‘Golden Girls’ Pop-Up Restaurant in LA is So Popular, Chicago Could Get One Too – NBC Chicago

‘Golden Girls’ Pop-Up Restaurant in LA is So Popular, Chicago Could Get One Too – NBC Chicago


Picture it: A vacant Beverly Hills bistro has been transformed into the set of a 1980s sitcom about four women living in Miami — but it’s also a working restaurant.

The Golden Girls Kitchen is currently taking reservations fast. Some customers have traveled from all over the country to check out the pop up restaurant.

It has proven to be a huge success. It has been so popular that plans are being made to transport it to New York, Chicago and San Francisco.

Joe Saunders of Cranston, Rhode Island was visiting Northern California with his two teenage daughters and their mother when they heard about the pop up. They decided to make a special visit south to see the pop-up.

“I was a little hesitant about coming but my kids’ mom really wanted to come,” said Saunders, who was wearing a T-shirt referencing the sitcom’s fictitious Shady Pines retirement home. “It’s been a good time… the lasagna, the strawberry daiquiri and I’m going to have a piece of cake with ice cream, too.”

Thirty years after “The Golden Girls” ended on NBC, fans still can’t let go of the sitcom about four housemates — Dorothy, Rose, Blanche and Sophia — bonding over aging, dating and cheesecake. Before the pop up opened on July 30, which is National Golden Girls Day, the first month’s reservations were gone. This is the latest example of comedy returning to mainstream pop culture relevance. In just the past few months, the first ever Golden-Con fan convention was held in Chicago and a pilot for an animated, futuristic “Golden Girls” series is being shopped around.

The pop-up was organized by Bucket Listers (an online event company). It had the blessing of Disney, which owns the rights to “Golden Girls.” So organizers could use Easter Egg references in decor and on the menu. The Shady Pines Bar bartender greets fans as they walk in. A replica of the women’s kitchen counter is located further inside, complete with a yellow wall telephone. Behind the dining room is Blanche’s bedroom. It includes the iconic banana leaf wallpaper.

“It has been so heartwarming to see my mom light up. I know that she’s watched the show at least 50 times each season,” said A.J. Maloney, 23 years old, migrated from San Diego to San Diego with Shellee, 45.

Derek Berry, Bucket Listers’ director of experiences, has plenty of experience staging pop-ups. Since 2016, he has overseen half-a-dozen restaurant tributes starting with a “Saved By the Bell” diner in Chicago. “Breaking Bad,” “Beverly Hills 90210” and “Good Burger” have also inspired fast-casual diners. Berry’s criteria for the pop-up treatment is if a show has “staying power” and people are constantly quoting it. “Golden Girls” was inevitable.

“Every time we announce a pop-up, we look at the comments. People are like ‘I love it, but you should have done this!’ And it’s always ‘Golden Girls,’” said Berry, who worked with a 45-member team.

Working with executive chef Royce Burke on menu design and naming was one of the highlights. The choices of course include lasagna — which the Sicilian-born Sophia often cooked — and various flavors of cheesecake. Rose also mentions Scandinavian delicacies in her stories about St. Olaf in Minnesota.

“I like all the St. Olaf items where you never knew if they were real or not,” Berry said. “We threw a couple on there. It’s so fun to see my staff and myself try to pronounce them.”

“The Golden Girls” premiered in 1985. None of the stars are still alive. Bea Arthur, Rue McClanahan, and Estelle Getty all died in the late 2000s and Betty White died last December at age 99. Yet, thanks to Hulu streaming and cable reruns, the show is still thriving and finding new audiences. This is evident in the wide range of demographics that frequent the restaurant’s customers.

Moses Nicholas and Johanna James, both 18, were from Los Angeles. They had a date over vegan lasagna, vegan cheesecake, and they are now best friends. Their reservation was a surprise gift from James’ mother, who knew both of them grew up watching “Golden Girls” in syndication and still catch it on Hulu.

“There’s something so relatable to the show for me for some reason,” Nicholas said. “I just find it really funny and it’s very comforting to watch.”

The couple’s ages is just proof the show “never dies,” James added.

Shirley Lyon and her three older girlfriends came from Palos Verdes (California) with their own drinkware. The quartet, who call themselves “golden girls,” brought “Golden Girls” mugs they made but with their faces superimposed over the characters. The joy they felt watching the sitcom brought them back to their childhood memories by just being in the restaurant.

“People here I think all love them,” Lyon said. “I don’t think anybody comes who hasn’t experienced how precious they are. I just love their friendship.”

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