South Florida PBS (WPBT & WXEL) celebrates the 100th episode of Check, Please! South Florida with the premiere of season 15 on Monday, February 19th at 7:30 pm on WPBT and Wednesday February 21st at 5:30 pm on WXEL.
Remember 2008? Take a look back at the headlines, and it's clear the economic downturn made it a tough year for restaurants in South Florida.
But, that same year, a brand-new television series debuted in South Florida, exploring the incredible melting pot of cultures found in the local dining scene. It offered regular people the opportunity to be a restaurant reviewer for a day. It also offered local restaurateurs a chance to take the spotlight and tell viewers about the passion behind their profession.
Fast forward to 2018, and Check, Please South Florida! has enjoyed ten years on the air. The new season, debuting February 19th, will mark the 100th episode of the series. Chef Michelle Bernstein has hosted the program from Day One. In every episode, she is joined by a panel of everyday food critics, detailing their own experiences at three local restaurants.
"I love getting the chance to meet all kinds of people who are connected by their love of food and dining," says Bernstein. "When the taping begins, we are all complete strangers, but by the time it ends, we've become friends."
“South Florida PBS strives to connect people in our community, and although the program focuses on food, it gives South Floridians a chance to understand and celebrate the various cultures of those around them,” says Joyce Belloise, Vice President of Content and Community Partnerships. “As guests discuss their favorite foods, we also hear about their family traditions and the places they’ve lived before moving to South Florida, and food becomes a catalyst for deeper conversation.”
Guest reviewers are chosen for the show through an online application process, and they represent a cross-section of South Florida, from boat captains to business owners, from make-up artists to moms. Attorneys, sales reps, teachers, journalists, firefighters, doctors,models, students, and government officials have all received a spot at the Check, Please! table over the years. Each guest agrees to dine anonymously at three restaurants assigned by the producers and report back on their experience. One of the most memorable cast of characters on the show included radio commentator, Paul Castronovo, who appeared in the Viewer's Choice episode alongside local business owner Don Bailey and celebrity interviewer Miss Finesse. A kids episode with a panel of third-grade foodies, was another viewer favorite, featuring advice on how to use a rubber band to hold your chopsticks, as well as wide-eyed descriptions of the infamous Kitchen Sink at Jaxson's Ice Cream.
The show has become a boon for local restaurants, providing them direct access to the show's passionate viewers. "We are so fortunate to live in a community with such a diverse dining scene. The chefs and restaurateurs bring a little bit of their culture and a whole lot of their passion into our neighborhoods," says Bernstein, a James Beard award-winning chef and restaurateur herself. “We also have incredibly loyal viewers who are willing to go out, explore new communities, and try new foods."
In each episode, Michelle also prepares a quick recipe, demonstrating her own take on trendy menu items, like Ceviche and Kale Salad, or whipping up more upscale versions of classic comfort foods, like a Mac n Cheese or a Patty Melt.
The new season premiering Monday, February 19th at 7:30 pm on WPBT and Wednesday February 21st at 5:30 on WXEL, offers ten brand new episodes that will transport viewers all over South Florida to the delicious hidden away dining gems that make each community so unique. Viewers can revisit past reviews, learn a new recipe, or even apply to be a guest on the show's website: www.checkpleasefl.com. They can also follow the show on Facebook and Instagram.
Below is a description of Season 15’s 10 episodes:
The Alchemist Gastropub & Bar, West Palm Beach
My Little Greek Deli, Miami Springs
Sardelli Italian Steakhouse, Hollywood
Cardon y El Tirano, Calle Ocho
Vienna Café and Bistro, Cooper City
Mussel Beach, Delray Beach
Sweetwater Bar & Grill, Boynton Beach
Whale’s Rib Raw Bar, Deerfield Beach
Eathai, Delray Beach
Drunken Dragon, Miami Beach
Royal India, Fort Lauderdale
Tamara’s Bistro, Miami Beach
Coconuts, Fort Lauderdale
Fabio the Venetian: Wine Bar & Restaurant, Fort Lauderdale
Señor Burrito, Delray Beach
Café Vico, Fort Lauderdale
Yakitori Sake House, Boca Raton
Farinelli 1937, Miami
Rocksteady Jamaican Bistro, Boca Raton
Blue Ginger Seafood Steakhouse, Miramar
Brulé Bistro, Delray Beach
Spaghetti Factory, Davie
Bistro Bulgogi, Doral
Mangú Café Restaurant, Hialeah
Funny Buddha Brewery, Oakland Park
Relish & More, West Palm Beach
La Fresa Francesa, Hialeah
Southport Raw Bar, Fort Lauderdale
Checkers Old Munchen, Pompano Beach
La Huaca Peruvian Cuisine, Hollywood
Check, Please South Florida! by the numbers:
# of Restaurants featured: 326
# of South Florida Communities visited: 62
# of People who have Applied to Be a Reviewer: 5,000
# of U.S. markets with a local Check, Please! program: 7
# of Visits to the Check, Please! website: 356,729
Social Reach: Over 1 million
Most Viewed Episode online: Schnitzel Haus, 3030 Ocean, & Shibui
Most Viewed Segments on YouTube: Jaxson's Ice Cream, Dania Beach and Rock n Roll Ribs, Coral Springs
Most Popular Recipe on the website: Crab Cakes
Most Popular Restaurant Review on the website: Rebel House, Boca Raton
The restaurants respond:
Thank you for giving us the opportunity to share a little bit of our family, our food, our restaurant!! Thank you for spreading the word and helping so many small businesses!!!
Cristina Ardon, El Guanaco, Oakland Park
The premise of the show, using locals to critique each others favorite restaurants is genius. We couldn’t have been more pleased with the results.
Hans Seitz, Sparky’s Roadside Barbecue, Miami
I would run into people and they would say, “Hey I saw you on TV last night!”. I was shocked to find out how many people up here in Jupiter watched the show.
Jon Sullivan, Guanabanas Restaurant, Jupiter
10 years later customers still come through our doors, thanks to watching us on the show.
David Garcia, La Camaronera, Miami
There is always a packed restaurant since we were featured on the show. Being a part of Check, Please! has positively impacted our restaurant, and we are very thankful for the experience!
Brent Bartkow & Philip Thomas, Tin Muffin Cafe, Boca Raton
Every time the show was re-broadcast we got new customers who were hearing of us for the first time.
Penny Sanfilippo, 11th Street Annex, Ft. Lauderdale
People came from Miami and all over after seeing the show, and continue to come today every time the show is replayed. Thank you for making us a part of the Check, Please! family.
Marco Pindo, Ristorante Sapori, Boca Raton
About South Florida PBS
South Florida PBS, Florida’s largest public media company, connects organizations and institutions across our region and preserves South Florida's history. Leading the way in this global society, SOUTH FLORIDA PBS serves diverse communities from Key West to the Sebastian Inlet and from the Atlantic Ocean west to Lake Okeechobee. SOUTH FLORIDA PBS is committed to creating and presenting unique arts, education and cultural heritage programming, and serves as a model for telling unique local stories across a wide variety of media platforms.