A long line forms down the street counting down the seconds to hit 2:22 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 2. The new restaurant, rightly named 2D after its interior design style, is aligned to look right out of a black-and-white comic book.
The website describes the unique establishment as “The first hand-drawn monochrome 2-dimensional illusionary restaurant in USA.”
The first 222 people waiting received a free Rainbow Pon de Ring donut in anticipation of the experience inside.
Belmont locals Julia Dillhoff and Kaleigh Brauns already visited 2D for the soft opening and stop by when randomly open in the beginning of Feb for their coffee break.
“We live like a block away so when it opened we saw it on TikTok and had to go,” Dillhoff said. “I love going to new local coffee shops around us and this is my new favorite.”
Brauns loves the coffee but she says the donuts are the main reason she comes back.
“It’s all mochi donuts and they are so delicious,” Brauns said. “They’re super moist and I get the creme brulee and strawberry latte.”
Dillhoff and Brauns described the inside as perfect for tourists and locals.
“It’s super pretty, [and] feels like an art museum,” Brauns said. “We saw this girl doing a whole photo shoot, which it would be super cool for.”
In the pouring rain, the loyal customers still stand as they wait their turn to for a peek into Parisian drawings hand painted on the walls. Among the crowd, Julie Zigman balances herself as she switches out of her loafers to a pair of platform pink stilettos to match her extravagant outfit.
“You don’t wait in a line this long and not dress cute for photos,” Zigman said. “I dressed all bright and colorful, contrasting the walls.”
Zigman plans and designs her own photos as a content creator for fashion and also was introduced to this new cafe on TikTok. With over 2,000 followers, she loves trying new places and showing her fans.
As the crowd makes their way in, the art begins before you even walk through the door, with designs of classic paintings comic styled into eating donuts and a full map of the interior inside describing how you order your food.
The menu is filled with an array of donuts each with fun names and wild flavors as well as a multitude of coffees for both the hot coffee lovers and the iced coffee fanatics.
The owners, married for seven years, Vanessa Thanh Vu and Kevin Yu, crafted the mochi donuts specifically to resemble the beloved Japanese rice cake. Made with glutinous rice and tapioca starch to give it a bouncy texture, Mochi donuts are rising with popularity in the U.S.
Greeting every customer as they walk in, the couple goes over the background of the store and the story behind the illusive drawings. After taking a step back from his previous job during the beginning of the pandemic, Kevin had the opportunity to start 2D.
“The time gave us the opportunity to create something new and that’s when we created the 2D Restaurant Group and Vanessa is really the heart and the brain behind the whole concept,” Kevin Yu said. “She’s the one who thought of the whole thing and designed every single wall. She’s really the soul and the heart, I’m just the pretty face.”
Kevin jokes, looking over at his wife, thanking customers as they enter.
“Vanessa is an interior designer,” he said.” She does a lot of sketches for hotels, restaurants and resorts and during the pandemic she mentioned to me about creating a hand-drawn cafe. So she incorporated my love for comics and her sketches and we created the idea of 2D.”
On top of the idea of hand-drawn sketches, they also wanted to include the idea of traveling for those unable to in the past year.
“We’re wanting to bring our guests [on] a journey through Paris,” Kevin Yu said. “The architecture is built to size and the story of you at the balcony in Paris. Then we have different tourist hotspots, like I said it took a little over four months for us to hand paint the entire space.”
The 2D restaurant is also partnering with Brave Space Alliance, the first Black-led, trans-led LGBTQ+ center located on the South Side of Chicago. They are donating their first-day profits to the organization in addition to accepting donations to the 222 donuts giveaway.
“Today, we’re donating all of our proceeds to them, we’re thankful we’re also able to use this platform to bring awareness to them,” Vanessa Yu said. “They’ve done a lot of tremendous work through Covid supporting the community and we’re just doing our part to support.”
The room bubbles with joy as people take photos next to the 2D bathtub filled with plastic bubbles. Employees hustle around handing out the hand crafted donuts, and made-to-order Phin-style coffees. The crowd sings happy birthday as a girl receives a free donut in celebration.
“Everyone has the opportunity to find their inner child, and we’re just grateful to be able to offer a space for that transformation experience,” Kevin said. “Overall, I just want everyone to come in and not worry about anything, forget about the past two years. In this comical world the only thing you need to worry about is how many photos you have to take.”