New York is home to some of the most famous restaurants and bars that have graced the silver screen, and I went to three of them, seeking whatever bits of stray glamour have been left behind. From the new classic Broad City (returning to Comedy Central tonight for season four), to the iconic Sex and the City, to that heartbreaking moment in You’ve Got Mail, I wanted to move through the city in the same way as these characters and check in on how the depictions have affected business.
You’re probably familiar with Abbi of Broad City’s alter ego, Val. In season two, episode five, Abbi and Ilana get black-out drunk and visit a mysterious bar where the former moonlights as a jazz singer. The bar, though unnamed in the show, is the Back Room, a Lower East Side speakeasy from the twenties.
The show has certainly upped the bar’s notoriety. Megan Bones, the event coordinator, says she hears mention of the show here and there, though it’s been a well-frequented spot for nearly 100 years (not to mention that its throwback vibes make it a popular place to film various period pieces). The tufted furniture, nude paintings and intricate chandeliers match the suited-up finance bros who seem to flock to the locale as a mid-week date spot.
Il Cantinori, alternatively, did see quite the boom. Frank Minieri, one of the owners of the restaurant where Carrie Bradshaw was famously stood up on her 35th birthday, says business was so good in the early aughts that it took him two years to begrudgingly approve a full day shut down for filming. He doesn’t regret it, though: “Lo and behold, the season premiere airs and we have to add a phone line.” They’ve now been open for 34 years.
In 2017, a reservation is easier to come by, though Minieri adds that they still see Sex and the City fans to this day.
Last on my itinerary was Café Lalo, made famous by You’ve Got Mail, where Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan) patiently awaits the mystery man with whom she’s developed an online relationship. Joe Fox (Tom Hanks) shows up to meet his cyber sweetheart as well, but uncovers that said sweetheart is in fact his nemesis. He doesn’t come clean and she thinks she’s been stood up.
Nearly twenty years later, the UWS café, quaint and charming, boasts an ever-expanding menu and a full bar. As a nearby patron enthusiastically declared over her pizza, “They have everything.” One scan of the room, however, lets on to the real draw, which has stood the test of time: coffee and dessert. The people beside me order an ice cream sandwich, while someone across the room works on a sundae.
Though it’s faced some troubled times, namely a 2014 lawsuit, Lalo’s claim to fame is literally its claim to fame. The movie is referenced in every article and review I can find. The café’s own Google description even calls out the Nora Ephron film. And for the record, the Joe Fox order of a mochachino is still on the menu.
After all was eaten, I made my way back to Brooklyn. But I couldn’t help but wonder: Was I any closer to Hollywood’s New York? I will say this: Full of chocolate, leaving the Upper West Side, I felt like a real New Yorker—or at least the ones on TV.