The WISCH LIST
By Dave Wischnowsky
Opened in 2010, The Wormhole Coffee Shop in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood was established in 2015. It says so on its front door.
And that’s all because of 1985.
Well, you really shouldn’t be if you grew up during the 1980s, or simply are a fan of “Back to the Future” who’s dreamt of owning a silver DeLorean with flux capacitor. Which, as it turns out, you can actually find inside The Wormhole, a coffee shop that’s for lovers of the ’80s at least as much as it’s for lovers of coffee – and probably much more so.
Located at 1462 N. Milwaukee Avenue along an eclectic stretch of storefronts on the city’s North Side, The Wormhole – as its name suggests – is a trip back in time to the decade when hair was big, the Cold War was hot, and fashion was … well, it was something.
As a proud child of it, I still love the ’80s today. Anytime I stumble across one of the “Back to the Future” and “Indiana Jones” films on TV, I’ll stop and watch. I can still rattle off the starting lineups from the 1984 and ’89 Chicago Cubs as if they’re my Social Security Number. And I get a big retro kick out of seeing the on-point hairstyles, outfits and pop culture references from FX’s hit period drama, “The Americans,” as it chronicles the height of U.S.-USSR political tensions during the early ’80s.
The decade of my childhood brings back great memories for me, and this past weekend, I was hoping to stoke them when I visited The Wormhole on Sunday morning. Upon walking through the front door with “Est. 2015” painted on the glass – a cheeky nod to the once-upon-a-time futuristic year featured in “Back to the Future II” – I wasn’t disappointed as I encountered what could have been a junior high buddy’s basement.
Back when I actually was in junior high.
Decorating the walls were posters of iconic movies such as “The Karate Kid,” “Say Anything,” and “The NeverEnding Story,” along with an original subway poster from 1984 promoting the original “Ghostbusters.” Sitting on shelves were California Raisin figurines and coffee mugs shaped like the heads of Star Wars characters, from Han Solo and Princess Leia to C-3PO and Boba Fett.
Elsewhere, I found He-Man’s Castle Grayskull and ThunderCats’ Tower of Omen play sets on display along with a model of the Millennium Falcon. Lining the ceiling were plastic lunch boxes featuring the likes of the Smurfs, Gremlins and Alf. And in the back corner surrounded by two couches and a coffee table sat an original Nintendo Entertainment System hooked up to a TV with Super Mario Bros. on the screen ready to play.
But none of that is The Wormhole’s biggest claim to 1980s fame, as looming proudly on a platform above the entrance to the restrooms sits the coffee shop’s piece de resistance – an actual DeLoreean that’s identical to the car-turned-time machine used by Doc Brown and Marty McFly in the “Back to the Future” trilogy.
The vehicle, restored and outfitted by the coffee shop’s co-founder James Tillapaugh, is complete with an “OUTATIME” California license plate bearing, time travel circuitry and even a Mr. Fusion coffee grinder.
Speaking of which, the coffee at The Wormhole, brewed from HalfWit Coffee Roasters beans, is choice as well. Specialty drinks include a Honey Bear Latte, Peanut Butter Koopa-Troopa coffee and a Topanga tea, named after the character from “Boy Meets World,” which actually was a TV show from the ’90s.
But, hey, who’s counting? The next decade is just a wormhole away.
For more information, visit thewormhole.us.