Specialty coffee shops: background for TV angst
I’m not sure how the six cast members of Friends (1994-2004) always managed to get a seat on the couch in Central Perk cafe, but you know -- Hollywood! Located in Greenwich Village near Monica’s apartment, Central Perk was the protagonist’s main hang-out. With the amount of time they spent there at all times of the day, I often wondered if any of them had jobs – except for Rachel, whom we see (terribly) covering her shifts and serving up giant lattes there as a waitress for several episodes, always complaining and locking down the enduring affection of the café’s manager, Gunther. Another image integral to Central Perk culture was Phoebe Buffay strumming her guitar and singing songs like “Smelly Cat” to bemused customers.
In 2014, Warner Bros. teamed up with Eight o’ Clock Coffee to celebrate the 20-year anniversary of Friends with a pop-up replica of Central Perk in the SoHo district of Manhattan, and gave out free coffee for a month. They named the day, “The One With the Free Coffee.” If you’re sad you missed it (where HAVE you been?!), I have good news: there’s a rumor on the wind that as of 2018, Warner Bros. has secured the legal right to turn the Friends’ hangout into a real brick and mortar shop. Caffeinated super-fans may be in luck yet!
You can’t recall the wildly successful series Frasier (1993-2004) and forget the characters’ regular hangout: Café Nervosa. The fictional café was near the radio station where Frasier worked, so we’d often see him and his co-workers grabbing a specialty coffee drink there. It was also a regular spot for the family Crane for arguing, lamenting, laughing, and sipping coffee. The real inspiration for the café was Elliot Bay Café, a Seattle-area shop that used to be connected to the legendary book store Elliot Bay Book Co. in historic Pioneer Square. The bookstore, which has since moved to the Capitol Hill area, was upstairs on ground level, and the coffee shop was underground. (Yes, underground – which is a whole other story and, side note, if you want to know more, you should definitely go on the Bill Speidel’s “World Famous” Underground Tour of Seattle’s historic Pioneer Square District. It’s an excellent time!)
Unfortunately, the Elliot Bay Café has since been replaced by Little Oddfellows Cafe and an all-white color scheme, but you can drown your sorrows in a quirky book based on the café by the brothers themselves, Fraiser and Niles Crane: Cafe' Nervosa: The Connoisseur's Cookbook. There you'll find “witty conversations between the characters of the Frasier television series” that “accompany recipes for breads, sandwiches, coffee-based beverages, and desserts.” It’s gotten pretty good reviews on Amazon!
In the popular college drama Felicity (1998-2002), ranked one of Time magazine's "All-Time 100 Best TV Shows" in 2007, it seemed all the characters worked at the local specialty coffee shop, Dean and Deluca’s, over the show’s four seasons. The shop was a common backdrop to arguments, conversations, and make-out scenes alike. Felicity didn't actually film at a real Dean and Deluca’s but borrowed the name of the upscale market/caterer/eatery for their New York locale that was filmed on an L.A. set for the show. Dean and Deluca's original location in SoHo, NYC has been around for 40 years and now has limited locations across the United States, and international locations in countries such as Japan, Thailand, Singapore, and Kuwait. Although college angst and “finding my way” was the Felicity show's theme, the character Felicity at least managed to find real roots in her job at Dean and Deluca, which lasted quite some time. (Don’t look at me like that, Felicity – you know it’s true!)
Let us know if you visit any of these famous TV coffee shops … 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!
I recently read an article whose author lamented that Millennials have killed the “hangout sitcoms” like Friends, Cheers, and Seinfeld – that technology has made dishing face-to-face over lattes and beers passé. There may be something in this thought because I couldn’t find many newer TV shows that feature coffee shop hangouts. Do you have any I’m missing? Any more iconic TV coffee shops and diners of the past? Drop them in the comments below!