Pop culture travel: Friends and Seinfeld’s “New York”

I’ve spent some time talking about pop culture and how it has influenced my travels and there were some pretty glaring omissions. For example, my previous trips to New York managed to overlook two of the New York-iest sitcoms in modern television: Seinfeld and Friends.

Unlike Sex and the City and 30 Rock, tv shows that are intimately connected to the city and filmed locally, New York’s role in Seinfeld and Friends is, in fact, complete fiction. Both were filmed on studio lots in California, and yet, both feature images of the city that have made their way to the itineraries of many travelers, myself included. Eventually.

Seinfeld: Monk’s Diner

Seinfeld would be a lesser show without its conversations about nothing over bowls of cereal and clams casino at Monk’s Diner. A shot of the diner’s exterior is a transition shot in just about every episode I can recall. However, like other aspects of Seinfeld‘s New York, it’s fictional. Monk’s Diner is actually Tom’s Restaurant at Broadway and W 112th St on the Upper West Side.

New York Seinfeld Monk's Tom's Diner

For my visit, my friend and I intended to take a quick run up to the UWS on the subway, grab a picture and head back down to our hotel. Since it was the weekend, the MTA had other plans. Construction on the line meant our uptown-bound train would start running express at 72nd St, bypassing our intended 110th St stop. We made a game-time decision, hopping off the train (with everyone else) and taking a bus up to 110th St. It was a lovely trip through the Upper West Side, an area I haven’t really visited, and much closer to a daily-life-in-New-York experience than what you’ll find around Midtown and Times Square.

As it happens, Tom’s Restaurant is doubly famous, serving as the inspiration for Suzanne Vega’s 1990s hit, “Tom’s Diner:”

Friends: An apartment in Greenwich Village

Those of us who entered adulthood with Friends are very familiar with Monica and Rachel’s improbably large and affordable Greenwich Village apartment. Finding their building is relatively easy, unfortunately for their neighbours, at the corner of Grove and Bedford Streets.

New York Friends apartment Greenwich Village Grove Bedford StreetDie-hard fans can extend their visit and make an event of it by stopping at the ground-level restaurant, The Little Owl, at 90 Bedford St. The building is located on a quiet street, but sees plenty of visitors. It’s a lovely neighbourhood, and certainly worth the stroll.

Silvercup Studios: TV’s New York

Even those shows that are shot in New York are shot in places that are made to look like New York. Silvercup Studios, in Queens, was home to lots of made-in-New York, including both Sex and the City and 30 Rock during their runs. The studio isn’t open for tours, but you catch a glimpse of it from Manhattan’s Upper East Side, or like I did, from the east side of Roosevelt Island.

New York Queens Silvercup Studios

See for yourself:

Tom’s Restaurant
2880 Broadway (at W 112th St)
Public transit: 1 train to Broadway and 110th St, M60 and M104 buses

Grove and Bedford Sts, West Village
Public Transit: 1, 2 trains to Christopher St-Sheridan Square, M8 (crosstown) and M20 buses



  1. Krista! What a fabulous, fabulous post! I’m now humming Suzanne Vegas’ “Tom’s Diner” tune: “I am sitting In the morning At the diner On the corner I am waiting At the counter For the man To pour the coffee.” Years ago, I ate dinner at the joint. For the love of mana, it was tasty! T. (I think I ordered the “big” salad!


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