creek Brewing
Buffalo Creek Brewing
360 Historical Lane, Long Grove, (847) 821-6140, buffalocreekbrewing.com/
The brewery is bringing back the German-style Alpine Biergarten it ran last winter, welcoming patrons to warm up around multiple fire pits and heat lamps and offering throws for extra coziness. The two-acre wooded space will be decked out with lights and holiday decor.
Patrons can warm up around multiple fire pits while sipping on brews at Buffalo Creek Brewing's Alpine Biergarten.
- Courtesy of Buffalo Creek Brewing
Westin Chicago Northwest
400 Park Blvd., Itasca, (630) 773-4000, elfpopupchicago.carrd.co/
The Buddy the Elf Pop-Up Christmas Experience immerses you in the film "Elf," with re-creations of Walter Hobbs' apartment, Gimbles and an interactive Claus-O-Meter to measure the state of the Christmas spirit. For $50 for lunch or $100 for dinner, you can enjoy a four-course meal meant to satisfy Buddy's exceptional sweet tooth with dishes including mini chicken and waffles with maple syrup and candy corn, rib-eye with savory chocolate sauce, and a giant bowl of ice cream.
Chicago Athletic Association Hotel
12 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago, (312) 940-3552, chicagoathletichotel.com/
Happy: A Holiday Pop-Up Bar takes over the hotel's first floor, decking it out with festive decor and twinkling lights. Enjoy cocktails, wine, beer and bar bites including Chicago Mix popcorn and dry-aged beef chili. Proof of vaccination is required to attend.
3441 N. Sheffield Ave., Chicago, (773) 666-5450, 8crazynightschicago.com/
8 Crazy Nights, Chicago's only Hanukkah pop-up bar, features more than 14,000 blue and white lights plus dreidel ornaments, lanterns and menorahs. Enjoy Jewish fare including matzo ball soup, multiple spins on potato pancakes, brisket and vodka-infused jelly doughnuts. There's also a wide selection of themed cocktails, shots served in a menorah and a special Circumsessionable lager from Empirical Brewery served on tap exclusively during the pop-up. Along with spinning the dreidel, you can play Connect 4 with Hanukkah gelt and the Jewish editions of Apples to Apples and Cards Against Humanity.
3369 N. Clark St., Chicago, (773) 244-1166, houndstoothchicago.com/
The Griswold's pop-up features decor inspired by "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" plus themed drinks and dishes such as the Christmas Bonus, a sandwich made with creamy peanut butter and fig jelly, and Cousin Eddie's Eggnog, housemade eggnog spiked with brandy. Come at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 8, for team movie trivia and have brunch with Santa from noon to 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 19.
110 W. Hubbard St., Chicago, (312) 273-6207, hubbardinn.com/
The River North spot transforms into The Christmas Inn, with different themes on each of its three floors. The first floor embodies a classic magical Christmas, while the second embraces '60s kitsch and the third is decked out in neon for a Christmas apocalypse. $20 gets you access to the whole space plus a holiday cocktail from a menu including mulled wine, white chocolate martinis and pomegranate cosmos. Plus, there are festive events throughout the run such as gingerbread house decorating at 7 p.m. Mondays, Dec. 6 and 13, and holiday trivia at 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 9, and Friday, Dec. 17.