It’s been a while since we’ve done a reader generated topic, mostly because no one has been submitting any ideas. Believe me – I’d love to let you guys to the work for me; coming up with blog topics is harder than y’all think. A few months ago, my pal Dino sent me this article from The A.V. Club about fiction restaurants that their writers would want to patronize as possible fodder for the blog. It was a great topic, but I wanted to mull it over since they highlighted some of the more obvious choices. Los Pollos Hermanos from Breaking Bad? Of course! Who doesn’t want some fried chicken with a side of meth? I’m fascinated by the burger of the day specials on Bob’s Burgers, so I would absolutely drop in for a bite if I was able. A chance to experience Luke’s gruff demeanor and watch some classic Lorelei and Rory banter at Luke’s Diner from Gilmore Girls – count me it! I’m positive that a night at Jack Rabbit Slim’s (Pulp Fiction) would be memorable; I’d absolutely order a $5 milkshake. The A.V. Club writers know their way around pop culture references, so if I was going to add anything to the conversation I was going to dig deep to think of some other fictional restaurants where I’d like to dine.
But I love a challenge, so I’ve been mulling this around in the back of my mind. I wanted to pick restaurants that I actually wanted to frequent – either because of the food, the ambiance or the people – rather than simply restaurants on shows that I like. They had to actually serve food as their primary purpose, so as much as I would love to hang out and throw some back beers at Paddy’s Pub it couldn’t make the cut.
So with those limitations in mind, here are some of the pop culture eating establishments where I’d like to spend some time:
The Dream Café (Seinfeld)
I bet you thought I was going to say Monk’s, which wouldn’t have been a bad guess. I am, after all, a little obsessed with Seinfeld and the diner was one of the gang’s favorite hangouts. But other than spending some time with Jerry, Elaine, George and Kramer, there isn’t much to recommend about Monk’s; the food never looked that appetizing (especially when Paco was working) and fittingly not too much really happened there.
Instead, I would rather dine at the establishment run by Babu Bhatt. The Dream Café had something for everyone; where else are the specials tacos, moussaka and franks and beans? Nowhere! No matter what you were craving, they had it on the menu – until Jerry came along and ruined the whole thing. Plus there were never any other customers, so I’d have the run of the place and it would be nice and quiet. On a good day, you might even get to help someone cheat on an IQ test.
Merlotte’s (True Blood)
True Blood is borderline unwatchable at this point, but I still think Merlotte’s Bar and Grill might be a fun place to grab some onion rings. Seriously – I don’t know how they film those things, but they look delicious. I have no idea if Lafayette is actually a good cook or not, but I don’t know that it even matters – just to see him back there, throwing around some witty one-liners would be reason enough to give them my business. I imagine that the service sucks – one waitress in particular is always late to work or distracted by some drama – but the visits from supernatural creatures and the cold beer would make up for it. You literally never know what is going to happen while you’re there. Sadly, Eric Northman makes fairly infrequent appearances at Merlotte’s which is probably the biggest mark against the establishment
I am way behind on Treme, but one of the things I enjoyed about the show is learning more about the culture of the city of New Orleans. Not only has Treme expanded my knowledge of music, but it has also made me want to make a trip to the city just to taste some of the food thanks to the story lines involving chef Janette Desautel (Kim Dickens). When the show begins, she is struggling to keep her restaurant afloat after Hurricane Katrina and anything that she makes always looks delicious. I’m not even sure if I would actually like some of the food – I’m a total wimp when it comes to spiciness – but I’d be willing to give it a try. I’m craving crawfish and muffuletta just writing this – two things I’ve never actually had to eat.
Mel’s Diner (Alice)
This one makes the list simply so I can hear Flo say “kiss my grits.” End of story.
Freddy’s BBQ Joint (House of Cards)
Good BBQ is hard to come by and apparently there is no finer BBQ than Freddy’s. If Frank Underwood is willing to take time out of his plotting and scheming for some ribs, that’s some good eats.
JJ’s Diner (Parks and Recreation)
Like Leslie Knope, I am a girl who loves waffles. I would eat waffles multiple times a week if it was socially acceptable. I’ve been known to give waffle irons as gifts, even to people who don’t really want them (I’m looking at you, dad). So if JJ’s Diner waffles are good enough for an overachieving perfectionist like Leslie, then this is a place that I need to be. And if I ever tire of waffles (heresy!), I can always try the heart-attack inducing The Four Horse-Meals of the Egg-Pork-alypse (a twelve-egg scramble, bacon, sausage, ham, hash browns, chicken-fried steak, and a giant tower of buttermilk pancakes).
Nuovo Vesuvio (The Sopranos)
The Sopranos is one of my all-time favorite shows; not surprising given the brilliant writing, the gifted cast and its unflinching look at the mafia. But somewhere around the second season I noticed an interesting side effect – this show was making me hungry. By the time each episode was over, I was starving. I’m not even a big fan of Italian food – well, American Italian food – but all the meals on the show looked amazing. This was especially true of the Artie Bucco’s Nuovo Vesuvio, a frequent hangout of the Soprano crime family. Not only is the food mouthwatering – at least in the beginning – but there is always the possibility that you’ll be the witness to some illicit mob activity. That might not be appealing to everyone, but that’s a fun night for me.
Joe’s Pie Diner (Waitress)
I’ve always thought that the 2007 film Waitress is underrated and deserved a wider audience. In the movie, Jenna (Kerri Russell) is stuck in an unhappy marriage and banks on winning a pie contest with one of her creative concoctions to earn her the money she needs to flee her husband. Her pies are regularly served at Joe’s Pie Diner and have secret names related to what is going on in her life. The marshmallow mermaid pie is called “biblically good” in the film, which is a pretty sound endorsement. Plus you get to hang out with Andy Griffith and that’s always a win.
Phil’s (Murphy Brown)
The bar and grill frequented by the staff of the television newsmagazine FYI, I’m not sure if the food is the real draw. As a political scientist, I’d love to hang out at a watering hole frequented by DC insiders and politicians. Yup – I’m a government nerd, but I’d have a grand time speculating on all the backroom deal and political intrigue that was occurring in this Washington institution.
Steak Me Home Tonight (Happy Endings)
I’m a big fan of food trucks; I was frequenting them way before it was trendy to do so. Back during my ill-fated tenure at UConn, one of the few things that really made me happy was a food truck on campus that made what seemed like the greatest breakfast sandwiches of all time. I looked forward to grabbing a bite there once a week – my treat for making it another week in the program – and I would be so bummed out if I missed them. That’s part of the thrill of food trucks – their unpredictability. There’s a burgeoning food truck scene here in Albany, which is quite the positive development. So it’s no surprise that I’d want to swing by Dave’s Steak Me Home Tonight from Happy Endings (R.I.P. – still not over it). I love me some cheesesteaks, which happen to be Dave’s specialty, and who doesn’t love some punny word play with their sandwiches. Plus he won the coveted “Truckies” award for best sandwich in Chicago – and those are people that know their sandwiches – and Colin Hanks has been known to drop by, so you know this place is legit.
Now it’s your turn – what fictional restaurants would you want to break bread? Sound off in the comments section. Bon appétit!
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