Chicagoans Pack New Hanukkah Pop-Up Bar This Holiday The two creators of the new Hanukkah-themed bar saw a void in the pop-up scene. Neither is Jewish, but they did enough research to be able to serve up matzo ball soup, latkes, and boozy jelly donuts.
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In Chicago, Hanukkah Now Has Its Own Pop-Up Bar Experience

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In Chicago, Hanukkah Now Has Its Own Pop-Up Bar Experience

In Chicago, Hanukkah Now Has Its Own Pop-Up Bar Experience

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

And finally today, tonight marks the start of Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of lights. Millions of people around the world will celebrate this holiday commemorating the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem with presents and jelly doughnuts and potato latkes. But if you've had enough latkes and played enough dreidel and you happen to be in Chicago, you could try something new - the city's first Hanukkah-themed pop-up bar. It's called 8 Crazy Nights, and it features theme-appropriate drinks, food and wall decor. It opened earlier this month at the Graystone Tavern and runs through December 31. And from what we've heard from customers, it's a hit, even with regulars like Ryan McGovern (ph).

RYAN MCGOVERN: When I was asking them what their pop-up was going to be, they told me they were going to a Hanukkah pop-up, I was like, that's risky. And this place has been packed every day since then.

MARTIN: We wanted to get in on the fun, so we called co-owner Kyle Bagley to tell us more. Kyle Bagley, welcome. Thanks so much for joining us.

KYLE BAGLEY: It's my pleasure, Michel. How you doing today?

MARTIN: Oh, good. So if it's OK that I mention this, I understand that neither you, nor the co-owner are Jewish. So how did you come up with this idea?

BAGLEY: Well, we wanted to do something different. We felt that there was a significant percentage of the population that was underserved with all the Christmas pop-ups that were going on. And so it killed two birds with one stone, if you will.

MARTIN: OK. What was the other bird?

BAGLEY: Well, it was us being different and doing something cool for the Jewish community.

MARTIN: So tell us a little bit about the menu. I see you have some traditional offerings like the matzo ball soup and the latkes.

BAGLEY: We do.

MARTIN: But there's some other things that you've added, some twists.

BAGLEY: The coolest thing we do is the challah grilled cheese with a tomato soup. It's really, really good. We also do boozy jelly doughnuts which are - we can't make them fast enough.

MARTIN: Oh, really?

BAGLEY: Yeah.

MARTIN: OK. OK. Now, I'm not trying to put you on the spot here, but did you kosher your kitchen?

BAGLEY: We did not.

MARTIN: You did not. So this is not kosher offerings, but it's kind of...

BAGLEY: No. No kosher offerings. But we do offer, if people need kosher, we invite them to bring in their own offerings.

MARTIN: Oh, OK. Well, that seems nice.

BAGLEY: Yeah.

MARTIN: But so no bacon. There's no bacon. There's nothing that shouldn't be there.

BAGLEY: Well, We did enough research where we wouldn't put bacon in any of the dishes (laughter).

MARTIN: OK. And I guess that the decor is some Hanukkah-themed sweaters and some fun things like that.

BAGLEY: Yeah, man. We have dreidels all over. We have a wall of Hanukkah. I guess you'd consider them ugly Hanukkah sweaters. We have well over 10,000 lights adorning the place, the walls. So we went all-out. It is gaudy, but I think lovely gaudy.

MARTIN: I have to say the Hanukkah-themed sweaters don't seem that easy to come by. I mean...

BAGLEY: They were not.

MARTIN: ...Seems kind of unfair, but they're not that easy to come by.

BAGLEY: They were not. My partner, Sam (ph), he did a lot of research and did a lot of shopping online. And it seems to be one of the most popular aspects of the bar. And people are asking, you know, what are we doing after the new year, if they could come and get some of those.

MARTIN: So what's been the response?

BAGLEY: It's been really, really amazing. It's really been overwhelming. People are really grateful that somebody thought about doing this. And we're grateful for the support.

MARTIN: I'm guessing - maybe I'm just sort of hypothesizing this. But I'm guessing that a lot of the people who are coming aren't all Jewish.

BAGLEY: That's true. I mean, we're not taking a tally. But there's plenty of non-Jewish people that are coming in just because it is so unique. You know, you're getting inundated with the Christmas pop-ups, and then there's us. We're the only one that is all blue and white.

MARTIN: It seems funny that nobody thought of it before you. I mean, no disrespect, but it just seems kind of like the idea was there for the taking.

BAGLEY: It really was, you know. And it struck us as odd, you know, when we started to research it that, you know, when we looked across the nation, there wasn't really anybody doing anything. You know, so it turned out a lot better than we thought.

MARTIN: OK. So now I'm going to definitely put you on the spot. Of all of your - the bar offerings, I know you mentioned the challah grilled cheese was something that you - and the boozy jelly doughnuts, those seem to be going really well - house-made vodka-infused jelly, powdered sugar. What's your favorite thing on the menu?

BAGLEY: Well, I'm kind of a chubby fellow. So I really like boozy doughnuts, man. If I could eat doughnuts 24/7, I'm all in.

MARTIN: And what about the drinks? You've got like a gelt martini, mazel tov Koval cranberry spritzer, Manischewitz sangria bowl.

BAGLEY: Yeah. The Manischewitz sangria bowl, we - it took us a little while to get that one down simply because Manischewitz is really - most people that have had Manischewitz aren't giant fans of it. They usually have a bad story behind it.

MARTIN: (Laughter) It's kind of a nostalgia piece, yeah.

BAGLEY: YEah. So, you know, dressing that up and making it palatable was pretty fun. You know, and we finally figured out the right recipe. We've put some limoncello and some vodka and some fruit juices in there. And it really balances it and makes it delightful.

MARTIN: OK. Well, just being clear - adults only, right? Don't - yeah.

BAGLEY: No. We don't feed those to the kids. The kids - they can have the doughnuts, not the jelly.

MARTIN: Exactly, not the jelly. OK. Well, Happy Hanukkah to you.

BAGLEY: Thanks so much.

MARTIN: That was Kyle Bagley. He's the co-owner of the Graystone Tavern in Chicago and the co-creator of 8 Crazy Nights. It's Chicago's first Hanukkah-themed pop-up bar. Kyle, thanks so much for joining us.

BAGLEY: It was my pleasure, Michel. Have a great day.

MARTIN: If you'd like to see pictures of the 8 Crazy Nights pop-up - I still want one of those sweaters - you can visit our website at npr.org.

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