A word to the wise for anybody struggling to get their restaurant its place on the map: become friends with a location scout. Since the dawn of television and film, countless restaurants, cafes, diners and bars have made their names by simply providing a setting for good drama to unfold. Each and every one of the places on this list were (and continue to be) ordinary, functioning establishments, but, thanks to their inclusion in some of the finest films and shows ever made, have gone on to become nothing short of iconic. All it takes is the right scene at the right time in the right story and your everyday, run-of-the-mill restaurant can become a part of history. Such is the power of the screen.
The ending to The Sopranos tends to be remembered as one of the most shocking, frustrating and downright brilliant endings to a television show of all time. For the uninitiated: it depicts Tony Soprano meeting his family at a local restaurant for dinner. He, Carm and AJ sit, chat and laugh, like any other family might, as they order food and wait for Meadow to arrive. Tony notices the arrival of a strange man who appears to watch them from the bar. Meadow arrives and struggles to park her car. The music — "Don’t Stop Believin’" by Journey — builds. Eventually, Meadow enters the restaurant, Tony looks up — and we cut to black. That’s it.
The ending caused a furor when it ended and has driven wild speculation as to Tony Soprano’s fate ever since, but it’s also had another, perhaps unintended effect: Holsten’s, the NY-based eatery where the scene was filmed, has become a bona fide place of worship for fans of the show. After the death of James Gandolfini in 2013, the restaurant marked the table at which Tony and his family sat with a ‘reserved’ sign in memory of the late, great actor.
Cherry pie and damn fine coffee was always the order of the day at the Double R Diner in David Lynch and Mark Frost’s masterpiece Twin Peaks. The diner proved a central location to the first two series of the show and the later film, Fire Walk With Me, and made a recurring reappearance in this year’s Twin Peaks: The Return, eventually providing the setting for one of The Return‘s most satisfying moments — the long-awaited kiss between star-crossed lovers Ed and Norma.
In reality, the diner was originally known as Thompson’s Cafe. Located in North Bend, Washington, the cafe (which was rebranded as the Mar-T Cafe a decade after its opening in 1941) was chosen by Lynch for its comfy, welcoming interior and stunning location in the shadow of the nearby mountains. In 1998, the restaurant was sold and became Twede’s, and was gutted by a fire in 2000. Tragically, the refurbished interior after that fire was brand new, and looked pretty much nothing like the original. In September 2015, however, to prepare for filming on the revived series of Twin Peaks, the interior was returned to its iconic self — and will remain so from now on.
Katz’s Delicatessen, in New York, is the location to one of the most recognizable and well-known film scenes of all time. In the 1989 rom-com When Harry Met Sally, it’s the location of the lunch between Harry and Sally — played by Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan respectively — in which Sally loudly fakes an orgasm, prompting Estelle Reiner’s legendary punchline: "I’ll have what she’s having."
The diner has also appeared in a range of other films and shows, including Donnie Brasco, We Own the Night and Enchanted, but it’s When Harry Met Sally that has compelled film aficionados to flock to the spot ever since. The table at which Harry and Sally both sat is, today, marked with a sign to commemorate the restaurant’s appearance in the film.
New York Bar and Grill
Tokyo’s New York Bar and Grill sits on the 52nd floor of the Park Hyatt hotel in Japan’s capital, offering views across the city that are nothing less than stunning. No surprise, then, that it was also chosen as the location for the widely-known scene in Lost in Translation, in which Bob (played by Bill Murray) and Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) meet for the first time.
Sofia Coppola’s beloved film was shot entirely in Japan, with the Park Hyatt’s New York Bar providing the setting for Bob’s lonely, isolated nights in the city. It’s not exactly a cheap night out (a bottle of beer will set you back about $9) but the views, atmosphere — check out the nightly jazz — and food isn’t far from unbeatable. Since Lost in Translation‘s release in 2003, the bar’s inclusion in the film has added an extra dimension to the whole experience for countless lovers of the art.
In the world of Breaking Bad (and, for that matter, Better Call Saul), Los Pollos Hermanos is a popular fried chicken chain set up by meth kingpin Gustavo Fring to provide an acceptable business face for his Albuquerque-based drug cartel. The flagship branch of Los Pollos Hermanos, which has appeared in both shows, is actually a burrito and burger restaurant called Twisters, located in Albuquerque.
The restaurant has now become a place of pilgrimage for fans of the shows, and, according to Twisters’ district manager, countless customers frequently come in asking for Gus, with others queuing up to have their picture taken with the Los Pollos Hermanos picture that’s been hung on the wall. Nowadays, new employees at the branch are taught about Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul during their training, so that they can effectively let curious customers know the intricacies of the events of the show when they come asking.
Kansas City BBQ
Kansas City BBQ, in San Diego, is the setting for the scene in the ’80s classic Top Gun in which Maverick (that’s Tom Cruise, to you) and Goose (Anthony Edwards) blare out Jerry Lee Lewis’ "Great Balls of Fire" together, in the company of Goose’s wife and son and Maverick’s lover, Charlie Blackwood.
The story, according to the restaurant itself, goes like this: the location director for Paramount, who made the Top Gun, stopped for a beer while scouting locations for the film and liked the place so much he brought back Tony Scott, the director, and asked the joint whether they’d shut down for a day and allow them to shoot part of the film. Kansas City BBQ proudly admit that agreeing to do so was probably one of their better business decisions.
Top Notch Hamburgers
Top Notch Hamburgers is a burger joint located in Austin, Texas, which, to many, probably appears to be a fairly unassuming eatery. Among the onion rings and the fried chicken and the ’70s decor, however, there’s a little bit of cinematic history to be found in the place — it happens to be the setting for perhaps the most recognizable scene from the 1993 coming-of-age comedy Dazed and Confused.
In the scene, Cynthia Dunn, who’s played by Marissa Ribisi is invited to a party (read: hit on) by Matthew McConaughey, who pretty much became a star off the back of the scene. His first line — "Alright, alright, alright" — is still today, even after an illustrious career, one of McConaughey’s most memorable lines.
Woody Allen’s time-travelling romantic drama Midnight in Paris is, more than anything, a two-hour advertisement for the Parisian tourist board. Over the course of the film, Owen Wilson’s character Gil traverses the city, meeting a whole horde of legendary artists, writers and musicians from Paris’ golden age in the 1920s.
Polidor is a restaurant situated in the heart of Paris’ Latin Quarter and, in the actual ’20s, was a regular haunt for celebs such as Victor Hugo, Ernest Hemingway and James Joyce. Little surprise, then, that it was included in Midnight in Paris as the setting for the scene in which Gil meets Hemingway, his idol, for the first time. Since the film was released (in fact, since Hemingway’s time) the restaurant has barely changed at all, and should make an unmissable stop for any film or literature fan’s tour of Paris.
In Seinfeld, Monk’s Cafe is the New York coffee shop owned by Larry Cook (and briefly by Mr. Visaki, played by Al Ruscio) and frequented by Jerry, Elaine, George and Kramer. In the show, it provides a haven of sorts for the not-entirely-lovable misfit protagonists, who usually refer to it as "the coffee shop".
In real life, the exterior shots for Monk’s Cafe were filmed outside Tom’s Restaurant, a Greek-American restaurant which is a much-loved spot for students at the nearby University of Columbia. The interior shots for the coffee shop in Seinfeld were filmed on a sound stage rather than on location, but the show nonetheless put Tom’s on the map. If you’re particularly keen on finding out more about the history of Tom’s Restaurant, there’s even been a feature documentary produced about the life and times of the establishment.
The Bull & Finch Pub was a bar located in Beacon Hill, Boston, which is best known for providing the external shots of the bar around which the NBC sitcom Cheers was set. The producers of Cheers made a $1 deal with the owner of the Bull & Finch for the use of the exterior of the bar in the show, although the interior was filmed elsewhere. Later, a ground-floor gift shop and replica bar was added to capitalize on the pub’s popularity with fans of the show. In 2002, the Bull & Finch was renamed and became Cheers, which it remains today.
As a result, fans of the show can now step inside the pub that inspired the show and enjoy a recreation of the show’s version of the bar itself. Die-hard fans can even take the Norm Burger Challenge and have their name placed on the wall for others to bask in their glory.
The Bluebird Cafe
ABC’s musical drama series Nashville depicts the lives of an array of country music singers in the Tennessee town of the same name. One of the central locations in the show is the Bluebird Cafe, where Clare Bowen’s character, Scarlett O’Connor, waitresses and plays. The real Bluebird Cafe is, like in Nashville, a prominent space for legendary musicians and scene newcomers alike play to just under a hundred patrons every night.
The venue has been associated with artists such as Keith Urban, Taylor Swift, Garth Brooks and Kathy Mattea and was well-known before its inclusion on the show, but has nonetheless enjoyed a boom in popularity as a result. Today, the cafe receives over 70,000 visitors each year and features at least a small handful of performers every night.
The Coyote Ugly Saloon
The Coyote Ugly Saloon in New York is, if you believe them, "the most famous bar in the world." It rose to prominence after it provided the inspiration, setting and namesake for the 2000 movie Coyote Ugly. The film is about 21-year-old songwriter Violet Sandford’s journey to New York to find fame, and her subsequent day job as a barmaid at the Coyote Ugly Saloon.
The saloon itself opened in 1993 and soon became well-known for bartender and owner Liliana Lovell’s passion for bar dancing, singing and drinking contests — a routine which has been continued through the other young women who’ve been hired and trained by the bar, who are known as Coyotes. And let’s face it: only a bar as confident, brash and in-your-face as the Coyote Ugly Saloon is ever going to manage to have an entire film based off its existence.