The miracle of TV is that shows can be as realistic or as fantastical as we want them to be, but one popular theme in a great number of shows is showing the characters eating at a restaurant, cafe, or diner just like we'd do in real life. It lends a realism even to cartoons or wildly imaginative shows because eating out is something that many of us can identify with. Looking back over the years, there are a few eateries that stand out and remain popular enough that several have inspired real pop-up restaurants or culinary tributes both nationally and even internationally.
While many of the dining choices we see in beloved TV shows make us nostalgic or wish we could visit for that perfect slice of pie or delectable burger, others either unwittingly or knowingly make their food look so unappetizing that we'd never want to try it in real life. Not surprisingly, many well-loved or heavily mocked TV restaurants feature diner food or hamburgers, which are considered by many to be comfort foods in the US. It's something that many of us eat at least occasionally. Sometimes, the TV restaurants are so important that they become characters of their own, either for good or for ill, and are essential to the plot in many an episode. Read on to see at which 10 restaurants we wish we could eat and the 10 that we'll be sure to pass up if given the chance.
20 TV Noir At The Double R
Twin Peaks, which began airing in 1989, featured a lot of scenes at an iconic diner called "The Double R" in the show. The diner was based on a real cafe, which, at the time, was called "Mar-T" and is now known as "Twede's Diner," according to Atlas Obscura. The outside of the cafe was shot for the show, although the interior was a Hollywood set. Nevertheless, fans of the show flocked to the Mar-T in droves asking for pie and some “damn fine coffee.” Twin Peaks superfans can actually eat at The Double R—Twede's Cafe was restored and renovated in 2015 to match the show's set when it was once again used for the show. While enjoying a slice of pie, grab a Twin Peaks map, and go explore!
19 Upchuck At The Chum Bucket
If The Krusty Krab is our fantasy burger joint in Spongebob Squarepants, then The Chum Bucket is the fast-food joint we'd avoid like the plague. Situated directly across from the cheerful-looking The Krusty Krab, The Chum Bucket looks a bit unkempt and disused on the outside and doesn't fare much better inside either, as per Intelligencer. The food served up by Plankton and his computer wife Karen was at the least nausea-inducing for the denizens of Bikini Bottom, and the rivalry between the two cartoon chains has even sparked a meme frenzy recently. The Chum Bucket always comes out the loser in comparison.
18 Meet Me At Central Perk
While the Central Perk that Friends fans all know and love is nothing more than a Hollywood soundstage, there's an actual restaurant located at 90 Bedford St. Chef Joey Campanero opened a neighborhood restaurant called "The Little Owl" at that address and, at first, was completely unaware of the building's ties to the iconic TV show, explains Travel + Leisure. The chef did admit that many tourists are sorely disappointed to find that there's no orange couch or moody coffee shop atmosphere. A cup of coffee is also more than one dollar—but visitors can purchase a mug with a drawing of the building's exterior on it and filled with coffee for $15.
17 No Soup For You At The Original Soupman
The Soupman franchise rose in popularity as a result of the infamous soup server on Seinfeld who would carefully dole out his recipes only to those he thought deserved it, and dismissing the undeserving customers by shouting, “no soup for you!” While many fans probably got a taste of soup and nostalgia, the company has now gone under as a result of mounting, massive debt, according to USA Today. Either they followed the Seinfeld model a little too closely and shouted at too many customers, or the soup wasn't very good. Either way, we like our food served with a little less hostility.
16 Bad Puns And Good Buns At Bob's Burgers
Some Bob's Burgers fans might've been lucky enough to get into the pop-up installation in 2016 with very Bob's Burgers-like burgers being served up to customers, as per Fast Company. Unfortunately, the event had a limited run but did feature artwork by the Bob's Burgers artists and was a collaboration between the BB team and Unit 120, which created the burgers. Each day, different world-class chefs stepped into the kitchen to create burger masterpieces. While the experience didn't come with Teddy seated at the counter or any of the Belcher children serving, the décor and artwork were consistent with the BB theme. The show has recently entered its ninth season.
15 Missed Meeting At MacLaren's Pub
How I Met Your Mother, the longest and most detailed family history story ever told, often centered on the main characters meeting at MacLaren's, a pub in New York City. The Hollywood set of MacLaren's was based on a real pub called "McGee's," and the guys and gals of HIMYM met there, ate there, and were banned from there, according to the New York Post. While McGee's does pay homage to the show with trivia nights and a few specially named menu items, we never felt the same sense of warmth and family as we did in other pubs and bars, such as the beloved Cheers from the show of the same name.
14 Deals And Meals At Los Pollos Hermanos
We wished for it, and some of us might've actually gotten to experience it: a real Los Pollos Hermanos just like the restaurant in Breaking Bad. For filming while the show ran, an eatery called "Twisters" in Albuquerque stood in as the fictional Los Pollos Hermanos. While the well-loved and critically acclaimed show has run its course, a couple fans kitted out Twisters to look just like Los Pollos Hermanos on January 20—the same day that Breaking Bad premiered, as per Hello Giggles. Unlike the show's restaurant, the real-life location only served legal substances to patrons. We're sad the event only happened for one day.
13 We'll Pass On Poppie's Restaurant
Seinfeld gave us a lot of memorable episodes, but one food-related one made some of us a bit squeamish. When Jerry is dating a woman named "Audrey," they end up going to eat at her father's restaurant, as per Eating the Road. Her father, known as "Poppie," happens to be in the men's restroom at the same time as Jerry, where he is witnessed coming out of a bathroom stall and totally bypassing the sinks. Now that Jerry knows Poppie has potentially been in his restaurant kitchen cooking with unwashed hands, he's grossed out—as are we—and can't eat another bite.
12 Our Money's On Bluth's Original Frozen Banana Stand
The original show ran from 2003-2006, but Arrested Development was brought back for old fans and new viewers in 2013 by Netflix. To celebrate the return of the Bluth family, they brought Banana Stands to places like Newport Beach in California and New York City, according to the Huffington Post. While the characters in Arrested Development were often a mess, the frozen bananas looked delicious—and fans thought the version they could get for a limited time from a real live Bluth's Original Frozen Banana Stand was pretty good. While the Bluth's gimmick by Netflix was short-lived, many old-fashioned treat shops offer the simple frozen dessert.
11 Bad Service At The Good Burger
In the 1990s, Nickelodeon was the channel for child and teen programming, and one variety show that rose to prominence was All That. One sketch that proved very successful was when Kenan and Kel worked as employees at Good Burger, according to GQ. Kel Mitchell was the extremely slow Ed, who took everything that every customer said literally, with hilarious results. While Kenan and Kel were funny enough to inspire a spin-off movie called Good Burger—which we may or may not admit to having seen in a movie theater with a ticket we paid good money for—the food was clearly less than good, which was part of the joke.
10 Kickin' It At The Krusty Krab
Spongebob Squarepants, the cartoon beloved by kids and their parents, features a diner called The Krusty Krab, run by Mr. Krabs and staffed by the grumpy Squidward and the ever-ebullient Spongebob. Setting aside the topsy-turvy logic of how a burger with lettuce, tomato, pickle, and a bun is cooked on a grill under the sea, kids have long wondered what an actual Krabby Patty would taste like. A company in Texas tried to make this a reality until they were sued by Viacom for attempting to register the name, according to Complex. A real-life Krusty Krab is open in Palestine, with an interior modeled on the show's nautical décor.
9 Krappy Food At The Krusty Burger
Krusty the Clown is the infamous proprietor of Krusty Burger on the show The Simpsons, and in the more than two decades of the cartoon phenomenon, the fast-food restaurant has been consistently unappetizing. Krusty Burger is so bad that Krusty the Clown won't even eat the food he serves, as per Eater. Universal Studios has opened a real Krusty Burger, but there's no way the food they're serving is anything like the slop featured on episode after episode of The Simpsons. The show also makes clear how unhealthy the food is, and that the staff are almost as bad as the burgers and sides.
8 Like A Gilmore Girl At Luke's Diner
More than a few of us wished we could visit Stars Hollow and grab a seat at Luke's Diner. Gilmore Girls originally came to TV 18 years ago, but when Netflix revived the show for a four-season run called Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, they promoted it by creating no less than 200 pop-up Luke's Diners for a day all across the country, as per Eater. Even Canada got a few pop-ups. The staff wore Luke's Diners aprons and hats and handed out free coffees. We still want to go to a real Luke's Diner, complete with an adorable flannel-clad curmudgeon.
7 Not Choosing The Chokey Chicken
While only running for four seasons, Rocko's Modern Life has a surprisingly large fan base who fondly remember the smartly written show with occasional forays into decidedly adult humor. Rocko, Heffer, and Filbert often eat at the local fast food joint, known as "The Chokey Chicken," as per Screen Rant. While we're certainly nostalgic for Rocko and friends, the food at The Chokey Chicken never looked like anything we'd want to try in real life, and a surprising amount went up Heffer's nose, so that doesn't exactly sweeten the pot either. The Chokey Chicken was apparently based on Kentucky Fried Chicken—now rebranded "KFC."
6 Hungry To The Max
Every '90s kid wanted to hang out in The Max with Kelly Kapowski, AC Slater, Zack Morris and the rest of the gang. The Max served the type of diner-style food that every teenager loves and was where all the cool kids hung out. For a little while in Los Angeles, superfans could get the real experience—organizers opened a pop-up of The Max complete with real Saved by the Bell memorabilia and a chef to serve menu items with show-referencing names, according to Eater Los Angeles. Tickets sold out in minutes when the mockup of The Max opened, and a second showing also sold out.
5 The Sinister Plot Of The Pie Hole
Only airing for two seasons, the show Pushing Daisies featured a pie shop that was as much a character as the human actors. The Pie Hole features pies that are unlike any other pie in terms of freshness because Ned can make old fruit fresh again with just a touch, as per Bustle. The outside of this TV establishment is a bright and cheerful pie-shaped building that counterpoints the bringing back to life that goes on inside. While peak fruit freshness sounds delicious, it would be weird to eat once-rotten fruit. Plus, Ned can't taste his own handiwork, and we just don't trust a cook who doesn't eat the food he prepares.
4 Meeting The Fonz At Arnold's Drive-In
Since Arnold's Drive-In from Happy Days wasn't especially noted for the cooks' culinary prowess, we'd probably go there for the same reason that Ritchie, Potsie and the rest went: because the cool kids hung out there. Perhaps we could get some practical advice from Fonzie in his office—the men's bathroom—or wait for him to turn on the jukebox with just a single well-placed hit, as per Fansided. There's something comforting about a slightly shabby diner serving greasy burgers and fries and thick milkshakes, and Arnold's Drive-In in Milwaukee always seemed like it was a real place somewhere, rather than a Hollywood set.
3 Sad Service At Happy Noodle
On the TV show Will & Grace, the characters do a lot of eating both at home and at an array of fine dining establishments, but one place, in particular, earns the ire of Grace, who attempts to lead a boycott against it, according to TV.com. At first, Grace is overjoyed at finding a delicious noodle joint, ecstatically telling everyone who will stop long enough to listen, but after she burns herself on hot noodles and drops the bowl, things go south. The Happy Noodle shop owner refuses to replace her noodles for free and she launches an anti-Happy Noodle campaign, although without much success.
2 All Day Good At Al-Abbas
When Larry David and Jeff from Curb Your Enthusiasm sit down in an episode and wax poetic over some unbelievably delicious chicken, many people in the LA or north Orange County area recognized the look of the restaurant right away: it looks very much like a favorite Lebanon-Armenia blended chain called "Zankou Chicken," as per Zankou Chicken. While the late and great food critic Jonathan Gold noted that the location was most likely the Lebanon-style restaurant Sunnin, we think Zankou Chicken might be a good approximation—and it tastes as amazing as it looks. The shawarma and hummus are fantastic, too.
1 Better Not Eat At The Bronto Burger
The Flintstones first aired in 1960 and featured the Flintstones Fred and Wilma and their neighbors Betty and Barney Rubble. Like many families in the US at the time, the families occasionally felt like dining out and sometimes headed out for diner-style food, including a Bronto Burger, according to Retroland. The name implies that Fred and the gang are eating dinosaur when they bite into a Bronto Burger, and while we know it's an imaginary burger from a cartoon, it just seems wrong somehow to eat a dinosaur, especially considering that Fred and Wilma's pet at home was a miniature long-necked sauropod not unlike in shape to the misnamed brontosaurus.