And… How do you review a legend?

If it hasn’t got neon lights, it’s not a proper diner

To fans of American TV, the above sight is a familiar one – Tom’s Restaurant in Morningside Heights, NYC, stood in as the exterior for Monk’s Cafe in Seinfeld. It’s so famous, Suzanne Vega wrote a song about it, and Barack Obama was a frequent visitor when he went to Columbia University. It was while visiting a friend at Columbia that we visited Tom’s, and were lucky enough to get the last two seats in the house both times we went (about three weeks apart). Our first visit involved breakfast:

(Look at the concentration on that ugly mug)

Your eyes do not deceive you, that’s eggs on bacon on pancakes, with jam and maple syrup. Classic diner fare, so I obviously had to have it. To me the whole idea of bacon on pancakes, and particularly bacon with maple syrup, is still a bizarre idea. No matter how many times I eat it, I still feel like I shouldn’t. Part of being British, I suppose. It’s impossible to criticise the food here, as it’s such a quintessential part of American culture. My only problem isn’t limited to Tom’s, it’s a problem I have with the whole of America – where’s the rest of the bacon? You only eat the streaky bit, which I find too greasy in large quantities. Where’s the medallion? You don’t do proper rashers! When I live in the States (eventually) I’m going to have to import proper bacon from somewhere…

Rant over. This was lunch, towards the end of our trip:

Sausages, bacon, scrambled eggs and hash. Americans do hash much better than we do. As much as I love frozen hash browns, they’re no substitute for freshly chopped or grated potato and onion, fried on a flat top with lots of lovely bits and pieces. The flavour is completely different, even though the product is basically the same. Go to Tom’s, have the hash, enjoy life.

If you’re in NYC (and of course, why wouldn’t you be), take a trip up to Columbia University, it’s a really nice part of town, and get yourself to Tom’s. There is a very rudimentary website here, but at least there are directions. If you’re feeling brave, it’s on Broadway, and the perfect reward for a long walk from Time’s Square.


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