15 New Yorkiest Episodes of Seinfeld

Suggested Itineraries

by Jonathan Zeller, 04/29/2013

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May 14 marks the 15th anniversary of the Seinfeld finale, the moment we bid adieu to one of the greatest sitcoms ever and, we'd argue, the New Yorkiest show of all time. Though the series was shot in California, New York City is where you can find Seinfeld-related landmarks like Tom's Restaurant, whose facade represents the gang's favorite hangout (the fictional Monk's Café). It can't be a coincidence that when the show ventured outside the New York area—to Massachusetts for the finale or to India for the backward episode, for example—it sometimes faltered.

In honor of this anniversary, we've scientifically determined the 15 New Yorkiest episodes of Seinfeld, complete with our reasoning and a guide to how you can visit sites from the show while you're in the five boroughs. Enjoy!

Seinfeld airs Sunday through Friday at 11 and 11:30pm on The CW, channel 11, in the New York metropolitan area. Live out of town? Check your local listings.

Monk's
Courtesy, Sony Pictures Television

1. "The Subway" (Season 3, Episode 13)
It was gutsy to base a half hour of network television on one municipality's public transit system and the quirks thereof. From the moment Kramer gives Jerry some inefficient ideas on how to reach Coney Island ("You can take the B or the F and switch for the N at Broadway/Lafayette, or you can go over the bridge to DeKalb and catch the Q to Atlantic Avenue, then switch to the IRT—2, 3, 4 or 5—but don't get on the G. See, that's very tempting, but you wind up on Smith and 9th Street, then you got to get on the R."), you know that native New Yorkers must have been behind this episode. Elaine faces a delay on the way to a same-sex wedding (finally legal in New York, years later) and rages, "What can go wrong with a train? It's on tracks—there's no traffic! How can a train get stuck? Step on the gas!"; Jerry ends up in a cordial conversation about the 1992 Mets' chances with a naked man sitting across from him (the team ended up being terrible, by the way); Kramer gets sidetracked on the way to court and stops at an OTB to bet on a horse; and George follows an attractive stranger off the train to the Hotel Edison instead of going to a job interview, only to end up the victim of a scam. The gang's difficulties aside, the NYC subway runs 24 hours a day and is the cheapest and easiest way to get around the City.

Jerry on the subway
Courtesy, Sony Pictures Television

2. "The Maid" (Season 9, Episode 19)
While Elaine's quest to retain a 212 phone number amid the introduction of the 646 area code—which has now become firmly entrenched—doubtless rings true to some New Yorkers (in fact, it's still timely), the most Manhattan mileage in this one comes from Kramer's sad attempt to maintain a "long-distance" relationship with a girlfriend who's moved downtown. While, as the Official Guide to NYC, we must note that New York's transit system and street grid make it easy to navigate the five boroughs, it's also true that the City is very neighborhood oriented; sometimes it's tough to muster the mental energy to, say, leave Brooklyn and visit a friend way uptown in Manhattan. Sadly, Kramer and his girlfriend get into a fight and he gets lost at First (Avenue) and 1st (Street)—"the nexus of the universe." While NYC's legendarily confusing lineup of Ray's pizzerias—Famous, Original, both and neither—have given way to a single dominant chain of Famous Original Ray's Pizza, the outpost of the latter that Jerry asks about during a panicked pay-phone call from Kramer still stands not too far from Katz's Delicatessen (though Kramer, disoriented by his surroundings, insisted, "It's just Original, Jerry!").

3. "The Soup Nazi" (Season 7, Episode 6)
New York is overflowing with noteworthy eateries, but when a sensation arises, residents and visitors are nevertheless willing to put up with long lines or idiosyncratic rules to taste the meal of the moment (see Di Fara, Shake Shack and Ippudo NY for queues, and Shopsin's—where you can't order the same dish as someone else at your table, among other things—for policies). If a soup is so good that "your knees buckle," it might be worth following some special ordering instructions. "The Soup Nazi" is based on a real soup stand—originally named Soup Kitchen International, recently resurrected as The Original SoupMan—at 259A W. 55 St. Today, proprietor Al Yeganeh has franchised a chain of the eateries and sells his soup in grocery stores. Perhaps unsurprisingly, he doesn't like being referred to as "the Soup Nazi."

The Soup Nazi
Courtesy, Sony Pictures Television

4. "The Rye" (Season 7, Episode 11)
This episode's titular breadstuff—which Jerry steals from an old lady who refuses to sell it to him, even for 50 bucks—supposedly comes from Schnitzer's, a great New York bakery name if we've ever heard one. The real place was called Royale Kosher Bake Shop. Unfortunately, it's now closed. A Jenny Craig branch stands in its place at 237 W. 72nd St. Also in this episode: Kramer leads Beef-a-Reno-fueled hansom cab rides through Central Park. His skills as a tour guide are questionable, though, as his historical "facts" are impressively inaccurate. For example, Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux—not former New York Yankee Joe Pepitone—designed the park.

5. "The Muffin Tops" (Season 8, Episode 21)
No high-concept food purveyor is too weird or too specific to succeed in New York City—for example: Rice to Riches, Peanut Butter & Co.—so it's easy to believe that Top of the Muffin to You! (the exclamation point is most emphatically part of the name) could find its footing here. But enough about that—the main attraction for us here at nycgo.com is George's relationship with a woman from the "New York Visitor Center," the Seinfeld Universe–equivalent of the Official NYC Information Center. (She mistakes him for a tourist because he's wearing clothes from a bag left in his care by a stranger.) Kramer, meanwhile, starts a Peterman Reality Bus Tour that's quite clearly based on Kenny Kramer's Reality Tour. Quoth Jerry: "The last thing this guy's qualified to give a tour of is reality." As far as we know, guests on the real Kramer's jaunt do not receive "pizza bagels" made with cinnamon raisin bagels, donuts or pound cake.

Peterman Reality Tour
Courtesy, Sony Pictures Television

6. "The Pony Remark" (Season 2, Episode 2)
Anyone who's tried to find his or her dream apartment in New York City knows that doing so can be a tough task; after all, there's plenty of competition. Elaine's brazen attempt to secure a seemingly rent-controlled apartment from a grieving widower is cold, yes, but not entirely unrealistic. Keep in mind, though, that rent-control succession rules are very strict and specific, so Elaine's ability to live in Isaac's apartment at a reduced rent would be questionable. Also in "The Pony Remark," Jerry's Uncle Leo talks about Cousin Jeffrey—that never-seen member of the Seinfeld clan—whose success at the Parks Department has led to a raise and a transfer from Central to Riverside Park.

7. "The Lip Reader" (Season 5, Episode 6)
This one largely revolves around the US Open tennis tournament, which is held every year in Flushing, Queens. Kramer's spirited but ultimately ill-fated stint as a "ball man" demonstrates the skill and athleticism needed to excel in that underappreciated role, while George's embarrassing inhalation of a hot-fudge sundae feels more real than ever in an age where everyone in this densely populated metropolis seems to be recording everything on their camera phones. One misstep, and you, too, can be immortalized at your worst on YouTube.

8. "The Boyfriend" (Season 3, Episodes 17 and 18)
More New York sports. Jerry and George meet Mets legend Keith Hernandez (who provides color commentary for the team's games on television these days) in the West Side YMCA gym locker room. (You can see its awning in the establishing shot.) The ballplayer strikes up a friendship with Jerry and a romance with Elaine—but the most memorable scene concerns Kramer and Newman's insistence that Hernandez spit on them in the Shea Stadium parking lot after a game (complete with an Oliver Stone–inspired reenactment). Today, Citi Field, the Mets' home as of 2009, stands on the former Shea parking lot.

The Boyfriend
Courtesy, Sony Pictures Television

9. "The Movie" (Season 4, Episode 14)
The gang tries to meet for a movie at the Paragon Theater, and Kramer gets a hankering for a hot dog from Papaya King (which this vintage Seinfeld-location roundup from Entertainment Weekly says is really Gray's Papaya, at Amsterdam Avenue and West 72nd Street). Should you want to live the experience yourself, there is a Papaya King at 179 E. 86th St., just a couple of doors down from the AMC Loews Orpheum 7 on Third Avenue. Also very New York—Jerry's cab ride with hack comic Buckles, who desperately tries to ingratiate himself, hoping to make a connection and land on The Tonight Show (which, hey, is on its way back to the City after a long stay out west). In the "concrete jungle where dreams are made of," there will always be a few overambitious people whose networking methods are a bit crass.

10. "The Outing" (Season 4, Episode 17)
The "not that there's anything wrong with that" episode of Seinfeld did, in its own way, showcase New Yorkers' embrace of diversity—in fact, it won a GLAAD Media Award in 1994. The reporter who "outs" Jerry is a grad student at New York University—whose Washington Square News is still available for free in more than 100 purple boxes around the Greenwich Village campus—and George plans to bring Jerry to a Broadway production of Guys and Dolls for his birthday. (A revival of the musical ran on Broadway from 1992 to 1995.)

11. "The Strike" (Season 9, Episode 10)
The Festivus episode features a couple of venerable now-closed NYC institutions: the aforementioned OTB, whose phone number Elaine gives to her undesirable gentleman callers—and where she's hit on by a couple of creepy men—and H&H Bagels, where Kramer returns to work after a long strike. Bagels, of course, have a place alongside pizza in the Ultimate New York Cuisine pantheon. The big Festivus celebration takes place at the Costanzas' house, supposedly located at 1344 Queens Blvd. in Flushing. (The house in the exterior shot is in Astoria, and 1344 Queens Blvd. is actually in Forest Hills.)

Marathon
Courtesy, Sony Pictures Television

12. "The Hot Tub" (Season 7, Episode 5)
The main plot in this one revolves around the New York City Marathon and runner Jean-Paul Jean-Paul, whom Jerry is determined to help reach the starting line in time (he's previously overslept the Olympics and missed that marathon). Although an electrical short caused by the heat pump for Kramer's hot tub causes the clock in Jerry's apartment to stop (and, therefore, the alarm to fail to go off), Jean-Paul still (barely) makes the race—which ends in Central Park, and with Jean-Paul accidentally getting burned by a cup of Kramer's hot tea. In a subplot, George's bosses with the Yankees think he's stressed when he picks up a casual cursing habit from representatives from the Astros—who recently joined the real-life Yankees in the American League.

Steinbrenner
Courtesy, Sony Pictures Television

13. "The Doodle" (Season 6, Episode 20)
Elaine interviews for a job at Viking Press, and, pretending to be from Florida, receives a suite at The Plaza. (Jerry tells Elaine to be sure to catch a Broadway show while she's in town; this remains excellent advice.) But when Jerry's apartment needs to be fumigated because of a flea infestation, she begrudgingly lets Jerry's parents, Uncle Leo and Nana stay there instead, and they ring up exorbitant charges and trash the place. Visit the hotel, but please don't wreck your room.

14. "The Non-Fat Yogurt" (Season 5, Episode 7)
For one thing, New Yorkers have doubted the nonfat status of some frozen-dessert establishments for a long time—a quick Google search will confirm as much. For another, this episode focused largely on a real-life race for City Hall between David Dinkins and Rudy Giuliani. Lloyd Braun, George's rival for his parents' affection and Elaine's boyfriend, is an adviser to Mayor Dinkins; unlike the mayoral candidates, Braun didn't exist in real life. Go take a tour of the seat of our municipal government and see if you overhear any ideas as outlandish as a citywide name tag initiative. The crew shot two different endings for this one—one in which Dinkins won the election and another in which Giuliani won. Since Giuliani did, in fact, win the mayoralty, that's the version you'll see on TV—but the alternate cut is available on the show's season 5 DVD.

15. "The Understudy" (Season 6, Episode 24)
Jerry's girlfriend, who cries at the slightest provocation, is New Yorker Bette Midler's understudy for the lead role in Rochelle, Rochelle the musical—based on one of Seinfeld's many fake films, this one about "a young girl's strange, erotic journey from Milan to Minsk." In New York, there are scores of actors scrapping for their big break, and there have been a fair number of Broadway musicals based on films (for example: Catch Me If You Can, Billy Elliot and even Carrie). Also of note in this episode: the understudy gets her big break when George inadvertently injures Midler during a softball game at—where else?—Central Park.

More Seinfeld Locations in NYC
Other Seinfeld episodes showcase even more New York City locales:
• "The Friars Club" revolves around action at its storied title location.
• In "The Susie," Kramer joins Knicks-game fixture Spike Lee in an argument with the Pacers' Reggie Miller at Madison Square Garden.
• In "The Soup," Bania guilts Jerry into buying him a meal at Mendy's, then disputes the idea that soup can be a meal.
• In "The Sniffing Accountant," Kramer drinks and smokes simultaneously at Pete's Tavern. (Don't do this.)
• In "The Marine Biologist," Kramer hits golf balls into the ocean at Rockaway Beach. (Don't do this, either.)
• In "The Nap," Kramer swims in the East River. (You know what? In general, Kramer is not a great role model.)
• In "The Pitch," Jerry and George meet with NBC executives at 30 Rockefeller Center.
• In "The Bottle Deposit (Part I)" Elaine bids on John F. Kennedy's golf clubs at Sotheby's.
• In "The Beard," Elaine goes to the ballet at Lincoln Center.
• In "The Library," Jerry visits the main New York Public Library branch to deal with a long-overdue book.
• In "The Mom and Pop Store," Mr. Pitt wins a chance to hold the Woody Woodpecker balloon in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

related venues/(9)

  1. 1
    Coney Island
    Surf Avenue
    Brooklyn – Coney Island
    NY 11224
  2. 2
    Hotel Edison
    228 W. 47th St.
    Manhattan – Times Square
    NY 10036
  3. 3
    The Original SoupMan
    259A W 55th St
    Manhattan – Midtown West
    NY
  1. 4
    Central Park
    110th St
    Multiple Locations
    NY
  2. 5
    Official NYC Information Center
    810 Seventh Ave
    Manhattan – Midtown West
    NY 10019
  3. 6
    Kramer's Reality Tour
    Producers Club Theatre, 358 W. 44th St.
    Manhattan – Midtown West
    NY 10036
  1. 7
    US Open Tennis Championships
    USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, Flushing Meadows Corona Park
    Queens – Flushing
    NY 11368
  2. 8
    The Plaza Hotel
    Fifth Ave. at Central Park South
    Manhattan – Midtown West
    NY 10019
  3. 9
    City Hall
    City Hall
    Manhattan – Financial District
    NY 10007

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