On Location: Seinfeld

Despite the glut of movies and TV shows set in and/or filmedĀ in New York, it is always Seinfeld that I am mostly frequently reminded of as I walk the streets of this city.

The entire show was, of course, actually filmed on sets in Los Angeles, but it managed to capture something about New York (most probably the quirky temperament of its citizens) that makes it stand out in depictions of the city. Also, New York wasn’t just an incidental setting, but rather crucial to the plot and essence of the show.

As such, the Upper West Side that Kramer and co. called home makes a decent little tour for spotting sites that inspired the series’ creators, Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David.

The most obvious site is the coffee shop used as the exterior for Monk’s, the series diner. Most tourists will get a quick snapshot of Tom’s Restaurant at Broadway at west 112th, and three years ago I was no exception:

The interior, however, is just a generic coffee shop that bears no relation to the series, and is little more than a regular haunt for Columbia students (including, back in the day, Barack Obama).

The other pilgrimage many Seinfeld fans will make is to one of the ‘Original Soup-Man’ restaurants dotted around the city. Few real fans would refer to the chain’s figurehead as the ‘soup-man’, with “the Soup Nazi” having far greater currency, though apparently using the term was forbidden by company founder Ali Yeganeh, mostly because it was his draconian rules for ordering that inspired the moniker and the episode which made him a part of television history.

The original location at 259-A West Street was closed and then reopened a few years back under the new banner, and there are now 500 franchises across the country.

Having sampled the fare at the downtown location, I can report that the soup is nice, but not really likely to induce your knees to buckle.

Sadly, the Royale Pastry Shop, the bakery said to have been the inspiration for Schnitzer’s (think marble rye, chocolate babka and black & white cookies), is no longer found at 237 West 72nd St, and has ironically been replaced by a Jenny Craig.

However, probably the least known Seinfeld ‘location’ is the diner which the interior for Monk’s was reportedly based on: Broadway Restaurant at 2664 Broadway, between 101st and 102nd.

The restaurant is a charming little remnant of old-school dining, an unassuming eatery which seems to have no awareness of its part in the iconic series.

Finally, while it’s anyone’s guess as to how closely it resembles the home of his television counterpart (probably not at all; $2.35m two bedroom apartment with a fireplace?), the apartment Jerry Seinfeld was living in when the series began airing is at 230 Central Park West in a building called The Bolivar. He sold the “bachelor pad” in 2006.