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The 10 Best Fictional Restaurants

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.

Gusteau’s (Ratatouille)

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.

Mafia Meals

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!



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.


The moment you step inside Carbone you are instantly transported.

The dimly lit but lively dining room is both an homage to your Italian grandmother’s house as well as the restaurant where Michael shoots Sollozzo and McCluskey in The Godfather.

The place is immediately familiar and cozy. You may even recognize furniture and light fixtures if you grew up around Italian-Americans.

The music is all the great crooner hits from your favorite mob movies like Goodfellas, with some doo-wop classics from Bronx Tale mixed in. Not too loud, not too soft. And the food is some of the best red sauce Italian-American cuisine I’ve ever had.

The sharply dressed, deep burgundy tuxedo-clad servers will first bring to the table a basket of tomato focaccia, garlic bread and sliced Italian bread.

There’s also a plate of pickled cauliflower to snack on, some locally made finocchiona salami, and of course a nice hunk of parmigiano reggiano cheese.

We started with the truffle emulsion Piedmontese beef carpaccio, which is served with some peppery arugula, walnuts, chives, coarse salt, sliced mushrooms and a generous drizzle of some killer olive oil. This was hands down the best carpaccio dish I’ve ever had.

Their baked clams are pretty great as well. My favorite of the three styles is that center one, topped with pesto and uni. Absolutely awesome.

We tried three pasta dishes, because we are savage animals. The first was the spicy rigatoni vodka, which they describe as being “part of the DNA” of Carbone.

This was perfect. Perfectly spicy sauce, perfectly cooked pasta. Easily one of the best pasta dishes I’ve had this year. This is a must order pasta dish when you dine here. Even if you split it as an appetizer or something. Get that Carbone DNA in your mouth!

Next was the orecchiette with beans and cabbage.

This seasonal pasta was mildly reminiscent of the “pasta e fagiole” that I ate growing up, only with the escarole swapped out for cabbage, and with a less porridge-like texture. This you can eat with a fork on a plate, unlike what I grew up eating, which required a bowl and a spoon. Either way, delicious.

Finally, the tortellini with meaty ragu.

I’m generally not a huge fan of tortellini, but that’s probably because I’m used to the frozen or vac-sealed grocery store products that I usually eat cold (and dense) in a salad with olives, peppers and cheese. These bundles of joy were stellar. The stuffing inside was almost creamy, without any grainy or lumpy ricotta texture. And the sauce was going down my throat by the spoonful. Loved these. Absolutely beautiful plating as well.

We had a short break after the pasta and took down a trio of beautiful meatballs.

These off-menu delights are nice and tender, and packed with flavor. Rustically formed, you can sometimes get a chunk of melty cheese or a piece of soft, roasted garlic in the occasional lucky bite. These were great. Don’t be alarmed, either; they will be served pink in the middle.

For the entrees, we had both the veal parm and the pork chop with peppers. The veal was pounded out flat, and fried to a golden crisp with seasoned breadcrumbs. The bright sauce and melted cheese (both mozz and ricotta, with some grated parm on top) were topped with crispy basil leaves to bring home that nice herbaceous pop.

What a dish! They even serve it with the breaded and fried rib bone alongside the cutlet. And if you take some to go in a doggy bag, they’ll send you home with a sesame seed bun to make a sandwich out of the leftovers.

The pork with peppers reminded me of when my mom used to cook pork chops with cherry peppers and sliced potatoes as a kid. Nothing beats the taste of nostalgia, but this was a pretty close runner up. Those red peppers and onions on the side were delicious.

We were so stuffed that we had to skip dessert, despite the selections looking fantastic. I really wanted a slice of the lemon cheesecake.

But the captain, Jared, brought over some snacks for us after he saw how infatuated we were with all the little details in the restaurant that reminded us of growing up with Italian grandparents.

The rainbow cookies with espresso (and a splash of Sambuca!)…

The Jordanian candy-coated almonds (just like those old Italian wedding favors in the mesh bag)…

The simplicity of cotton candy grapes and walnuts (reminded me of Christmas Eve)…

And, of course, the Italian cookies and pastries from an old tin box…

It’s no wonder this place has a Michelin star and has become a tough reservation to score. I generally don’t like hyped up joints, but here it is well-deserved. We even saw Adam Sandler there. This place is worth your time and money. Go, as soon as you can! And if you’ve already been, then go back.

181 Thompson St
New York, NY 10012