I’ll Have What They’re Having: Sitcom’s Favorite Coffee Spots

Coffee is a hot commodity on television, just like it is in real life. I thought it would be fun to stop by a few of my favorite coffee shops and learn a bit more about them. Often there is more brewing in these spots than the beans. Plots are developed; love is found and lost; and many of the world’s, at least the sitcom’s world, problems are tackled. We’re taking a tour of my top five spots for enjoying a great cup of coffee and getting to know some of the locals.

Photo: rulesofengagement.wikia.com

Number 5: Island Diner on Rules of Engagement

The Island Diner ‘s façade is actually the Ritz Diner in New York City. Using photoshop, the sign was changed and the street sign on the corner switched from “E62 St.” to “W62 St.” The diner is almost another character on the show; it is featured in every single episode of the series.

“Mr. Fix It” Ñ Russell (David Spade, left) tells Jeff (Patrick Warburton, right) that he is interested by a woman he is text dating because she laughs at all his text messages, on the second season premiere of RULES OF ENGAGEMENT, Monday, Sept. 24 (9:30-10:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Photo: Michael Yarish/CBS ©2007 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Photo: CBS Broadcasting Inc.

The entire gang might show up at the diner on any given evening: Jeff and Audrey (Patrick Warburton and Megyn Price) have been married for quite some time. Their friends Adam and Jennifer (Oliver Hudson and Bianca Kajilich) are newly engaged. Russell (David Spade) is their single friend, barely tolerated by Audrey and Jennifer since his mind never drifts far from his next female conquest. His assistant Timmy (Adhir Kalyan) eventually joins the group as well, usually because he’s catering to some whim of Russell’s. The group deals with love and life.

The cast may be sassy but Doreen (Diane Sellers), their usual waitress, is even sassier.

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The biggest challenge at the Diner is Audrey trying to keep Jeff’s meals healthier than he would like.

Photo: nytimes.com

Number 4: Monk’s Café on Seinfeld

Monk’s Café is also a real place in New York called Tom’s Restaurant, located at 112th and Broadway. They changed the name to Monk, because Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David had a poster of the jazz great Thelonious Monk in their office and they used it for the name.

Like many of our characters’ favorite hang-out spots, the atmosphere is not what reels you in. Coordinating plaid walls and matching curtains, leather seats, and a mauve counter are not what you think of in a contemporary café. The interior shots of the restaurant were filmed in the sound stage.

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Many nights you’ll find Jerry, George, Kramer, and Elaine (Jerry Seinfeld, Jason Alexander, Michael Richards, and Julia Louis Dreyfus) catching up on life. Larry (Lawrence Mandley) is the cook and the owner during most of the seasons of the series. Ruthie Cohen (Ruth Cohen) is the cashier who probably knows more about these four than anyone else.

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In the pilot, there was a smaller restaurant called Pete’s and the waitress was named Claire but that all changed with the first regular episode.

Photo: inlander.com

Number 3: Luke’s Diner on Gilmore Girls

The diner is the best place for a meal in Stars Hollow.

You’ll want to get there early because there are only about ten tables in the restaurant. Owned by Luke Danes (Scott Patterson), the service is not always consistent. In addition to Luke, you may order from his nephew Jess (Milo Ventimiglia) or Rory’s friend Lane (Keiko Agena). Luke also lives upstairs; he inherited the business from his father. It was previously a hardware store, and Luke’s apartment was the office. He has a strict “No cell phones” policy.

Photo: dailyhive.com

Lorelai and Rory (Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel) show up here on almost every episode. They often meet to discuss an awkward or uncomfortable topic. Luke supplies much of their coffee needs. Luckily, refills are always free.

Photo: hellogiggles.com

After the show ended, Gilmore Girls coffee did not. Patterson started his own coffee brand, Scotty P’s Big Mug Coffee. He said he was obsessed with quality coffee. “It’s the thing I look forward to every morning and throughout the day and throughout the evening and throughout the middle of the night.”

You can also find a variety of Gilmore Girls coffee on Boca Java. Their choices include Sookie’s Gourmet Blend, Luke’s No Nonsense Special, Mrs. Kim Approved Dark Roast, Oy with the Snickerpoodles Already, Stars Hollow Autumn Festival, Stars Hollow Winter Festival, and Taylor Doose’s Town Meeting.

Photo: drinks.seriouseats.com

Number 2: Café Nervosa on Frasier

The inspiration for Café Nervosa is Elliott Bay Café, located in Pioneer Square’s Globe Building. Café Nervosa is supposed to be located at the corner of Third and Pike. The real business at that location is, of course, a Starbucks.

This quaint café was set in Seattle and the atmosphere had a Pacific Northwest vibe to it. You would be comfortable settling in with a good book.

Photo: frasier.fandom.com

Frasier (Kelsey Grammer) was often neurotic and a bit high strung but you can’t blame it on the coffee.  Many of the cast members met here for lunch or coffee. It was located across the street from the radio station, KACL and we get to know the staff very well.

Eric (Dean Erickson) was the barista for season one. He was the front man for a garage band and dated Daphne (Jane Leeves) for a time. Another server was Rick (Todd Babcock) who had a fling with Roz (Peri Gilpin). Eventually he left for Paris and better espresso. Thad typically gets Niles’ (David Hyde Pierce) order wrong, causing much frustration. Kit (Jessica Cauffiel) is a blonde waitress who also dated Niles and took a spin class with Roz. James (James Oliver) was a bit of an unfriendly barista.

Photo: youtube.com

One episode, “My Coffee with Niles,” was set entirely within the café.

Photo: nbclosangeles.com

Number 1: Central Perk on Friends

Central Perk was not based on a real café, but it did have a real address. Two years after the show was done, Joey Campanero bought a building at 90 Bedford St. and turned it into a restaurant called The Little Owl. Later, he found out his restaurant is the same space Central Perk was supposed to be. Both businesses are neighborhood hangouts.

Originally, the friends were going to meet at a restaurant instead of a coffee shop. At the time the series started, people didn’t spend time sitting in cafes much. The network thought it would be better to meet at a restaurant. The show’s creators held out for the coffee place, and the network relented only if the beige sofa became orange. The creators not only wanted the café to be a set; it was really more of a character. The show was originally titled “Insomnia Café” and was about six friends who hang out in the coffee house. NBC changed the title to “Friends Like Us” which then became “Six of One” and Friends shortly before it aired.

Almost every episode of Friends began or ended with coffee. Monica (Courteney Cox) reconnects with Rachel (Jennifer Aniston) here before her wedding. For a time, both Joey (Matt LeBlanc) and Rachel work at the coffee shop. Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow) entertained there with her song, “Smelly Cat”.

Photo: eonline.com

Somehow the friends always managed to get a seat on the orange couch. The writers actually placed a “Reserved” sign on the table later which you can see if you look closely. The café looks like what you think the coffee place this group would hang out in would. In the episode, “The One with Rachel’s Sister,” we learn a muffin and espresso is $4.50, a coffee and scone is $4.25, a double latte is $2.75, and herbal tea is $1.25.

Photo: dailydot.com

Gunther (James Michael Tyler) is a permanent member of the show, working at Central Perk and in love with Rachel. He never really becomes part of the group, but he is invited to some of their parties and get togethers. Tyler got the part because he was the only extra who knew how to use an espresso machine, and he does not get a speaking line until episode 33.

Photo: idea.lego.com/projecs

I would be happy grabbing a cup of coffee at any of these fine establishments. I admit I would be less likely to hang out at the Island Diner or Luke’s Diner. At Luke’s I’d be too conspicuous. You would most likely find me writing at Café Nervosa or over in the corner at Central Perk. Although these would all be fun spots, I’m happy to keep supporting my local neighborhood shops. If you’re ever in the area, I’ll give a shout out to 4:30 AM Coffee House in Chippewa Falls, WI; The Goat Coffee House in Eau Claire, WI; and SHIFT Cyclery & Coffee Bar in Eau Claire, WI. If I’m there when you stop by, I’ll treat you to a cup of coffee.

Photo: idea.lego.com/projects

What’s Going On? Nothing. Then It Must Be Seinfeld.

August 13 is International Left Handers Day. Looking at classic television shows, there are plenty of famous left handers to celebrate including Pierce Brosnan from Remington Steel, Lisa Kudrow from Friends, Sarah Jessica Parker from Square Pegs, Goldie Hawn from Laugh In, Bruce Willis from Moonlighting, Mary Kate Olsen from Full House, Drew Carey from The Drew Carey Show and Whose Line Is It Anyway?, Tim Allen from Home Improvement and Last Man Standing, and Ed O’Neill from Married . . . with Children and Modern Family.

Any of these actors would be worth writing a blog on, but today we are going to concentrate on a show that featured two left handers: Jerry Seinfeld and Jason Alexander. Seinfeld celebrated the continuing misadventures of neurotic New York City stand-up comedian Jerry Seinfeld and his equally neurotic New York City friends.

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This show, always defined as being about nothing, was on for nine years, producing 173 episodes. The show featured one of the most unique concepts for a sitcom.  Like Burns and Allen, Jerry Seinfeld stars as himself, a comedian. He and three of his closest friends live in New York City and we get to listen in to their conversations, adventures, and boring daily chores. Each of the main characters has his or her own quirky traits.

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Debuting in 1989, the show was created by Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David. The characters were based on people they knew. Jerry’s best friend was George Costanza (Jason Alexander). His ex-girlfriend and now close friend Elaine Benes (Julia Louis Dreyfus) was often stopping by his apartment to discuss life. Cosmo Kramer (Michael Richards), known as “Kramer,” lived across the hall from Jerry.

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Jerry is usually the calm in the storm in the group, handing out advice and being the voice of reason. He is a germaphobe and a neat freak. He always has a box or two of cereal on top of his refrigerator and we often see him eating it. He also loves the Mets. Jerry was an Abbot and Costello fan in real life and if you watch the show closely, you will see many references to the show and the actors.

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George has been Jerry’s friend since high school. He has a lot of poor traits including being cheap, a liar, and often petty. He often uses an alias, Art Vandelay, as part of his elaborate lies. However, he is loyal to Jerry.  Other actors considered for the role were Danny DeVito, Nathan Lane, David Alan Grier, Kevin Dunn, and Brad Hall.

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Elaine is trying to find Mr. Right but has to date a lot of Mr. Wrongs to get there. She is sometimes to honest for her own good. She has several jobs during the course of the series. Dreyfus beat out Rosie O’Donnell, Patricia Heaton, Mariska Hargitay, Jessica Lundy, Amy Yasbeck, and Megan Mullally for the role.

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Kramer is his wacky neighbor. He wears vintage clothes and is a bit naïve, but intelligent and caring.  As Kramer (Michael Richards) became more popular, his entrance applause grew so prolonged, that the cast complained it was ruining the pacing of their scenes. Directors subsequently asked the audience not to applaud so much when Kramer entered.

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Another recurring character on the show is Newman played by Wayne Knight. Newman lives in the same apartment building as Jerry. He’s a mailman. He bonds with Kramer but doesn’t like Jerry at all.

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Many episodes are based on real life experiences of Seinfeld and David.  Characters and plots from past shows are often referenced or expanded on. Like real life friends who have inside jokes, several themes reappear. Plots are often everyday activities. In one show, Jerry, George, and Elaine spend the episode waiting for a table at a Chinese restaurant.

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Like Friends, it truly was an ensemble cast. While the audience loved Kramer, each of the characters was equally important. In a May 14, 2018 Variety story, authored by Scott Huver, who was reflecting on the popularity of the show, Jason was discussing the last episode. His quote sums up how crucial they all were: “And he (Jerry) said this really beautiful thing. He said, ‘For the rest of our lives when anybody thinks of one of us, they will think of the four of us, and I can’t think of any people that I would rather have that be true of.’ And as we all began to weep over the fact that Jerry had said that, that’s when they started calling our names and we had to go out and pretend that everything’s just hunky dory.”

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Unlike many other shows, Seinfeld was slow to gain a fan following. In season four, they finally it the top 30.  However, the show ranked number one for its entire final year.

Jerry Seinfeld received five Emmy Award nominations for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series, but never won. The show was nominated for Outstanding Comedy Series from 1992-1998 but only won the Emmy in 1993.

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Jerry Seinfeld turned down an offer from NBC that would have made him one hundred ten million dollars for a tenth season of the show.  There was talk this past year about a Seinfeld revival. After watching Will and Grace’s revival, I’m not sure that’s a good idea. Rarely do revivals live up to their predecessor’s quality.

The finale was viewed by 76 million people. Many fans found the show offensive. The entire group of friends are taken to jail for violating the Good Samaritan law in Massachusetts. They watch an overweight man being robbed and instead of getting help, they mock him.

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None of the friends did the right thing, but perhaps Seinfeld and Alexander can be excused since they were left-handed. Finales are tough especially for a much-beloved show and this one did not do the show justice. In my opinion, it deserved a more creative going away party.