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‘Seinfeld’ set stage for sitcom gold in NYC diner, tourists still flock to eateries that played a part

Influential sitcom “Seinfeld” celebrated the central role diners play in the social fabric of New York City during its hilarious 10-season romp through American pop culture. 

“You’d be hard-pressed to find a year in American television and film that doesn’t have at least one scene set in a diner,” Ed Levine wrote for Serious Eats in 2019. 

No series, film or performer did more to celebrate the diner than “Seinfeld” and its classic cast of comedians led by namesake Jerry Seinfeld, who turns 70 on Monday, April 29, 2024.

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“I’d even go so far as to call it the quintessentially American restaurant,” Levine added.

Diners exist across the nation but are largely a northeastern phenomenon. New Jersey recently staked claim to be the home of 500 diners, more than any other state. 

Seinfeld diner scene

A scene from the first episode of “Seinfeld.” Jason Alexander as George Costanza, left, and Jerry Seinfeld as himself.  (Gary Null/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images)

New York City easily tops the list among municipalities, with more than 400 diners in Gotham alone, according to various estimates.

The role of Monk’s Café on “Seinfeld” was actually played by three diners. Two of them are still Manhattan tourist attractions today, more than 25 years since the last episode aired in 1998.

Monk’s Café itself, however, was purely fictional. 

The interior scenes of the diner where Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer kibitzed about life and love over tuna salad and rye were shot in a Los Angeles studio.

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Tom’s Restaurant on Broadway in the Morningside Heights section of Manhattan served as the facade of the diner on “Seinfeld.” 

Tom’s remains a popular photo and selfie spot today.

It’s located just three blocks from the main quad of the Columbia University campus, the site of so much chaos in recent days. 

Tom’s emerged as the true celebrity setting of the series. Its photogenic sign and constant appearances (minus the “Tom’s”) on “Seinfeld” rendered it an American pop-culture landmark. It remains a popular photo and selfie spot today.

Westway Diner

The celebrated sitcom “Seinfeld” was conceived by Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David at Westway Diner in Manhattan. A plaque memorializes its role in TV history today. (Kerry J. Byrne/Fox News Digital)

Westway Diner in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood, however, is the real spiritual home of “Seinfeld.”

It slowly emerged as a perpetually popular tourist destination, and remains one today, even though it never appeared nor was mentioned on the TV series — a testament to the sitcom’s enduring impact.

“In 1988 at the Westway Diner on 9th Ave., Larry David and I hatched a show about a comedian but with no story,” Jerry Seinfeld shared on X (then Twitter) in 2021.

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David lived diagonally across the street, at the corner of Ninth Avenue and West 43rd Street, in Manhattan Plaza. The twin-skyscraper development is a haven of subsidized housing for artists and performers, many of whom work in Broadway theaters, most of which are just a couple blocks away.

“Larry David was a writer for ‘Saturday Night Live’ when he lived here and created ‘Seinfeld,’” Marisa Redanty, president emeritus of the Manhattan Plaza Tenant Association, told Fox News Digital. 

Tom's Restaurant

The facade of Tom’s Restaurant in the Morningside Heights section of Manhattan was made famous while providing the exterior shots for the diner scenes in hit TV series “Seinfeld.” (Kerry J. Byrne/Fox News Digital)

“Jerry performed at the old Improv comedy club around the corner on West 44th Street. Westway Diner is right in between. So that’s why they met there.”

The old comedy club, she added, is now the home of Don Giovanni Ristorante. 

A plaque inside Westway Diner, meanwhile, honors the eatery’s role in TV history today.

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Westway Diner is a perpetually popular tourist destination today, even though it never appeared nor was mentioned on the TV series – a testament to the sitcom’s enduring impact.

A plaque honors its role in TV history today.

“We sat here about 12, 1 o’clock in the morning, trying to figure out what this show could be,” Seinfeld is quoted on the small memorial today, recounting Westway Diner’s role in TV history.

Manhattan Plaza, meanwhile, is a pop-culture icon in its own right. 

It was the home of many famous entertainment figures, including Samuel L. Jackson, Patrick Dempsey and Alicia Keys. 

She’s known internationally for, among many other hits, the atmospheric ode to Gotham “Empire State of Mind” with Jay-Z. 

Her new musical, “Hell’s Kitchen,” just debuted on Broadway. Manhattan Plaza serves as one of its settings.

Jerry Seinfeld diner split

“Seinfeld” starring comedian Jerry Seinfeld helped popularize New York City diner culture and made two Manhattan diners tourist landmarks. (Robert Caplin/Bloomberg; Joesph Delvalle/NBCU Photo Bank; Deb Cohn-Orbach/UCG/Universal Images Group, each via Getty Images)

Manhattan Plaza still boasts one resident famous for a role in “Seinfeld.”

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“Kenny Kramer, the inspiration for Kramer on the show, still lives here,” said Redanty. 

“I just talked to him the other day. He lived across the hall from Larry David. They used to try to leap from one apartment to the other without touching the hall in between. That’s why you saw all those crazy entrances by Kramer on the show.”

For more Lifestyle articles, visit www.foxnews.com/lifestyle.

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