Before it became the set of one of the most polarizing television series finales of all time, Holsten's was a classic diner and ice cream parlor. Now, it still serves its homemade ice cream and house specials—two burgers, made with beef chopped that day—but camera flashes aren't uncommon, especially near one particular booth. People who sit there tend to order onion rings, because that's what Tony Soprano ordered just before the show ended.
The staff doesn't mind the extra attention that The Sopranos fanbase showers on their restaurant. In fact, they sell T-shirts emblazoned with the phrase, "The Final Episode." But they also stay true to their roots, whipping up diner fare from BLTs to grilled cheese and double-decker club sandwiches. The dessert menu features ice cream in flavors such as vanilla, black raspberry, and butter pecan, all of which can be piled atop brownies or bananas to make a sundae. There's also homemade candy, including truffles, assorted chocolates, and seasonal sweets more appetizing than autumn leaves dipped in honey.
The licensed aestheticians at Spa Aura don't just specialize in European or Asian techniques; rather, they practice a seamless fusion of both. During manicures and pedicures, for instance, nail techs not only expertly apply eye-catching polish, but also help improve blood flow with massage and acupressure techniques. Patrons then visit the upper level's nail-drying bar, where they can watch retro films or read magazines until their colors dry.
Down in the softly lit lower level, past tiled floors lined with glowing lights, aestheticians incorporate ingredients such as coconut milk into circulation-boosting body treatments. Following one of Spa Aura?s body treatments?as well as facials and massages?clients are invited for a soothing visit to the infrared sauna. The dry sauna, lined with minerals plucked from the mountains of Asia, detoxifies bodies in a more relaxing way than trying to remove pennies stuck up the nose during childhood.
Like the songs of Frank Sinatra—a former regular at the eatery—the Market Diner’s history is full of highs and lows. The hanging lights above the faux-snakeskin booths went dark when the eatery closed down in 2006, but it was too soon for the restaurant’s rich 50-year history to come to an end. The diner is open again today, allowing patrons to feast on the omelets, half-pound burgers, and pies that have fed celebrities including Diane Keaton, Bette Midler, and even notorious gangsters from the ‘70s. An episode of Seinfeld also featured the restaurant in an important scene, which means patrons can revisit a favorite show without putting flowers on Alf’s grave.
For several decades now, Kenny Shopsin has been giving customers two things to talk about: his famous food, and his infamous personality. Customers to his original 40-seat Greenwich Village restaurant quickly learned that in order to enjoy his inventive comfort food, it was best to memorize a few house rules. Among them: no ordering off the menu, no groups larger than four, and no ordering the same thing as the other people sitting at your table. The plus side? Those who managed to make it through a meal without being kicked out got to sample from an eclectic menu nearly 900 items long, where new classics were born from ingredient combinations more surprising than a photo of Richard Simmons wearing nice slacks. Today, Shopsin's has settled into a smaller space and whittled its mammoth menu down to a more digestible list of a few hundred choices. Mac ’n’ cheese pancakes, peanut butter and pimento sandwiches, and poutine topped with pumpkin turkey gravy and marshmallows are just a few of the off-the-wall mashups that led Time Out New York to dub Shopsin's cuisine "bizzaro brilliance." Fresh isn't a term reserved for the foul-mouthed proprietor either; order one of the many soups (The New York Times puts the full soup list at around 300 choices) and it's made-to-order by Kenny himself.
In 1989, cameramen and a producer showed up at Tom's Restaurant to take shots of the exterior for use in an upcoming television show pilot. Though the restaurant wasn't even wearing makeup for those pictures, it still rocketed to stardom?the television show, as it turns out, was Seinfeld.
Tom's Restaurant played the role of the iconic Monk's Caf?, where Jerry and the gang hung out episode after episode. Today, visitors from across the globe travel to the corner of 112th Street and Broadway to take their own pictures with this slice of television history.
But long before the generic neon "Restaurant" sign became instantly recognizable, Tom's was the go-to hangout for actual people, including students from Columbia, men who worked in the trades, and other folks from around the neighborhood (one of whom was singer/songwriter Suzanne Vega, who penned a song there that eventually morphed into "Tom's Diner"). These same customers have flocked to Tom's since the 1940s, and today, they continue to file in for the omelets, pancakes, and bagels in the morning, and the cheeseburgers, fresh soups, and milkshakes later in the day.
They're also not shocked when the interior of Tom's looks nothing like it did on TV. That part, like most of Babe Ruth's career, was filmed on a set in California.