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These Are the Best Things that Popped Up This Year

Have we hit peak pop-up? Here are the ones that really stood out to us this year.

Two were threatened with legal action, but only one in a funny and nice way.   Photo: DS Shin

By now, the FOMO-driven pop-up has become a ubiquitous and—at least twice this year—legally questionable art form. So which pop-ups popped above the rest in 2017? Below, we present our superlatives for Best Pop-Ups of 2017.

Best Pop-Up that Was Warm-Heartedly Threatened by Netflix

The Upside Down at Emporium Logan Square (pictured above)

Take a Logan Square bar, add a hanging demogorgon, an Eggo-inspired mural of Eleven, and an alphabet/Christmas lights set-up, and you’ve got a hit. But the wildly popular Stranger Things-inspired pop-up also obtained an exclusive piece of memorabilia from the show that ultimately drew the most attention: an adorably polite cease and desist letter from the show’s lawyers.

“Look, I don’t want you to think I’m a total wastoid, and I love how much you guys love the show. (Just wait until you see Season 2!) But unless I’m living in the Upside Down, I don’t think we did a deal with you for this pop-up,” the letter said.

Lawyers promised they weren’t about “to go full Dr. Brenner on you,” but did ask the bar it close by Oct. 1. (Emporium’s owners said it would have continued longer). 

“We love our fans more than anything, but you should know the demogorgon is not always as forgiving. So please don’t make us call your mom,” the letter said.

Best Pop-Up that Included the Actual Subject of Its Concept

DAMN. — Kendrick Lamar at Notre 

Photo: Kendrick Lamar en Español/Facebook

Ahead of his show at the United Center this July, California-based rapper Kendrick Lamar surprised hardcore fans outside his “DAMN.” tour pop-up shop at Notre in the West Loop.

Fans drove from as far as Iowa and then waited in line for hours hoping to catch a glimpse of the “To Pimp A Butterfly” artist, who had earlier unexpectedly showed to one of his pop-ups in Dallas. Sporting a maroon sweatsuit and not looking annoyed whatsoever, Lamar braved an onslaught of iPhones and paparazzi-level fans and gave a thumbs-up like the truly “Humble” champ he is. 

Best Pop-Up that Enraged a Shuttered ‘90s Suburban Teen Nightclub

Zero Gravity at Beauty Bar 

Photo: Susan Frick Carlman/Pioneer Press

When Beauty Bar announced its plans to dress up for Halloween as Zero Gravity, a suburban nightclub that closed in 2016 after over two decades of giving hormonal teens a place to grind on each other, the club’s former owners had no chill.

A post appeared on its Facebook page, stating in no uncertain terms: “DON’T BE FOOLED BY IMITATORS. ANOTHER BAR BUSINESS IS MISLEADING PEOPLE BY ADVERTISING A ZERO GRAVITY HALLOWEEN PARTY AT THEIR LOCATION. ZERO GRAVITY HAS NO AFFILIATION WITH THE PARTY. THEY ARE USING THE NAME OF ZERO GRAVITY AS THEIR HALLOWEEN PARTY TO MISLEAD PEOPLE. WE ARE TAKING PROPER ACTIONS AGAINST THIS ILLEGAL MISLEADING ACT.”

Beauty Bar gave Zero Gravity the proverbial “Whatever/eye roll” and proceeded with a slight name change to “Beauty Bar as suburban ’90s club.”

Best Pop-Up that Redefined the Meaning of High Society

Herbal Notes Cannabis-Infused Fine Dining Event at Undisclosed Location 

Medical marijuana patients: Ever wonder if indica-heavy Skywalker OG Kush could make a palatable olive oil for your upcoming black tie gala?

That’s the kind of thing they teach at Herbal Notes, a California-based organization led by chef Manny Martinez that facilitates cannabis-infused fine dining events. This year they partnered with chef Daniel Espinoza of Chicago’s Lobo Rey restaurant for a $125, six-course, prix-fixe pop-up dinner consisting of fancy foods and beverages made using weed. Attendees also got tips, tricks, and a kit to help them, or their chefs, recreate the magic at home.

Because recreational marijuana is not (yet) legal in Illinois, the event was open only to those with state-issued medical marijuana cards—but with 1,000 RSVPs and far fewer seats at the dinner, we can only hope Herbal Notes is looking to come back next year.

Best Pop-Up that Came Into Town for Four Days and Took Everyone’s Money

Lolla Shops: Mag Mile, Blink 182 at Rotofugi and Run the Jewels at Emporium Logan Square 

Photo: Rotofugi Designer Toy Store & Gallery/Facebook

Lollapalooza is a lot like current Mariah Carey: here for the music, but also here to make money.

To maximize that opportunity in Chicago, for the last six years, the music festival has popped-up a merchandise shop on Michigan Avenue full of very reasonably priced (wink) Lolla swag—to complement the wedding-sized merch tents that tempt Lolla-goers inside the festival.

But the mega-music fest went a step further this year: Emporium assembled a Run the Jewels-themed pop-up event at its Logan Square digs and Blink 182—yes, even Blink 182—partnered with designer toy shop Rotofugi in Lincoln Park to hawk its wares and meet with fans. What’s my age, again?

Best Pop-Up That Included Mmmmmm… Donuts

Moe’s Tavern at Replay Lincoln Park 

Photo: Linze Rice

Every true Simpsons fan knows there is no better place to grab a Duff, or, on occasion, a Red Tick Beer, than Springfield’s favorite dive: Moe’s Tavern.

This Halloween, Replay transformed its arcade bar into the fictional watering hole, incorporating everything from the green and orange checkered windows to a single plum floating in a man’s hat and a jar of pickled eggs.

It also nailed the drink menu, offering shots of Flaming Moe that were actually on fire (and tasted disturbingly close to the show’s recipe of brandy, peppermint schnapps, and cough syrup), Skittlebrau, beer taps labeled as Duff, and coffee-flavored cocktails that came topped with a perfectly “cromulent” pink-frosted, sprinkled doughnut.

Our tip to up the authenticity ante next time? Add a killer whale getting hosed down in a back room.

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