How to Get Invited to BJ Novak’s Pop-Up Chain Series

Photo courtesy of the channel

On Google Street View, the Chain House looks like any other on its block, a charming West Hollywood bungalow just off 3rd Street. But when you walk through the front door, the house reveals itself to be something very different from its neighbors – it’s undoubtedly Chain, the pop-up concept that deconstructs and reconstructs restaurant chain classics. , presented by a crowd collective. headlined by BJ Novak and chef Tim Hollingsworth.

You enter a reimagined vintage-style restaurant lobby, where a host checks you in and hands you a buzzer to let you know when your food is ready. A neon green sign with the chain’s logo hangs on a wall, casting a waxy acid glow over a statue of Colonel Sanders in a Chain-branded apron, a Nintendo 64 Mario Kart setup, and the KFC-flavored Yule Log .

For the chain’s founders, it’s a project fueled by nostalgia and whimsy that began as a pandemic-era lark, recreating beloved dishes from national brands with a chef-led luxurious twist. That lark has now become a real thing, a series of dinner parties at an extravagantly designed, multimillion-dollar house regularly frequented by well-connected celebrities, influencers and cool kids.

Merchandising table at Chain
Courtesy of the channel

You come back through the house, past more souvenir crates and a bathroom with a tub that’s been turned into a ball pit (don’t jump in it), then you go to the gift shop. There are sweatshirts, t-shirts, bucket hats, bumper stickers, ashtrays, lighters, and a handful of different sauces and seasoning salts with the chain’s logo and box on them. in signature red card. It would be easy to get carried away with the merchandising, but there’s too much going on, both in the crowd and in the kitchen, where Hollingsworth and his team whip up some purely fun food.

Past drops have taken inspiration from Outback Steakhouse (“The Bustin’ Onion”), Taco Bell (“The Wagyu Beef Cruncho Perfecto”), BJ’s (“The Spooky Pizookie”) and TGI Friday’s (“Pappy Van Winkle Whiskey BBQ Sauce: Spare chain”). In order to make such tributes, Hollingsworth and his team had to be a bit sneaky, borrowing concepts without infringing on trademarks or clashing with big business legal departments.

But for their latest pop-up, they’ve gone legit, or as close to legit as an intentionally chaotic concept like this gets. Novak himself slipped into Chile’s DMs to ask about a team. For their part, the people of Chile have been extremely receptive to a collaboration, opening up their recipes, their branding and their well of secrets, which has led to a trippy version of an already distant dish – spring rolls from the south – western Chile.

Desert Sprinkled Egg Rolls in Chain
Photo courtesy of the channel

You leave the gift shop and emerge into the backyard, where there are a handful of picnic tables, an open bar, and even more memorabilia: a statue of Bob’s Big Boy with the chain’s logo, Vintage Chili bar stools and plastic chairs clearly salvaged from an old McDonald’s.

The buzzer goes off and you get your box of food, with those southwestern spring rolls sitting right on top. They look remarkably like the original from Chile, two chicken fingers and a sofrito of charred corn and red peppers rolled up in batter and fried, sliced ​​on the bias and arranged in a small paper tray. The secret is in Hollingsworth’s Desert Dust spice blend, sprinkled over the imperial rolls, as well as the accompanying fries and chicken tender. It’s an aptly named, earthy, layered seasoning with a slightly warming heat.

When you’re done gobbling up your spring rolls and tenders, and you’ve used all the Taco Bell-style hot sauce you can, you take to the air to look around and find one hell of a scene. The chain is clearly more than food; it’s a stereotype of LA, a garden party full of these actors who were so funny in this thing, stylish people you vaguely recognize on the internet, and the awkward people around who must be writers or something that.

Mario Kart Lounge in Chain
Photo courtesy of the channel

Chili’s delegation also made the trip, and they stood out as much as the celebrities, a half-dozen marketing, partnership, and corporate development types that came from Dallas for the week. They stay in Burbank, for some reason, and they look a little shocked by the ride, but also happy, engaged, and maybe a little tipsy. They laugh at this crazy thing, the reimagining of one of their signature dishes, in a good joking way. They too finish eating and then disperse around the room, perhaps to talk about the Chilean side of the partnership and perhaps to mingle with celebrities. Perhaps you will follow their example; the world is full of possibilities.

The first series of the Chain and Chili collaboration is sold out at the moment, but there will undoubtedly be many more nights like this at this insane house/restaurant/museum/place. To get on the list, text 323-310-4642 and hope they don’t leave you hanging. You can also join the list by entering your phone number on their website, and you’ll get a text the next time they open dates. It’s also probably worth following them on Instagram, for the memes as much as anything.

It’s not yet clear exactly what they’ll do next, but god knows there are a ton of restaurant chains ready to be reinvented, and a ton of people who love them too.

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Ben Mesirow is an Echo Park native who writes TV, fiction, food and sports. At one time or another his writings have appeared in The LA Times, liter, McSweeney’s Internet Trend, Los Angeles Magazineand engraved on dozens of desks at Walter Reed Middle School.

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