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.
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.
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.
The biggest challenge at the Diner is Audrey trying to keep Jeff’s meals healthier than he would like.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
One episode, “My Coffee with Niles,” was set entirely within the café.
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”.
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.
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.
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.