For people in my age-range, local television has always been a guilty pleasure, something to watch and potentially “star” in too. If we didn’t star, a friend did, or a friend of a friends’ sister did, or the sister of a friends’ neighbors’ therapist did. We all loosely know someone who did the Cabbage Patch on TV Dance Party or clinked a wine glass with Leslie Sbrocco on Check Please! Bay Area.
As a kid, I was picked to appear on an obscure KTVU show, “Captain Satellite”, that was filmed in Jack London Square; I can’t find the photos my mom took, but I did find a few clips of the show and have posted one below. My family sat in the small studio audience; my brother sobbed, worried the spaceship “set” would fly off into outer space. Troll Dolls were parting gifts.
For the last ten years, I’ve been obsessed with the aforementioned Check Please! Bay Area. Before the days of Yelp and Instagram food porn, Check Please! was our sometimes fogged-up and greasy window into the local dining scene. To me, it’s still a fascinating peek into random restaurants on or off my radar.
Check Please! introduced me to Bertolucci’s in South San Francisco, home to the best neon sign and Chicken Parmesan on 101, the Hard Knox Cafe in Dogpatch for crisp and juicy fried chicken, and Walzwerk on South Van Ness for crunchy chicken schnitzel (who says chicken is boring?) with the best spaetzel EVER.
I love to ponder what restaurant I would pick should I appear; my friend Andrew, who did appear, chose Izzy’s Steak and Chop House, as it became “home” for him after he relocated here from New York. He confirms that even on such an innocent show as this, editing plays a role in building a narrative; he laments that he was pegged the “value” guy, which I suppose could be worse.
One doesn’t want to go the obvious route; it’s all about introducing your favorite spot, free of trendiness and over-exposure, to the world. I always feel bad when a participant’s pick is panned, more for the poor restaurant than for the picker; sometimes the reasons are valid, sometimes fairly lame (don’t order a salad at a burger joint and expect locally foraged greens!).
A few months ago, one of my best friends found out that our favorite neighborhood italian spot, The Gold Mirror, was picked to be on the show and would be taping in a few weeks. She reserved a big table and invited a group of friends to dine on that night and *hopefully* horn into background shots of the show. You had me at horn.
A little over three years ago, my husband and I moved about a 10 minute walk from the Gold Mirror, or the “GM” as us dorks call it, a place I have loved even when I lived clear across town. It’s been a part of so many cherished memories, from when our rowdy ad agency held our company Christmas party there 20 years back, to when I watched the Giant’s win their last World Series game while perched at the bar, digging ritz crackers into a giant cheese ball (nightly feature during happy hour).
During the Check Please! taping, we hammed it up any time the cameras panned our way. You can watch the episode here; I make a brief appearance during the first few minutes of the segment, full ham on display.
By the way, all three episode guests would go back to the Gold Mirror. Just stick to pasta and fish.