New York cafes in cinema – Part 1

Times Square, New York City's hyperactive heart.
Image courtesy: ©Andrey Bayda/Shutterstock

New York City and cinema have always shared a special bond. There has never been a canvas so magnificent – the skyscrapers, the brownstones, the celebrated yellow taxis, the overflowing trash cans, everything below 14th Street… Every frame has a story to tell, a character beyond the characters, and that incomparable vibe of New York. From the meet cute to the break up, the cafes and bars in the Big Apple hold a special place in the movies. Here’s the first part of a special two-part series on the most famous cafes where iconic Hollywood films and TV shows were shot. Read on and get nostalgic.

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CAFE LALO

This legendary cafe has a range of pastries and desserts.
Image courtesy: Bharati Kandhari

In the online romance You’ve Got Mail (1998) Shopgirl eagerly waited here with her copy of Pride & Prejudice and a rose to meet NY152 for the very first time. Meg Ryan, Tom Hanks, Nora Ephron and New York are like a perfectly brewed cup of coffee in your favorite mug. Cafe Lalo on the Upper West Side is festive all year round. The artwork is cutesy, the floor-to-ceiling windows brighten up this European cafe and the cappuccino is always served with a Toblerone Mini. Walk to Cafe Lalo after your dinner date or a theatre night at the Lincoln Center and indulge in the over 100 varieties of pastries and desserts. It’s sure to leave you warm and fuzzy just like the film.
Address: 201 W 83rd Street
Phone: (212) 496-6031

RUSS AND DAUGHTERS

This landmark establishment serves up Jewish delicacies.

There is no argument to the fact that a bagel is sacred to a New Yorker. Add to that a smear of cream cheese and delicate slices of smoked fish and it is faith of the highest order. Russ and Daughters was started by Jewish immigrant Russ and his three daughters in 1933 on the Lower East side. Famed comedian Louis C.K, in his acclaimed T.V series Louie (Season 3, Episode 5) goes on a date here.

The one- minute long food sequence is an open love letter to their sensational Jewish delicacies like Holland Herring, French Trout Roe, Smoked Salmon, Bagels and Chocolate Babka (best thing Louie’s ever eaten). The Sturgeon Queens, a documentary on this NYC treasure, is a great watch for any gourmet. The wait in line, though sometimes long (but handy to decide your order) is every bit worth the hype.
Address: 179 E Houston St, New York, NY 10002
Phone: (212) 475-4880

THE CARLYLE

Woody Allen is to New York City what songs are to Bollywood movies – inseparable. He also happens to be the reason I started my love affair with NYC. On the corner of 76th St. and Madison stands the classic Carlyle Hotel, a significant part of Allen’s life and movies (Hannah and Her Sisters, Hollywood Ending). When you enter The Carlyle, George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue (From Allen’s Manhattan’s introductory scene) automatically plays in your head and you are encapsulated in timeless beauty.

To the left is the dimly lit Bemelmans Bar suitable for a delicious nightcap alongside soothing jazz tunes. To the right is Cafe Carlyle, where Upper East Siders exude elegance, dine on delectable French food and listen to the likes of Judy Collins and Alan Cumming. Head there on a Monday evening, and if you’re lucky (I indeed was!) you’ll get to watch Mr. Allen play the clarinet along with the Eddy Davis New Orleans Jazz Band.
Address: 35 E 76th Street
Phone: 744-1600

KATZ’S DELICATESSEN

Katz's Deli.
Katz’s Delicatessen is an institution in the city.
Image courtesy: ©Gary Latham/Lonely Planet

At Katz’s, Sally came and conquered. It is infamously known for the iconic scene in ‘When Harry Met Sally…’ (1989) where Meg Ryan (yes, her again) fakes an orgasm to an ignorant Harry played by Billy Crystal leaving the customers stunned and wanting to have what she had.

Radiating its neon signage on the corner of Houston Street, Katz’s Delicatessen is an integral part of the Lower East Side history. “Send a salami to your boy in the army”, was coined during WWII at Katz’s, encouraging families to send food to their boys in the army. Not only the tourists, but the locals too line up at Katz’s for the massive sliced pastrami and corned beef sandwiches. This 128 year-old establishment is not just an institution, it is New York.
Address: 205 E Houston Street
Phone: 254-2246

VESELKA

Veselka is the go-to place for Ukrainian fare in the city.
Image courtesy: Wikipedia/Ddnile/CC BY 3.0

Some believe (raises hand) that New York is the centre of the universe. In the East Village of this chaotic universe, lies Veselka (meaning rainbow) a 24/7 Ukrainian diner. When high school students Nick and Norah are on the lookout for their favourite band Fluffy, they make a late night stop at Veselka and share the meat platter in Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (2008).

The bright pink borscht soup, thick mushroom gravy poured over stuffed cabbage alongside their crispy potato pancake makes for a perfect New Yorker’s brunch or a late night binge. If that’s not enough, Gossip Girl’s Dan Humphrey vouches for their pierogis (steamed or fried handmade stuffed dumplings). Young and old souls find their way to Veselka for some unpretentious comfort.
Address: 144 2nd Avenue
Phone:228-9682

THE LOEB BOATHOUSE

Located next to the lake, Loeb Boathouse offers great views.

New York is incomplete without Central Park. The customary day at the park must end at the Loeb Boathouse by the lake where many a toasts have been raised. Out of the countless scenes shot here, my personal favourite is when a young Josh Hutcherson confesses his feelings to his 11-year-old girlfriend before she leaves for camp, not knowing the fate of his first love in the 2005 Little Manhattan. Away from the hustle, savour this peaceful part of the city over cocktails at sunset before getting lost to the lights, drama and action that is New York.
Address: E 72nd St & 5th Avenue
Phone:517-2233

AUTHOR'S BIO: When she's not working behind-the-scenes on Bollywood films, Writer/Assistant Director Bharati Kandhari is indulging in her unhealthy obsessions of New York, coffee and banana pancakes. Mentally playing her life as a musical montage, she is on a constant lookout to satiate her wanderlust and find her La La Land.

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