Throughout my life I’ve seen some great TV shows and movies, and lots of these productions feature fictional restaurants that make my mouth water. Here’s a collection of my top 10 fictional favorites, in no particular order, some new, some old. Enjoy!
The Original Beef of Chicagoland (The Bear)
The hit new show The Bear on Hulu just mainstreamed Chicago’s wildly popular and incredibly delicious Italian Beef Sandwich. The Windy City’s dairy-free brother to the City of Brotherly Love’s “Philly Cheese” is comprised of thin sliced/shaved steak, typically rib eye, and is adorned with Italian giardiniera, or pickled veggies (carrots, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, etc). Accompanying that is usually a hot cup of beef drippings for dipping, au jus style like you might expect with a French Dip.
You can’t eat at The Original Beef of Chicagoland, but you can certainly eat where they film the show, at least the exterior shots anyway, at Mr. Beef. I’ve been there and it’s damn delicious.
The restaurant from Ratatouille might be headed up by a sewer dwelling, flea infested, disease ridden rat, but that vermin’s velvety veloute looks absolutely incredible. The animated new(ish) classic from Disney and Pixar makes me crave a delicious Parisian meal like the ones Remy cooked up at Gusteau’s.
Paradise (Big Night)
The feast at Paradise in Big Night looked like heaven on earth. The entire film leads up to a massive blowout meal, meant to be a final hoorah for a struggling restaurant owned and operated by two immigrant brothers (Stanley Tucci and Tony Shalhoub). The meal features a divine collection of extravagant courses, finished off with the timpano – a huge layered and baked show stopper, and an infamously difficult to make Italian entree.
While Clemenza’s recipe for meat sauce in The Godfather, or New Vesuvio and Satriale’s Pork Store in the Sopranos, might wet your appetite for a nice hearty red sauce meal with your loud obnoxious cousins from Bensonhurst, the real reel meal that seals the deal for me is at the makeshift prison restaurant from Goodfellas. The whole gang is doing time, but they manage to eat like kings anyway. Paulie’s garlic slicing system… Vinnie’s “three small onions” in the sauce… I’d wack someone for that meal.
Dorsia (American Psycho)
We don’t know much about this hard to get rez from American Psycho, but we do know that Patrick Bateman covets the place. Word is it used to be a real place in the vacuous open floor buildings between Flatiron and Chelsea in Manhattan’s midtown south. Whatever it is they serve there, it must be pretty good, because the joint is placed on a higher rung than all the other delicious, trendy and socialite-attracting restaurants on the American Psycho restaurant ladder. Maybe Paul Allen can get us a table since it’s clear that Bateman can’t.
Rick’s Cafe Americain (Casablanca)
This iconic spot from Casablanca is home to so many famous lines from cinematic history that it just has to be on this list. Located in Morocco during WWII, it was frequented by expats and nationals from all over the war torn region. A place to kick back, forget about the horrors of global calamity, and sip on some gin cocktails while listening to jazz. I’m in. Even if the food sucks. In 2004 a restaurant by the same name opened in Casablanca to pay tribute to the film. I’ve never been, but I’d like to give it a shot.
Jack Rabbit Slim’s (Pulp Fiction)
The prospect of a five dollar milkshake was absurdly expensive when Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction came out in 1994, but now it isn’t too far off the mark for the average pricing. The cosplay and old Hollywood cinema -themed restaurant definitely had the feel of a classed up diner, of sorts. The booths were old cars! But a dance floor in the middle of the joint and an emcee hosting a nightly dance competition is enough for me to want to go at least once.
El Jefe (Chef)
Jon Favreau tapped into our comfort food sweet spot in his film “Chef,” where he struck out on his own with a food truck that ended up bringing him closer to his family. The famous elevated grilled cheese sandwich and myriad of other delicious looking selections will make you raid the fridge while watching. The success of the movie kicked off a TV series, The Chef Show, and based on what I’ve seen, Jon can actually cook! He’s got the chops to make El Jefe become a reality if he ever wanted to.
Paul Bunyan’s Cupboard (The Great Outdoors)
Who can forget the classic 1980s comedy scene from The Great Outdoors, where John Candy is trying to win a free meal by taking on the massive steak known as “The Old 96’er?” He’s all the way down to the end when the chef comes over and says, “He ain’t done yet.” He needs to eat all the fat and gristle too! I’m not sure that I could do it, but I would definitely love to eat at that place.
The Olympia Cafe (Saturday Night Live)
The famous SNL skit from the late 1970’s featuring a curt diner staff that offers only cheeseburgers, Pepsi (no Coke), and chips (no fries) is loosely based on the Chicago outfit known as The Billygoat Tavern.
While the famous skit was only featured in just six episodes of SNL, it made quite the impact on American pop culture. The best part is that the spirit lives on forever at The Billygoat Tavern in Chicago. The burgers there are pretty great!
BONUS HALLOWEEN MEAL!!!
Hannibal Lecter’s House
Just in time for Halloween! While Doctor Hannibal Lecter is known for eating humans, the TV series starring Mads Mikkelsen is more like a food show than a horror. Beautifully shot, and clearly food styled by professionals, Hannibal will make your mouth water while also making your skin crawl. A very strange combo indeed. But I’d love to be invited to a dinner party with the deranged doctor, so long as I or some other human were not on the menu.