‘Golden Girls’ LA pop-up restaurant has the golden touch
Beverly Hills, California
Picture this: An empty Beverly Hills deli has been turned into the set of a 1980s sitcom about four women living in Miami—but it’s also a working restaurant.
Reservations are going fast at the newly opened The Golden Girls Kitchen. Some customers have come from out of state to check out the pop-up eatery.
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 down south just to see it.
“I was a little hesitant to come, but the mother of my kids really wanted to come,” said Saunders, who was wearing a T-shirt referencing the sitcom’s fictional Shady Pines nursing home. “It was a good time… lasagna, strawberry daiquiri and I’m going to have a slice of cake with ice cream.”
Thirty years after The Golden Girls ended on NBC, fans still can’t get over the comedy about four housemates — Dorothy, Rose, Blanche and Sophia — who bond over aging, dating and cheesecake. The first month of reservations sold out before the pop-up opened on July 30, which the Internet has dubbed National Golden Girls Day. It’s just the latest example of comedy retconning pop culture. In just the past few months, the first Golden-Con fan convention took place in Chicago, and a pilot for the futuristic animated series The Golden Girls is being shopped.
Bucket Listers, an online events company, organized the pop-up. The game was blessed by Disney, which owns the rights to The Golden Girls. Therefore, organizers were free to include Easter egg references in the decor and menu. Upon entering, fans are immediately greeted by a bartender at the Shady Pines bar. Inside the room is a replica of a woman’s kitchen counter, complete with a yellow wall phone.
“It was so heartwarming to see my mother light up. I know he watched the show at least 50 times per season.
Listers Bucket Experiences Manager Derek Barry has a lot of experience running pop-ups. Since 2016, he has overseen dozens of 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 restaurants. Berry’s criteria for the pop-up treatment is that a show has “staying power” and that people keep 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 that!'” said Barry, who works with a team of 45. : And there are always “golden girls”.
One of the most fun aspects was working with Executive Chef Royce Burke to design and name menu items. Of course, choices include lasagna — which the Sicilian-born Sofia often cooks — and various flavors of cheesecake. There are also references to Scandinavian delicacies that Rose mentions in her stories about her hometown of St. Olaf, Minnesota.
“I love all the St. Olaf items that you never knew were real,” Berry said. We dropped a couple in there. It’s fun to watch myself and my staff try to pronounce them.”
The pop-up only has reservations until late October. But its popularity has exceeded expectations. So much so, Barry added, that there are plans to take it on the road in New York, Chicago, San Francisco and, of course, Miami.
The Golden Girls premiered in 1985. None of these four stars are alive. Bea Arthur, Rue McClanahan and Estelle Getty all died in the late 2000s, and Betty White died last December at the age of 99. The demographic diversity of this restaurant’s customers is proof of that.
Moses Nicholas and his girlfriend, Johanna James, both 18 and from Los Angeles, had a vegan lasagna and vegan cheesecake date. Their booking was a surprise gift from James’ mother, who knew they both grew up watching “The Golden Girls” in syndication and still watch it on Hulu.
“For some reason there’s something very connected to the show for me,” Nicholas said. “I find it really funny and it’s very relaxing to watch.”
James added that the couple’s age proves that the show “never dies.”
Shirley Lyons and her three girlfriends, all senior citizens, came with their drinking vessels from Palo Verdes, California. The group of four, who call themselves the “Golden Girls,” brought “Golden Girls” mugs they made themselves, but with their faces on the characters. Just being in the restaurant brought back the joy they felt when watching sitcoms.
“I think people here like them all,” Lyons said. I don’t think there is anyone who hasn’t experienced how valuable they are. “I just love their friendship.”
___ Follow Terry Tang on Twitter at https://twitter.com/ttangAP