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Golden Ladies Kitchen let me stay out my sitcom goals

Paige Erickson, left, and Esme Bernstein toast with their friends at the Golden Girls Kitchen pop-up in New York City.
Paige Erickson, left, and Esme Bernstein toast with their pals on the Golden Ladies Kitchen pop-up in New York Metropolis. (Photographs by Jeenah Moon for The Washington Put up)

Remark

Normally I really like eating alone in eating places. However it felt unsuitable to be consuming solo on the Golden Girls Kitchen, a pop-up restaurant in Manhattan dedicated to the traditional sitcom that celebrated friendship above every part. It wasn’t speculated to occur like this — the longtime pal and confidante I had deliberate to fulfill canceled on me, citing one of many diseases that appears to be felling nearly everybody this season. Would-be replacements supplied excuses that gave the impression of a parade of zeitgeist-y maladies: a Zoom assembly, a sick child, so sorry, I’m touring the week after and I’m avoiding eating places till then …

I tried McDonald’s Happy Meal for adults, and it didn’t make me happy

So I discovered myself at a desk for one on a drizzly grey afternoon overlooking the cobblestone streets of the Seaport neighborhood, feeling in my beige turtleneck sweater and denims about 1,000,000 miles away from the scene round me — a campy, sunshine-lit shrine to the Emmy-winning present about 4 older girls sharing a house in Miami, which ran from 1985 to 1992, and the shoulder-padded, helmet-haired girls who made it successful.

I used to be seated simply across the nook from one of many highlights of the two-story house, a devoted re-creation of the well-trafficked boudoir of Blanche Devereaux, the present’s resident sex-positive Southern belle. A stream of diners posed on the mattress, which was draped in that iconic banana-leaf-printed comforter and set in opposition to a background of matching wallpaper. The main points had been convincing, from the mauve carpet underfoot to the fuchsia night robe tossed over a rattan display, giving the impression that the room’s fictional inhabitant had simply strolled out to seize a slice of cheesecake from the fridge.

As Sister Sledge sang about fam-i-lee, I ordered “The Dorothy,” a cocktail named after the sarcastic, levelheaded Woman of the bunch (I’m, I had determined, a Dorothy), and determined to make the very best of my singleton standing. The $19 mix of Gray Goose, prosecco, Campari and seltzer proved to be a watery however festive drink that arrived garnished with a “Golden Ladies Kitchen” cocktail umbrella.

The pop-up restaurant is recent off a sold-out run in Los Angeles. After a 12-week stint in New York, it is going to go to Miami, Chicago and San Francisco this spring. Guests can linger in a reproduction of the present’s kitchen, with its duck-shaped ceramic cookie jar and pink tea kettle. They will pony as much as the Rusty Anchor bar, the ladies’ favourite hangout, or sit within the fern-ringed lanai. Greater than a restaurant or mere picture backdrop, the pop-up is an expertise meant to move guests into the comforting world of the present.

“It’s been emotional for some individuals,” mentioned Andy Lederman, the founder and CEO of Bucket Listers, the corporate behind the pop-up. “It’s a method to expertise their favourite present in order that they really feel like they’re part of it.”

Sandwiches must be cut diagonally, and I’m not taking questions

Lederman mentioned it was essential that they nail the main points, right down to the tchotchkes lining the kitchen counter tops, which had been created by set designers. Teams of superfans have come dressed because the forged. They pose making calls on the kitchen’s yellow wall-mounted cellphone and splay seductively on Blanche’s mattress.

Different exhibits have had related therapies. “The Friends Experience,” a reproduction of the house and occasional present featured within the long-running sitcom, got here to numerous cities this yr, and Hulu in 2015 created a touring “Seinfeld” house pop-up to advertise its acquisition of the present’s streaming rights. And “Sex and the City” bus tours nonetheless ferry followers round New York for glimpses of the places the place the present’s characters dated and brunched.

However greater than any of these, “The Golden Ladies,” with its particular aesthetic, a retro mix of female and Floridian — all ruffled curtains and rattan armchairs — lends itself to a theme-park-style re-creation. Sarah Royal, who co-hosts the podcast “Enough Wicker,” which is dedicated to analyzing the present, says followers are drawn to those areas not simply because they really feel so acquainted, however as a result of they wish to think about themselves inhabiting them, identical to the titular characters.

“The kitchen is that this intimate house the place the ladies would come collectively to speak about every part: love and intercourse, whether or not to go on a date, dependancy, methods to cope with their youngsters,” Royal says. “All of us need that bosom buddy. All of us need to have the ability to wander into the kitchen at 2 a.m. and eat a cheesecake and have these conversations.”

Although it ended three many years in the past, “Golden Ladies” is having a second within the solar: Hundreds of individuals gathered this yr in Chicago for GoldenCon, a conference of panels and trivia video games and autograph signings and performances of the present’s iconic theme tune. There are podcasts, memes and TikTok remixes. Merch abounds on-line. You will discover tumblers and candles that learn “Reside like Rose, Costume like Blanche, Assume like Dorothy, Converse like Sophia,” throw blankets that includes the faces of the principle characters in Warhol-style portraits, an official “Golden Girls Cookbook,” and an edition of Trivial Pursuit dedicated to the present.

The present’s reputation with youthful viewers might need to do with the present surge in ’90s nostalgia, together with the truth that it has aged much better than different relics of its period. It has lengthy been widespread with homosexual viewers who see themselves and their communities in its theme of a selected household; the pop-up restaurant will start providing a drag brunch.

Royal, who has tickets for the pop-up in February, says it appeals to a broad swath of viewers due to its common message: Reinvention is at all times potential. “The Golden Ladies” centered on the second act for its heroines, who had been both divorced or widowed, with grown youngsters. “This was the Reagan period, when the better tradition is saying, ‘You might be accomplished, there’s nothing left in life for you,’” she mentioned. “However these 4 girls got here collectively and found a brand new aspect to themselves, each individually and as a unit. You don’t need to be a 60-year-old in Miami to narrate to the sensation that there’s nothing left for you or that there’s no entry to alter.”

As I watched the scene round me on the restaurant, that sentiment felt proper. The present’s feel-good vibes had been manifest. Clusters of girlfriends sipped “Devereaux’s Delight” cocktails. One wore a sequined high, one other a wide-brimmed pink hat and a “Keep Golden” T-shirt. They posed beneath a neon signal spelling out the title of the present’s theme tune, “Thank You for Being a Friend.”

I nibbled on my decadently tacky and meaty “Sophia’s Lasagna al Forno” (a $40 ticket will get you an entree and a slice of cheesecake), and ignored the under-toasted, over-buttered garlic bread that got here with it. The meals right here isn’t the purpose — nobody goes to a sitcom-themed restaurant for wonderful eating, although the menu does supply an opportunity for extra “Golden Ladies” references, some broad (the “Lanai” Cuban sandwich) and a few deep cuts (the aspect of “Edgar Allan Poe-tato French Fries” was a callback to an episode that discovered Dorothy visiting a restaurant with a literary theme).

With no pal to take pleasure in it with, I wasn’t giving myself over completely to the expertise. I used to be distracted by the branding — a Hallmark Channel emblem over a kitschy wall mural of cheesecake — and by the in depth merchandise kiosk, the place I briefly thought of shopping for a $40 windshield visor that includes photographs of the 4 girls behind the wheel. My cheesecake arrived — it was candy and creamy, however the middle was just a little chilly, which felt like a metaphor for my expertise. However then once more, possibly I used to be simply being an excessive amount of of a Dorothy.

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