Lunch with The Golden Girls
Thanks to pop-up cafés around the country, you can be immersed in the world of Dorothy, Rose, Blanche and Sophia — if only for a slice of cheesecake
In 1985, the world was introduced to "The Golden Girls." It was a show about four mature single women who shared a home in Miami, Florida. Dorothy (Bea Arthur), Rose (Betty White), Blanche (Rue McClanahan) and Dorothy's mother, Sophia (Estelle Getty) proved to audiences that getting older was pretty fun if you did it alongside your friends.
The beloved sitcom created by Susan Harris ran on NBC for seven seasons.
Even though the show went off the air in 1992, it continued to live on in people's hearts and on their television sets through syndication. Even now, just hearing the first few bars of the series theme song, "Thank You For Being a Friend," will bring people back to the fictional world of Shady Pines retirement village.
Walking into the Golden Girls Kitchen at The Seaport in New York City, it felt like I was stepping back in time.
The enduring love viewers have for the iconic foursome inspired Bucket Listers to open up a pop-up café based on the sitcom.
The first Golden Girl Kitchen opened in Beverly Hills, California, on July 30 (National Golden Girls Day) in 2022. After a sold-out run there, the organizers opened the second pop-up in New York in February 2023 and plan to open additional locations in Chicago, Miami and San Francisco.
The organizers have recreated many of the sets from the series including the infamous kitchen, Blanche's boudoir and "The Rusty Anchor Bar," where mocktails and alcoholic beverages are available for purchase.
Lasagna or Cheesecake?
Walking into the Golden Girls Kitchen at The Seaport in New York City, it felt like I was stepping back in time. I was transported straight inside the TV in my parents' house in the mid-1980s.
At the tables, servers dressed in Shady Pines uniforms come to take your order. On the menu are items such as Sophia's Lasagna Al Forno, The Lanai (a Miami-style Cuban sandwich) and, of course, the girls' go-to dessert, cheesecake.
Televisions throughout the restaurant play the show on a loop prompting diners to point at the set and exclaim, "I remember that episode so well!"
Manager Keith Golden says, "We have people coming in of all ages and genders. We have had mothers and daughters, roommates, couples and old friends come together. They all have fond memories of the show and a deep connection to the characters. Most of them watched the show as kids alongside their parents or grandparents. It's fun for me to watch their reactions when they walk in the door. They get so excited and become immersed in the Golden Girls' world we have created."
Kara Yako, 46, of New Jersey, is a huge fan of the show and remembers watching it as a kid. Yako says, "Back then, we didn't have televisions in our room, personal screens to watch shows on. Instead, everyone in our family watched television together. 'Golden Girls' was part of the Channel 4 prime time line-up."
Yako came to the café for lunch with her childhood friends, Lisa DeZego, 47, and Regina Betancourt, 41, both of Queens, New York. DeZego says, "They all seemed so old when I was a kid and now I realize they weren't that old at all."
'They Were Fully in Their Prime'
Adds Betancourt, "It is crazy to think that the women on the re-boot of "Sex in the City" (called "And Just Like That") are supposed to be the same age as the characters of Blanche, Rose and Dorothy, and they were living in a retirement village. Back then, women of a certain age were seen as matronly old ladies even though they were fully in their prime."
Kathryn Coulibaly, 48, and Michael Saffran, 49, from New Jersey came for lunch to celebrate Coulibaly's birthday.
"I am a big fan of the Golden Girls," says Coulibaly. "I remember watching with my grandmother. We would laugh together, although I was a little kid and a lot of the humor went over my head, especially the stuff about sex, which was racy."
Coulibaly continues to watch the show today in reruns. She says, "The humor holds up. These women showed us a new way to live. They showed viewers that you could continue to enjoy your life, have sex and have fun with friends as you age."
Many of the patrons at the café noted that the show was forward-thinking. "There were storylines about social issues from LGBTQ topics to ageism," says Coulibaly. "The show was ahead of its time in many ways, discussing topics other shows didn't address back then."
Adds Betancourt, "The sad part is that we are still talking about some of these issues. It is troubling to think we haven't made more progress in our thinking."
Beyond the Instagram photo-ops and the cheesecake, what seems to bring most of the patrons to the café is nostalgia and the good memories the show invokes.
Gina Simeone, 34, of New Jersey says, "I started watching "The Golden Girls" when I was young with my grandma. Since then, it's always been my comfort show, they always make me feel better."
Simeone's friend Michael Halsey, 41, of New Jersey, another big fan, echoes that sentiment. He says, "I'll watch the show now before I go to bed and it makes me happy. It feels like being with old friends. Sometimes I'll call Gina when I'm watching. I'll tell her what episode is on and she'll remember it and even quote the exact lines. It is that iconic."
As Golden points out, "The show is reminiscent of another era. It reminds people of spending time with their families and the value of friendship."
Yako agrees. "The show reminds me of growing up and brings up many memories of that time in my life. When I heard about the café, I thought the concept was cute," she says. "I love that it gave the three of us a reason to spend the day together."