Inside The Stranger Things Cafe Where Hawkins Comes To Life

At Stranger Pronto, entering the Upside Down is as easy — or difficult — as making a midnight reservation. The "Stranger Things"-themed pop-up café made headlines on CNN and other international sites when it opened in Tokyo over the summer, not far from the famous Shibuya scramble crossing: featured in "Lost in Translation," "Babel," and "The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift," and used as an establishing shot in many other Hollywood films.

Given that it's based on one of Netflix's most popular shows, but also located in the heart of the world's most densely populated metropolitan area (which is still weathering a pandemic), Stranger Pronto quickly became an exclusive venue, available only by reservation one week in advance. The café only seats 15 or 20 people per hour, and for months, it's been fully booked by 12:01 a.m. every night, leaving many "Stranger Things" fans with the dreaded Fear Of Missing Out.

After coming off a recent Daily Stream binge of the show's last three seasons in August, however, I managed to get a look inside as the first customer of the day on September 15, 2022. And I've put together a little photo tour here so you can vicariously experience the Upside Down world of the "Stranger Things" café.

Surfer Boy Pizza and Scoops Ahoy Ice Cream Parlor

Pronto is a chain of Italian café/bars in Japan, but you wouldn't know it from stepping into Stranger Pronto. When the doors open and the host ushers you in, it's more like taking a whirlwind tour of Hawkins, Indiana, across four seasons of "Stranger Things."

First, you order your food and pay through the windshield of the Surfer Boy Pizza van that Argyle (Eduardo Franco) drives around in "Stranger Things" season 4. The cashier rocks the same yellow Surfer Boy T-shirt that Argyle wears. (Quiksilver sells his whole outfit, for all your Argyle cosplaying needs.)

To the right of the Surfer Boy installation is the Scoops Ahoy Ice Cream Parlor counter. That's right: though it lost the Battle of Starcourt in "Stranger Things" season 3, and Steve and Robin (Joe Keery and Maya Hawke) lost their jobs there in 1985, Scoops Ahoy lives on in a different time and place — in the real world.

The bar staff even wears the same kitschy sailor uniforms Steve and Robin did. In lieu of traditional ice cream scoops, however, they just serve special themed milkshakes and parfaits. This is also where you pick up your food order, and it's where some people may stand, tachinomiya-style, and eat when the few high-top bar tables are full.

Starcourt Mall, road to Hawkins, and Byers House

On the other side of the Scoops Ahoy station, you enter the Starcourt Mall ... sort of. There's a neon "Starcourt" sign like the one inside the "Stranger Things" season 3 mall, while the seating area, or mini food court, is surrounded by photo spots inspired by other parts of the show.

You pass a "Welcome to Hawkins" sign on the way in, and they've got a retro bike up on display like the ones Mike Wheeler (Finn Wolfhard) and his friends ride. The backdrop shows the road to Hawkins under a typical forecast of apocalyptic red and black clouds.

I found myself sitting in a room at the Byers House, where Joyce (Winona Ryder) used an alphabet wall to communicate with her son Will (Noah Schnapp) while he was stuck in the Upside Down, back in "Stranger Things" season 1. This scene has been recreated in a Halloween Horror Nights maze at Universal Studios, but I wonder if anyone running that maze ever had time to sit down and eat a whole meal there. Probably not?

Byers House (continued), soundtrack, and Creel's Clock

On the coffee table in the Byers home were several cassette tapes, a Sony Walkman, and a stack of books, with the top one about Russian houses alluding to Hopper (David Harbour) and Joyce's season 4 storyline in Russia. Stranger Pronto does play appropriate music to go along with your "Stranger Things" dining experience. While I was there, I heard numerous songs from the season 4 soundtrack, such as the Bryce Miller/Alloy Tracks remix of Journey's "Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)."

During Metallica's "Master of Puppets" — the song with the fateful guitar solo that Eddie Munson (Joseph Quinn) played — the Christmas lights on the alphabet wall even started flaring up in time with the music.

There was more to see at the "Stranger Things" cafe, but my order was up, and with the grandfather clock from Creel House coming through the wall nearby — reminding me I was on borrowed time (of one hour, per the reservation system) — I thought it best to eat first. The clock was stuck at 10, the same time the café opened, and I had to be out of there by 11 a.m. or else risk having Vecna break every bone in my body.

The menu at Stranger Pronto

I looked around and saw girls eating waffles, Eleven's favorite food, though none of them manifested superpowers like Millie Bobby Brown's character on "Stranger Things." "Eleven's First Hamburger" was also on the menu, but since neither a hamburger nor waffles are particularly special foods to me, I elected to go full Demogorgon.

I had the squid ink pasta with black broccoli (at least, I think it was broccoli) and five pieces of roast beef on top, arranged in the shape of the Demogorgon's head. I washed it down with a Demogorgon's "Dark Side Mocha" shake — and when I say "washed," I mean, spooned it down and sucked it down through a Demogorgon straw.

Also on the food menu are pizza, scrambled eggs with maple syrup (the way Mike likes them), and a chocolate pudding parfait with nougat dedicated to Dustin (Gaten Matazzaro). Among the drinks are Upside Down cream soda, a mocktail like the Halloween party punch Nancy (Natalia Dyer) drank, and two different drinks memorializing Dr. Alexei (Alec Utgoff) and his slurpee whims.

Arcade, Demogorgon, and Stranger Things café exterior

There was another back corner over on the other side of the café with trick art of the Demogorgon and more neon signs for Surfer Boy and the Arcade that the kids on "Stranger Things" frequent. They have TVs playing scenes from "Stranger Things" and there are times when you might look up at the TV and see the same thing right next to it in three-dimensional reality. (Note the mirroring Arcade signs above.) The walls are covered with poster art as well.

I took one last look at the "Stranger Things" café, and came away feeling like I had just immersed myself in the world of Hawkins. And I hope you have now, too.

The "Stranger Things" café was originally supposed to run for three months only, until September, but its operations were extended by popular demand until the end of 2022. I'm assuming that most people reading this probably won't be able to make a trip to Tokyo by then, but if you're in town, you can try running up that hill and making your midnight reservation on the official Stranger Pronto website.