Tom’s Restaurant In Morningside Heights, Harlem

January 4, 2011

Tom’s Restaurant is a diner located at 2880 Broadway on the corner of 112th Street in Morningside Heights, a southwest section of Harlem in New York City. Frequented by students and faculty of nearby Columbia University, it has been owned and operated by the Greek-American family of Minas Zoulis since the 1940s.


Tom’s Restaurant was the locale of Suzanne Vega’s 1987 song “Tom’s Diner.” Later its exterior was used as a stand-in for the fictional Monk’s Cafe in the popular television sitcom Seinfeld, where comedian Jerry Seinfeld’s eponymous character and his friends regularly gathered to eat. The interior, however, looked very little like the real “Tom’s”, as indoor scenes were filmed on a set in California resembling the Broadway diner between 101st and 102nd Streets.

Early Seinfeld episodes showed the entire neon sign; later, the “Tom’s” portion was cropped out, showing only the “Restaurant” wraparound. Even though the interior and exterior have undergone minor remodeling since the show, Tom’s is featured in the Seinfeld tours. The trademark “Tom’s Restaurant” marquee still exists above the exterior windows (see photo).

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The restaurant can also be seen briefly in the background of a scene in the 2000 film Little Nicky. When President Barack Obama was a student at Columbia, he frequently used to eat at Tom’s diner, and Senator John McCain said that he often ate at Tom’s when he visited his daughter Meghan when she was a student at Columbia.

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