(Burbank Leader / July 27, 2010)

Tallyrand Restaurant has a new fan in Huell Howser.

The TV icon who tours the state looking for interesting stories is spreading the word about the restaurant's hometown feel and hot turkey sandwiches on his show "California's Gold," which airs on public television station KCET.

Tallyrand is owned by siblings Karen Ross of Toluca Lake and Mark Thomas of Valencia. It was opened in 1959 by their parents, Al and Delores Thomas.

Howser had stopped by for lunch and met some of the employees and customers. He returned with a film crew on May 26, and the show first aired July 12. It will air again at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 3, Ross said.

"He interviewed us, our key employees and customers," she said. "He really was interested in the fact that I met my husband at the restaurant, and my brother met his wife here too."

Howser was also surprised to learn that they roast close to 200 pounds of turkey a day for their hot turkey sandwiches, Ross said. And some customers come in every day.

"We talked about our employees, and how some have been here from 10 to 30 years," Ross said. "The employee who has been here the longest, Benji Garcia, is one of our bartenders. He's been here almost 30 years."

The employees have developed such close relationships with customers that they are invited to their weddings and baby showers, Ross said.

"We take great pride in the fact that we are very involved in people's lives, rather than just being a place where they come to eat," she said.

The public's response to the TV show has been tremendous, she added.

"I think it's very surreal that 10 days out and the hundreds of people who have come from all over Southern California to see us and have come to have our hot turkey sandwich," she said. "They have come from Riverside, Hesperia, San Diego — and they are here because Huell sent them. They watch him religiously, and they go where he suggests they go."

Marisa Sanders, a waitress at Tallyrand for 20 years, greeted Howser on his first visit.

"He said he was driving by and saw the sign, and there was something telling him to turn around and come back," she said. "It was lunchtime, and I greeted him at the door and seated him."

She didn't recognize him for a few minutes, and when she asked him if he was Huell Howser, he motioned her to keep it quiet while he was there.

"I began a conversation with him," Sanders said. "I told him how long it's been there, and that we make turkey here every day, how long the family has owned the restaurant — 51 years — and how long I had been here also."

Her husband, Robert Sanders, is Howser's biggest fan, so she called him and he came down to the restaurant and had lunch with Howser, she said.

"The show was based on how the restaurant has that small hometown feeling," Marisa Sanders said. "