Like all New Yorkers with atrophied cooking skills and minuscule kitchens, Jerry and his TV friends eat out a lot. And mostly they eat out at their local coffee shop with the classic Greek lines, which, from the outside, bears a striking resemblance to Tom’s Restaurant, a 53-year-old institution on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, a few blocks south of Columbia University.
”You see how they just use the word Restaurant (in the shots) and not the Tom‘s?” asks Mike Zoulis, who, at the age of 27, has been working at the burgertorium for 13 years. Which means, he says with a shrug, the restaurant receives no big bucks for the loan of its distinctive neon sign. But Tom’s does receive occasional pilgrimages from devoted Seinfeld scholars, who may be disappointed to discover that the diner’s interior, with its worn tile-covered walls, dusty potted plants, and lumpy booths, bears little resemblance to the Seinfeld gang’s bright, generic hangout. (Scholarly detail: The faux diner is called Monk’s, glimpsed in reverse type on the door.)
Still, Tom’s has its lures. Although Tom Glikas himself is long departed (he sold the shop to relatives in 1946), his cuisine endures: The menu promotes chicken gyros and shish kebabs, and a sign on the menu assures, ”Breakfast items served all day.” In an admirable display of restraint, there are no pictures of Jerry Seinfeld around, though there is a severely yellowed Swedish newspaper article about the place taped to the wall, along with an ancient Gap ad featuring Suzanne Vega, who was inspired by the coffee and kebabs here to write the song ”Tom’s Diner.”
”She called it ‘Tom’s Diner,”’ says Mike Zoulis. But Zoulis doesn’t mind. ”We’re a landmark,” he says, then excuses himself to deliver cheeseburgers to the college kids in the next booth.