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A statue of Colonel Sanders holds a menu at Chain in Los Angeles, California.
Colonel Sanders statue at Chain.

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B.J. Novak and Timothy Hollingsworth’s Nostalgic Fast-Food Pop-Up Settles in Virgil Village

Chain re-launches on January 20 in partnership with New York’s Popup Bagels

Mona Holmes is a reporter for Eater Los Angeles and a regular contributor to KCRW radio. She has covered restaurants, dining, and food culture since 2016. In 2022, the James Beard Foundation nominated her for a Jonathan Gold Local Voice Award.

Chain, the fast-food-centric pop-up masterminded by Otium chef Tim Hollingsworth and actor-comedian B.J. Novak, took LA by storm by selling whimsical takes on classic dishes from popular American chains like Jack in the Box, Taco Bell, and Pizza Hut. Now Hollingsworth and Novak are leaving their West Hollywood location behind and taking over a 7,500-square-foot indoor/outdoor compound in Virgil Village to make the pop-up permanent.

Chain started as a pandemic-era pop-up in 2022 and kept growing in popularity. Seeing the concept catch on so quickly, the founders realized that they needed a bigger space where people could regularly bond over shared memories of Pizza Hut’s Tiffany-style lamps or passion for Pac-Man. “What we saw with our pop-ups were hundreds of people coming together to share memories of the avocado egg roll from Cheesecake Factory or the Bloomin’ Onion from Outback,” says Chain co-founder Nicholas Kraft.

Seating area for Chain in Los Angeles.
Seating area.
A chair with a carved logo of Chili’s  at Chain in Los Angeles.
Chili’s chair.

Many decorative elements developed by Oppenheimer production designer Ruth De Jong from the original location in West Hollywood will carry over to the new venue. Production designer Justin Slade McClain repurposed De Jong’s immersive homage to America’s fast-food culture with an arcade, vintage photo booth, wooden chair with a Chili’s logo, Pizza Hut lamps, McDonald’s character tables, and a Colonel Sanders statue. Diners enter through a huge red takeout box.

Despite the new digs, Chain’s model of operations which entails a constant rotation of different concepts and collaborators, will remain the same, leaning into nostalgia and serendipity with each iteration. Chain’s themes can come together quickly, says Kraft. Hollingsworth might casually riff about how he grew up eating Chili’s, while Novak chimes in about the restaurant’s significance within American culture. Producers Kraft and Jack Davis, talent manager Byron Ashley, and entrepreneur Abe Burns also give their takes and ultimately connect with the official brand to collaborate on an event series. “We don’t have any particular cadence or set schedule,” says Kraft. “Chain is whatever we come up with or find ourselves with a culinary idea that excites us that a few thousand people are going to be excited about.”

Chain will collaborate with New York-based Popup Bagel for its brick-and-mortar debut on January 20, 21, 27, and 28 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. For the inaugural events — Rip, Dip, and Sip: Bottomless Bagels and Booze Brunch Bash — Hollingsworth tapped into his fondness for bagels. He’s pairing them with five different schmears and using them as the centerpiece for a bodega breakfast sandwich and pizza bites. To pair with the bevy of bagels are cocktails made with Malibu rum, G.H. Mumm Champagne, Absolut, and Kahlua. The event is all-you-can-eat and drink. Those interested in attending must join a 25,000-person-long waitlist by texting (505) 552-4246. The event’s address is only revealed to those who have secured an invite.

All Chain events take place at an undisclosed location in Virgil Village. The events are announced via text with a link to purchase a ticket. To get on the list, text (505) 552-4246.

A wall of posters at Chain in Los Angeles.
Previous Chain events.
A poster with Chain’s Jack in the Box pop-up in Los Angeles.
Chain’s poster for the Jack in the Box pop-up.
An entry into Chain in Los Angeles.
Entry into Chain.

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