Coffee cafes and diners formed cozy nooks on TV
by Colleen Luckett
I’ll bet if I said something about Gunther being a jerk when he took Ross’s coffee order or Jerry "talking dirty" to George about his latest girlfriend, your mind might drift back to hilarity and iconic backdrops like Central Perk Café or “Monk's Cafe” (Tom’s Restaurant). That's right -- Friends and Seinfeld, respectively -- two of the best things about the 1990s. Ever curious about whether you could drop by for a cup of joe in these places in the real world? Read on about some of our favorite TV locations and find out!
Diners and Drip Coffee
Classic diners and coffee shops were places for friends to meet in several famous TV shows of the 1990s. A counter and small tables or booths were the typical layout for these cafes, which predated the order-and-sit-at-tables arrangement that developed with the specialty coffee boom throughout the later 1990s and 2000s.
Remember the Double R Café in Twin Peaks, Washington, at the intersection of Main Street and Falls Avenue? There, owner Norma Jennings served up now-immortalized cherry pie and a “damn fine cup of coffee!” for two seasons (1990-91) in the macabre and ever-fascinating Twin Peaks TV series. The series’ main character, Detective Dale Cooper, liked his coffee “as black as the sky on a moonless night,” and he and the other characters were often found cozying up at the Double R and enjoying Norma’s delicious drip coffee.
Although the Double R Café is a fictional name, you can visit the real café, Twede’s, in North Bend, Washington: “Home of Twin Peaks Cherry Pie.” And this one has quite the story! Built in 1940, the restaurant that would become Twede’s Cafe opened to the public as Thompson’s Diner in 1941. It was taken over a decade or so later by new owners, who changed the name to the Mar-T Cafe, and installed the exterior neon sign. Hence the large “Mar-T” hovering unacknowledged above the RR. Otherwise, they left both the building and the decor largely unchanged. Once the original Twin Peaks aired in 1990, the Mar-T Cafe saw a huge influx of business as fans flocked to the location to try the cherry pie and coffee.
By the late 90s, the craze had waned, business decreased, and it was eventually sold to Kyle Twede (pronounced “tweedie”), who renamed it Twede’s Cafe. After arsonists destroyed the café's interior in 2000, it opened with a new interior in 2001 – bitterly disappointing Twin Peak’s fans who visited. But the 2015 revival of Twin Peaks led to the complete restoration of Twede’s to the original RR Café goodness for the new series, and the original home of amazing cherry pie and a “damn fine cup of coffee” had risen from the ashes.
Ahhhhhhh, Seinfeld. Countless stories were told by characters in the fictional Monk’s Café as they sipped coffee and scarfed down hamburgers. The real café is called Tom’s Restaurant, which inspired Suzanne Vega’s popular song “Tom’s Diner.” In early Seinfeld episodes, “Tom’s Restaurant” showed clearly on the sign in the still shot introducing the scene. In later episodes, you’ll find the “Tom” part cropped out. I couldn’t find a reason for this, but likely it’s because the fictional coffee shop is called Monk’s Café. You can visit Tom’s Restaurant on Broadway at 112th Street near Columbia University in the Upper West Side of NYC. The interior is quite different from the TV show – those scenes were filmed in Los Angeles – but you’ll know you’re there when you reach the iconic neon sign.
If you were born a little bit later, you might have more affection for Luke’s Diner, where Lorelai and Rory Gilmore shot rapid-fire sentences at each other while slurping down countless drip coffees (perhaps one of the reasons for the dialog pacing!) in the TV series Gilmore Girls. Character Luke Danes -- flannel shirt with rolled-up sleeves and backward-facing cap -- owned Luke's Diner. Later, he fell in love with and married Lorelai after years of dancing around their attraction, Luke’s Diner felt like another character in this idyllic, sleepy (and fictional) small town: Stars Hollow, Connecticut.
Before the release in 2016 of the four-episode revival called Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, Netflix rolled out a one-day guerrilla marketing scheme in which they converted local coffee shops into Luke’s Diners all over the United States. So, for one day, you could drink coffee like a Gilmore Girl! If you’re like me and totally missed it (my excuse was I lived in Japan at the time – what’s yours?!), you might be happy to know you can at least visit Washington, CT, the town Stars Hollow is based on. You won’t find Luke’s Diner, but you can visit an upscale cafe called Marty’s, try delicious pastries and various coffee drinks, and squint your eyes and pretend. Small consolation prize!
Let us know if you visit any of these famous TV diners … better yet, take a picture of your Koffee Kompanions Kup Kollar or Kup Kap at the location, send it to us, and we’ll send you a discount coupon for another of our quality, Thinsulate-insulated products!