Throughout Seinfeld‘s nine-season run, restaurants in and around New York City played an integral part of dozens of episodes. Some were actual establishments that you can still visit today, while others were fictional places written specifically for the show. Whether it was dine-in or take-out, Jerry and the gang simply could not get enough of NYC’s culinary offerings. Perhaps that’s because in a “show about nothing,” food becomes an easy conduit for banter.
When Jerry, George, Kramer, and Elaine weren’t musing on button placement, they were raving about Mackinaw peaches or deciding where to eat. Here’s a guide to some of the best restaurants made famous on Seinfeld:
Al’s Soup Kitchen – “The Soup Nazi”
Based on an actual soup kitchen near Times Square, the exaggerated version of the guy who ran the place (Larry Thomas) was wildly temperamental, especially about the ordering process. What happened if you didn’t order right? He’d yell “No soup for you!” (this line became a meme way before Nyan Cat) and give you the boot.
This episode inspired numerous Seinfeld catchphrases — the aforementioned “no soup,” “schmoopy,” and “jambalaya!” Years later, it also inspired the author of this article to try ordering mulligatawny. Never again. Tasted gross. No soup for me.
The Chinese Restaurant – “The Chinese Restaurant”
This episode is well-known for being set in real time, with all the action taking place as Jerry, George, and Elaine impatiently waited to be seated for a table at a Chinese restaurant. No eating ever actually took place — though Elaine nearly ate a stranger’s egg roll before chickening out. In the end, George gave up to tend to his flailing relationship with Tatiana, Jerry left to go to his uncle’s, and Elaine presumably stuffed her face at Sky Burger.
Too bad. They only needed to wait another five seconds.
Gray’s Papaya – “The Movie”
Kramer was hungry, but certainly not hungry enough to eat a movie-theater hot dog (not that time, at least). He had his heart set on a Papaya King hot dog, and he was willing to risk being separated from his friends at a crowded movie theater in order to get one. Despite his continued references to Papaya King, it was actually Gray’s Papaya where he ended up buying his hot dog.
Who can blame him? They’re 100 percent all beef, and tastier than filet mignon.
Gyro Stand – “The Cigar Store Indian”
How do you pronounce “gyro?” Some people say “guy-row,” and some people say “gee-row.” I believe the correct pronunciation is actually, “Euro,” but I’ve honestly never heard anyone actually say it like that. What I can say for sure, however, is that “jye-row” is way, way off. Either way, one thing we can all agree on is that being able to purchase one on a subway platform is just about the greatest thing in the world in terms of answering one’s cravings and, quite possibly, the worst thing in the world in terms of sanitary conditions.
Kenny Rogers Roasters – “The Chicken Roaster”
For a time, Kramer fell deeply, passionately in love with the Kenny Rogers Roasters restaurant that set up shop in his neighborhood. The only problem? They erected a big, gigantic neon sign that shone directly into his apartment. The whole thing turned into a fiasco once Jerry switched apartments with Kramer and Jerry’s rat hat fell apart inside.
The important thing to remember, however, is that Newman was legitimately happy and Jerry ruined that for him.
Mendy’s – “The Soup”
As payback for the “free” Armani suit that was given to him by the ever-annoying Kenny Bania, Jerry sat through a meal with this jackass, who refused to order anything more than soup. Jerry then spent the next few days arguing semantics with Kenny and Elaine about whether or not soup is a meal, even though that really shouldn’t have mattered. Jerry was right, the act of simply sitting with Kenny should have ended the transaction.
This entire premise still gets me worked up.
You could make a case that Monk’s Cafe was the show’s fifth main character. Outside of Jerry’s apartment, no setting got as much screen time as the gang’s favorite big-salad serving coffee shop. If anyone had a problem, Monk’s was where they went to discuss how to solve it — or, in some cases, where they hatched ways to make matters worse. Who could blame them? It was comfort food, served by people they were comfortable spending time with. George didn’t even seem to care when he found a rubber band in his soup.
Paisano’s – “The Calzone”
Paisano’s made a mean calzone, and George’s boss, George Steinbrenner, couldn’t get enough of them. If there’s one thing we know about the Yankees’ legendary owner, it’s that once he finds something he likes, he sticks with it. This is a man who ate turkey chili for lunch every day for 10-straight years in the ’70s… allegedly.
Unfortunately, George got caught by the owner of Paisano’s with his hands in the tip jar, and got himself banned from the restaurant. As Kramer did when he was banned from Joe’s fruit stand and as Newman did with Kenny Rogers Roasters, George deployed his friends to be his source when he could no longer go. Unfortunately, sending Kramer and Newman resulted in disaster.
Poppie’s – “The Pie”
Jerry’s girlfriend, Audrey, took him out to dinner at an Italian restaurant, which was run by her father, Poppie. While in the bathroom, Jerry learned that Poppie doesn’t wash his hands after he does his business. The notorious neat-freak then refused to eat the meal that was prepared for him (with Poppie’s own two unwashed hands), it caused a rift in a relationship that had already been on the rocks due to Audrey’s psychotic refusal to taste a bite of pie (perhaps similarly motivated?).
I say, good riddance! Things like a wanton disregard for the rules of hand cleanliness are the kinds of things that pass down from generation to generation, and nobody needs that kind of sloppiness.
Top of the Muffin to you! – “The Muffin Tops”
Elaine’s million-dollar idea, which was to get rid of the bottoms of muffins and sell only the tops, was brought to fruition by her former boss at Pendant Publishing, Mr. Lippman, with his little shop called “Top of the Muffin To You!” His problem — which, in hindsight, didn’t really seem like a problem at all — was that he didn’t know what to do with all the extra muffin bottoms.
Enter Newman, who happily came to the rescue by simply eating them all.
Schnitzer’s Bakery – “The Rye”
When George’s parents wanted to impress Susan’s parents, they got a marble rye from Schnitzer’s bakery. It’s just what you do, but Susan’s snobby parents never put it out, so the Costanza’s took it back. After all, this was a Schnitzer’s rye. You don’t just forget about it. Panicked that his father’s social faux pas would come back to bite him in the ass, George deployed Jerry on a mission to Schnitzer’s in an effort to secure a replacement rye. Which is where he ran into the “Old Bag” that wouldn’t part with the rye. As you can see from the clip above, things got a little hairy.
Speaking of things that got hairy, while the marble rye incident may be the fan favorite Schnitzer’s episode, one can’t forget about the other experience Jerry had at the bakery, this time with Elaine.
“You sold us a hair with a cake around it,” said Elaine to the owner after getting stuck with a tainted cinnamon babka to bring to a party. By the time Jerry and Elaine’s magical time at the bakery had drawn to a close, she had a possibly broken toe (I really don’t think that turtlenecked fellow was sorry), Jerry’s long-held streak of vomitlessness had been snapped thanks to his faith in a black and white cookie, and the two had a flem glazed babka that they wound up practically throwing into a party (which they all wound up blowing off anyway).
Yogurt Shop – “The Non-Fat Yogurt”
How can yogurt that tastes so f*cking good be non-fat? That’s easy. Ownership is lying to you and it’s got a bunch of fat. This is a perfect lesson for the real-world. If it tastes good, it’s probably making you fat or giving you diabetes. Then again, who cares?
Another round of strawberry for me and my friends!