Reservations were going fast at the newly opened The Golden Girls Kitchen. Some patrons from out of state came to see the pop-up restaurant.
Joe Saunders, of Cranston, Rhode Island, his two teenage children and their mother were visiting Northern California when they learned of the pop-up. So they made a special trip south just to see it.
“I was a little hesitant about coming, but my kids’ mom really wanted to come,” said Saunders, who was wearing a T-shirt that referenced the fictitious Shady Pines retirement home. “It was a good time…lasagna and strawberry daiquiri and I’ll have a piece of cake with ice cream too.”
Thirty years after NBC’s “The Golden Girls” ended, fans still can’t give up on the sitcom about four housemates — Dorothy, Rose, Blanche, and Sophia — due to aging, dating, and cheesecake. The first month of reservations sold out before the pop-up opens on July 30, which the internet marks National Girls’ Golden Day. It’s just the latest example of comedy’s elevation into pop culture once again. Just in the past few months, the first Golden-Con fan convention took place in Chicago, and shopping is now underway throughout the pilot for the animated and futuristic series “Golden Girls.”
Bucket Listers, an online events company, organized the pop-up. It has been blessed by Disney, who owns the rights to the “Golden Girls.” Therefore, the organizers were free to put Easter egg references into the décor and menu. Upon walking in, fans are immediately greeted by a bartender at the Shady Pines bar. Furthermore, inside is a replica of the women’s kitchen table, complete with a yellow wall phone. Behind the dining room is the recreation of the Blanche Bedroom, including a bedspread and banana leaf wallpaper.
“It was a pleasure to see my mom light up. I know she’s watched the show at least 50 times each season,” said A.J. Maloney, 23, who came from San Diego with her mom, Shelley, 45.
Derek Perry, Bucket Listers Experience Manager, has a lot of experience organizing popups. Since 2016, he’s overseen honors for half a dozen restaurants starting with “Saved By the Bell” in Chicago. The films “Breaking Bad”, “Beverly Hills 90210” and “Good Burger” have also inspired casual diners. Berry’s criteria for addressing popups is whether the show has “staying power” and is consistently cited by people. “Golden Girls” was inevitable.
Every time we announce a popup, we look at the comments. People are like “I love it, but you should have done this!” He’s always been a “Golden Girls,” said Berry, who has worked with a 45-member team.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of designing and naming menu items was working with Executive Chef Royce Burke. Choices, of course, include lasagna – often cooked by Sicilian-born Sofia – and different flavors of cheesecake. There are also references to Scandinavian dishes that Rose mentions in her stories about her hometown of St. Olaf, Minnesota.
“I love all the St. Olaf’s you never knew if it was real or not,” said Berry. “We threw a couple in there. It’s so much fun to see my crew trying to pronounce them.”
The pop-up only has reservations until late October. But its popularity was beyond expectations. Berry added that there are plans to take it en route to New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and of course Miami.
The movie “The Golden Girls” premiered in 1985. None of the four stars are alive. Bea Arthur, Rue McClanahan and Estelle Getty all died in the late 2000s and Betty White passed away last December at the age of 99. However, due to the cable rerun and streaming availability on Hulu, the show continues to find new life and new, younger fans. The widely changing demographics of diners are proof of this.
Moses Nicholas and his girlfriend, 18-year-old Joanna James from Los Angeles, were on a date with vegan lasagna and vegan cheesecake. Their booking was a surprising gift from James’s mom, who knew they both grew up watching “Golden Girls” and he still caught it on Hulu.
“There is something connected to the show for me for a reason,” Nicholas said. “I find it really funny and very comforting to watch.”
James added that the couple’s ages are just proof that the show “never dies.”
Shirley Leon and her three friends, all elderly, came from Palos Verdes, California, with their drinking utensils. The quartet, who calls themselves the “Golden Girls”, brought home the “Golden Girls” cups they made but with their faces pinned over the characters. Just being in the restaurant brought back the joy they feel when watching the sitcom.
“I think the people here love them all,” Leon said. “I don’t think anyone comes and hasn’t experienced how precious they are. I just love their friendship.”
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