The Big Apple Part 1: A Landmark About Nothing

Dave Kinchen standing outside Tom’s Restaurant in NYC.

Manhattan-Wednesday, Dec.28th: There were a few places that were a must-visit on my first and long-overdue trip to New York City, which was unacceptable to not take now that I live just two hours from the Big Apple.  Sure there was Broadway, Time Square, and Rockefeller Center (all of those places my wife Karen and I went to by the way), but there was one iconic spot that I was especially hoping to check out: Tom’s Restaurant in Manhattan’s Morningside Heights neighborhood.

You’ll find it at the corner of 112th Street and Broadway.  It was the backdrop for the cast of Seinfeld; you know, the show about nothing!  The exterior was the locator for the fictional Monk’s Cafe where Jerry Seinfeld and cohorts Elaine, George and Kramer would plot their many exploits, although their on-camera parts were shot in a California studio to create the interior setting.

Video: A look at one of the many scenes that took place on Seinfeld with Tom’s Restaurant as the outside backdrop

It’s a similar idea that took place on Cheers.  The Bull Finch Pub in Boston was used as the external backdrop for the bar where the cast spent most of their time (at least it seemed that way).  Been there too by the way! (they have the best Ruben sandwiches in my opinion.)

Back to Tom’s Restaurant, walking in will give you countless of Seinfeld references including posters of the cast, autographed pictures, and in the left-hand corner from the entrance near where I ate, was the classic portrait known simply as “The Kramer”.  Some of the pictures were even for sale.

But why was this spot chosen out of all possible locations in the city? I talked with one of the managers who happens to be part of the Zoulis family which has owned it for generations. He told me the show’s writers lived in that neighborhood.  “Like all good writers, they write about their people,” he told me.  Their experiences in that neighborhood became interwoven in the show’s plots and events surrounding the characters.

I suppose you could call it a bit of a sacred ground for me, being the large Seinfeld fan that I am.  I grew up watching the show on NBC in the 1990s.  I always knew what I was doing on Thursday night at 9pm!   I can confidently say I’ve seen every episode that has ever aired.  I even remember in the mid to late 90s when the first few seasons went into reruns.

It just so happened we were a bit hungry when we got to the cafe so my wife and I enjoyed their cheesecake topped with delicious strawberries, and had a cup of coffee before continuing our sight-seeing tour.  My main goal was to at least get a picture of myself outside the iconic neon sign.  As you can see above, I wasted no time doing that!

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