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A Close Encounter with the Hello Kitty Food Truck…Part Two

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If you follow The Mommy Gamers, you may know that in April 2016 I sought out the Hello Kitty food truck in vain hopes of scoring cute snacks. Unfortunately, the truck was woefully equipped to deal with Chicagoland enthusiasm for adorable Japanese nonsense, and I failed. I get did a mug and a T-shirt (it should’ve said “I visited the Hello Kitty Cafe and all I got was…”).

This year, the Hello Kitty Cafe came closer to me – specifically, to a mall about 10 minutes from my house. Now, I know this mall. My kid did Gymboree in this mall every week from age 1-3. I do about 90 percent of my retail therapy here. I buy all my books at the Barnes & Noble. I get my Nespresso refills here. Until recently when it closed, I got my regular chocolate Godiva reward here (a free truffle every month!). I occasionally get together with my girlfriends and my book club here.

Yes, there is a young girl sitting behind the menu. I hope she got some good treats!

Just last week I made my houseguest from Kansas go visit so she could bring me some Nando’s Peri-Peri. Oh, I also get my hair cut here. And when I have giant stress knots in my shoulder from livin’ the glamorous freelance writer lifestyle, I go to the Mario Tricoci in this mall so someone can (attempt to) knead them out.

This is a definite advantage when scoping out Hello Kitty food trucks. When I heard it was going to be by the L.L. Bean, I knew exactly where to park when everyone else was complaining about no parking. So I arrived right at 10:30 and got into line immediately. I know this place so well I could tell without even looking that my wait would be shorter than last year.

This year I was somewhat more prepared, although I still didn’t bring any sunblock (it’s October in the Chicago area, who knew – and it looked cloudy when I went to Zumba that morning). I also forgot a snack. I had a giant book. The fourth in the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan, to be exact, which I’m re-reading for an online book club. I had a water bottle because my kid was in Orlando riding Space Mountain without me, so he could not make a tea run. I had my workout bag, with a wrap inside in case it got cold.

The people behind me clearly didn’t know what they were getting into. They’d just come from a dance class, following a slumber party that was making their two little girls very grumpy because they’d stayed up so late. After I told them about my four hours in line last year, they decided their kids wouldn’t be able to stay a half hour, let alone four, and left.

The people ahead of me were a bit more knowledgeable, and had done this the previous year as well. Nevertheless, they disappeared somewhere between my arrival and the front of the line, and I ended up talking to a nice group of three people – one of whom had the exact same name as me.

We all took lots of pictures and selfies. The point where you get to the menu sign is A Big Deal. Kids are running around, people are refreshing their pals in line with Starbucks coffees (there’s one right near where the truck was parked) and snacks (ironic, right?), and we’re getting to know our neighbors.

Actually, come to think of it, when I stood in line to see Hillary Clinton this past Monday at a local bookstore, it was basically the same thing except that Peet’s Coffee came by every so often to offer free samples of cookies and brownies. Now that would have been a good marketing ploy for someone at the mall.

Apparently I like standing in lines in order to spend money on stuff. Capitalism loves me.

Anyway, it really didn’t feel that long before I got to the front, where all of us took pictures of the Hello Kitty truck’s tires – well, they were decorated with images of bows! It felt like a triumph, especially when the only thing they’d run out of were the small thermal water bottles (18 ounces). Everyone takes longer than they should at the front because they’re deciding, once they actually see the product in the window. Today, they were selling handmade bow headbands that were not listed on the menu.

Sadly, I was assuming the t-shirts and mugs would be like last years, and they weren’t. So of course I had to buy one of everything. Although I never wore my t-shirt from last year, so I was able to resist that.

Here’s a picture of my haul:

A Quick Review

So, I finally got to try the food. Actually, it’s pretty good. I don’t eat macarons that often so I’m not sure how they compare to the regular stuff, but they were pretty, tasty, and sweet, and you could even tell what the flavors were supposed to be. The mini-cakes were denser than I expected, rich and flavorful. The cookies – whoa, I forgot about the cookies! I know what I’m having for lunch…

I bought a freaking $36 thermal mug! But it’s totally cute and I’m just going to put it somewhere prominent in my house and stare at it with adoration from time to time. And the regular mug, with the bow handle, is going to hold lots of chai tea this winter.

Was it worth the money and effort? Well, I guess it depends on your point of view. I had been in Chinatown just the day before, and if all I’d wanted was cute Hello Kitty stuff I could have gotten it there at a fraction of the price. The best part of doing the Hello Kitty Cafe, I’ve learned, is the experience. Being there with other geeky people who are willing to stand in line for the privilege of buying overpriced merch is most of the fun.

No, I don’t regret it. Yes, I’ll probably do it again. Yes, I’m probably a bit crazy. But if you’re not willing to do it, too – or at least laugh with me about my doing it and bring me lattes while I wait – you’re really not my people anyway.

About Helen A. Lee


Helen is a veteran writer with credits in The Learned Fangirl, Electronic Gaming Monthly, Gamespot.com, Chicago Tribune and nytimes.com, among others (if pressed, she may cop to writing instructional guides to pop star hair and interviewing "Desperate Housewives" stars). She's a huge geek and her son, age 11, looks to be following in her footsteps.