It’s no secret that “Seinfeld,” arguably the most “New York” comedy in recent television history, was actually filmed in Los Angeles.
But that hasn’t stopped tourists from flocking to the Upper West Side of Manhattan to see if they really can order a “big salad” from the “Seinfeld restaurant.”
With the show making its streaming television debut on Hulu this month, New York food spots like Tom’s Restaurant that have become synonymous with “Seinfeld” could see an increase in business from nostalgic fans.
Just don’t try to get a bagel from H & H, Kramer’s one-time place of employment. The Kenny Rogers Roasters and its blinding red neon chicken is also long gone, as is the Royale Pastry Shop (called Royal Bakery and Schnitzers on the show), the bakery responsible for a marble rye worth mugging an old lady for and a black-and-white cookie that could bridge racial divides.
Yes, a lot has changed in the 17 years since the series finale was broadcast, but “Seinfeld” reality-seekers can still get their fix.
Despite sharing nothing more than a neon sign with Monk’s Cafe, the gang’s favorite hangout from the show, Tom’s arguably has become the most recognizable “Seinfeld”-related tourist attraction in the city.
Mr. Seinfeld and Jason Alexander, who played George Costanza, even revived their old roles there for an episode of Mr. Seinfeld’s web series “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.”
The food at Monk’s was usually secondary to whatever the group was plotting over coffee, and at Tom’s, the food, which is no-frills diner fare served in large portions, takes a back seat to the “Seinfeld” mythology.
Fans will get a kick out of the signed photos and show memorabilia that grace the walls of this Greek-American diner and, yes, you can order a big salad. At $17 with grilled chicken, it was big and more than edible, but the food is not necessarily the draw.
That said, Tom’s is comfortable with friendly enough service and old-school charm; it’s hard to argue with a bacon cheeseburger deluxe for $9.25, and you will never go wrong with the milkshakes ($5.75).
But, really, cash only? What is the deal?
Tom’s Restaurant, 2880 Broadway; tomsrestaurant.net.
Of the many questions raised on the show during its nine seasons, few captured the essence of the show more than this one: Is soup a meal?
It will be debated until the end of time, but it all started at Mendy’s, when Kenny Bania, who was owed a free meal by Jerry, opted for soup.
“I’ll save that meal for another time,” Bania says, to a disgusted Jerry.
Mendy’s is a kosher delicatessen with five locations in the city. The one portrayed on the show, on West 70th Street, is no longer open, so I went to the flagship location on 34th Street, hoping to try what Bania said was the “best swordfish in the city” (I later learned that swordfish is not considered kosher, though it used to be, it’s kind of complicated).
That was not an option, so I went with the broiled Norwegian salmon ($24.95), which came with a side of mashed potatoes and grilled veggies. Meh.
You’re better off ordering half a pastrami sandwich and the split-pea soup ($15.95) to go, especially if you want to avoid the mandatory 18 percent tip for dining in.
“Soup and sandwich, that is a meal!” Jerry would later proclaim.
Mendy’s, 61 East 34th Street, mendysdeli.com
The Original Soup Man
“You can’t eat this soup standing up, your knees buckle,” Jerry raves to George and Elaine about the soup stand Kramer had recommended.
The only problem is, the stand’s owner is secretly referred to as the “Soup Nazi” because of the strict requirements he places on his customers.
“Just follow the ordering procedure and you’ll be fine,” Jerry says.
I couldn’t help but feel a little nervous as I approached the small soup stand on 55th Street. It’s not as if I was expecting a confrontation with Al Yeganeh, the man who inspired the gruff character on the show, but I couldn’t rule it out.
As it turns out, Mr. Yeganeh was not there, and I doubt he spends much time at his original restaurant, which opened in 1984 as Soup Kitchen International and reopened in 2010 as the Original Soup Man. It is now a franchise, with several locations.
In his absence I received fast and friendly service, and a lunch that lived up to lofty expectations.
All soups, like the excellent and chunky lobster bisque ($10 for a large), come with a fresh slice of bread, an apple and a piece of chocolate.
I think that qualifies as a meal. But if you think you’ll still be hungry, add a passable lobster roll for $10.
The Original Soup Man, 259A West 55th Street, originalsoupman.com.
La Boîte en Bois
Date nights were never dull on the show, whether it was Jerry eating “discarded” pecans at Pappardella or George pleading with Jerry and Elaine to be less funny around his date at Isabella’s.
Oh, and don’t forget, “everyone breaks up at Pomodoro,” according to Jerry.
La Boîte en Bois is a tiny French restaurant offering traditional bistro fare. Its proximity to Lincoln Center makes it a popular pre-theater stop, so get there right when it opens if you’re brunching on the weekend.
There was no risotto to be found, but the goat cheese salad ($12.50) was a good enough start, although the lobster bisque ($9.50) had nothing on Mr. Yeganeh’s. For an entree, anyone who shares George’s love of cheese will be satisfied with the croque monsieur ($15).
La Boîte en Bois, 75 West 68th Street, laboitenyc.com.
“The characters on ‘Seinfeld’ did not eat well, but they ate very New York,” William Grimes wrote in The New York Times in 1998. With that in mind, let’s finish with a hot dog.
In the episode “The Movie,” after meeting up with George and Elaine at the theater, Kramer craves a hot dog, but not just any hot dog.
“I don’t want to get a movie hot dog, I want a Papaya King hot dog,” he protests to Elaine.
With what movie theaters charge for concessions, Kramer had the right idea. For less than $6 you get two high-quality franks and a drink.
Gray’s Papaya, 2090 Broadway, grayspapayanyc.com.
An earlier version version of this article misstated the cost of two hot dogs and a drink at Gray’s Papaya. It is now $5.95, not “less than $5.”