Make your reservations to sample a taste of a new television show featuring several South Philly restaurants.
“Check, Please!”, a WHYY production, features 39 restaurants in the Philadelphia area, which are visited by local patrons who offer up their opinions of their tasty meals.
“It’s a unique model and people tend to gravitate towards it because it’s real people reviewing the food,” said Caitlin Corkery, the show’s producer. “It’s very upfront and honest. It’s fun people talking openly about their food experiences.”
The 13-episode weekly series, hosted by noted food and travel writer Kae Lani Palmisano, premieres Thursday, Jan. 9, at 7:30 p.m. on WHYY-TV.
The show’s model excludes professional critics and instead puts the task of judging of restaurants on local residents who submitted their favorite eating spots to the show. Corkery gathered all those entries and scrambled them up, sending participating food enthusiasts to places they were not familiar with.
“We wanted to know what people were actually enjoying in their neighborhood,” Corkery said. “We were finding pockets of different places that some people didn’t know about. We had three guests each episode and we tried to get them out of their comfort zone. It’s been interesting to get those perspectives and have those lively conversations.”
Patrons choose and submit their favorite restaurants and swap them with other guests. After trying the recommended restaurants, participants gather in the studio to discuss their dining experiences.
The show originated in Chicago nearly 20 years ago and it recently expanded to other markets including Kansas City, the Bay Area, Miami and Philadelphia.
The Dutch cuisine white-tablecloth cafe Noord, located on Tasker Street near 11th Street, will be one of the featured spots. The restaurant’s owner and chef JeanCarl Lachman is quite familiar with the process, as his former restaurant HB Home Bistro was featured on the program about 15 years ago in Chicago. The Philadelphia native returned home in 2012 to open Noord.
“We took part in the show in Chicago and it was great,” said Lachman. “People came in like gangbusters because of the show. I’m not sure if that will be the same in Philly but we’ll see.”
Nearby Bing Bing Dim Sum on the corner of East Passyunk Avenue and Morris Street will also have its story told on Check, Please! The energetic Asian cuisine is one of four establishments owned by partners Ben Puchowitz and Shawn Darragh.
“We’re excited,” Puchowitz said. “Any time you get your place in the public eye is great. We welcome that attention.”
Puchowitz said he was happy to showcase Bing Bing Dim Sum, as he describes it as an inexpensive and fun atmosphere.
“It’s a fun place to be,” he said. It’s in a really nice neighborhood and people can try some bold-flavored food that isn’t very expensive. It can be an awesome, fun time out.”
In addition to Noord and Bing Bing Dim Sum, a few other South Philadelphia hotspots will be featured on the show including Hungry Pigeon on South 4th Street, Little Fish on South 6th Street, Sardine Bar on Federal Street and Sate Kampar on East Passyunk Avenue.
The cameras rolled through all 39 restaurants from May to September and spanned across South Jersey and Delaware in addition to Philadelphia.
Corkery hopes the show will expand to more places, following a successful run.
“We had over 500 submission, which is outstanding for a show that is brand new,” Corkery said. “We hope that when people are actually watching the show and are familiar with our format, they come out of the woodwork and tell us about even more places. We feel like it’s such a rich food scene that we could do it endlessly.”