Iconic Fictional Restaurants We Wish Were Real

The popular expression "you eat with your eyes first" exists for a reason. It's not that we literally taste or smell a dish with our ocular system, of course. But appearance and presentation plays an undeniably huge hand in any dining experience. In that vein, the cliché also helps illuminate both the inherent appeal of food-based storytelling on film and television — and why so many fictional restaurants make us long for the chance to patronize them.

Whether it's a visually tempting menu of mouth-watering items, a wistful desire to spend time with our favorite characters, or both, there's no shortage of fictional restaurants we wish were real. While the vast majority of fictional restaurants are destined to remain little more than a fantasy for your taste buds, others, like Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., have made the transition from the small or big screen.

Since the nature of capitalism means other fictitious establishments may also one day become a reality, it's worth considering which beloved fictional dining establishments we wish could make that leap. In honor of those not-quite-real places we pine to visit — for both the cuisine and the crowd — let's take a look at some of the most iconic fictional restaurants (not) in existence. 

JJ's Diner (Parks and Recreation)

When asked why anyone would eat anything other than breakfast food, a wise man once said, "people are idiots." That sage response, from Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman) to Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler), perfectly illustrated the duo's dedication to early morning, short-order fare on "Parks and Recreation." It also, frankly, helped explain the main characters' unyielding fondness for their favorite local restaurant, JJ's Diner.

With the exception of its enormous "Four Horsemeals of the Eggporkalypse" breakfast platter, JJ's Diner came off as the kind of down-to-earth establishment unique to Pawnee, Indiana. The relative normalcy of JJ's made it a notable exception to the often zany antics and residents of the fictional town, according to AV Club, which may partially explain the Parks and Rec employees' fierce loyalty. Known to have the best waffles — according to Leslie, who once spent "over $1,000 dollars" in one year at the diner on waffles alone — the restaurant was even chosen to cater Leslie and Ben's (Adam Scott) impromptu wedding.

JJ's Diner's potential closure was the focal point of a final season episode, "Save JJ's" (Season 7, Episode 6), when Leslie and Ron united to keep the Pawnee eatery open. Considering T-shirts emblazoned with "Save JJ's Diner" remain for sale on the NBC Store as of 2022 (seven years after the series finale), the fictional diner's legacy seems plain to see.

Merlotte's Bar and Grill (True Blood)

It isn't always the food or service that makes us dream of visiting a fictional establishment in real life. Sometimes, it's more about the thrill of being near the action, by immersing yourself with a group of characters you know and love. Case in point: Merlotte's Bar and Grill, the central restaurant from the immensely popular supernatural series, "True Blood."

In what seemed to be the only social spot in all of Bon Temps, Louisiana, Merlotte's was either the employer or preferred hangout for almost every major character on the show. In other words, a trip to Sam Merlotte's (Sam Trammell) establishment would mainly be about the atmosphere inside, like the chance to see Terry (Todd Lowe) in the kitchen, or Arlene (Carrie Preston) waiting tables (for her kids). No character's presence would entice us more, though, than the endlessly fascinating cook Lafayette. Played by the late Nelsan Ellis, the genderfluid character was responsible for one of the show's greatest moments — putting a bigoted character in their place after they insultingly called his food an "AIDS burger" (via Chicago Tribune).

If the specific structure of Merlotte's interests you, consider visiting the actual set at the Warner Bros. lot in Los Angeles, California (via Week99er). It may just be a shell of the vibrant, vampire-friendly joint it housed for seven seasons. But if those walls could talk, they'd likely do so in that famous Louisiana drawl.

The Original Beef of Chicagoland (The Bear)

Some may scoff at the notion of a restaurant, featured on a series that only debuted in June 2022, being considered an iconic fictional spot. But the worthy buzz surrounding the food-centric drama series "The Bear" since its premiere makes the show's restaurant, The Original Beef of Chicagoland, a worthy exception to any arbitrary rules.

The restaurant, owned and operated by the messy-haired main character, Carmen "Carmy" Berzatto (Jeremy Allen White), would be immensely appealing with nothing more than its main offering: Italian beef sandwiches, a Chicago, Illinois specialty. But as a veritable purveyor of food porn, the series amps up the visual appeal of the family-owned restaurant's menu, whether it's simple sausage and peppers, or an eye-popping array of gourmet donuts.

The uncannily realistic portrayal of a working restaurant is crucial to the show's success, as it pulls no punches in its depiction of the high-stress environment (via Rolling Stone). This not only pushed The Original Beef of Chicagoland onto this list — it ensured "The Bear" was renewed for a second season by FX less than a month after its premiere.

Rick's Café Américain (Casablanca)

Few films hold a legitimate claim to the title of greatest of all time, at least in terms of widespread agreement on the subject. Yet no U.S. movie may be more likely to earn that subjective label than "Casablanca" – a film the late renowned critic, Roger Ebert, once described simply as "The Movie." Given the film's largely unmatched stature in U.S. pop cultural history, it's no wonder we wish its Moroccan-based restaurant, Rick's Café Américain, existed in real life.

Now, there is, in fact, an actual restaurant in Casablanca, Morocco named Rick's Cafe, that opened in 2004 (via CNN). Though the location doesn't appear to be an officially-licensed endeavor, for fans eager to step back in time and dine at the World War II-era establishment as it was presented in the film, the real Rick's Cafe seems hard to beat (via Los Angeles Times).

Of all the gin joints in all of film and television history, few can hold a candle to the iconic stature of Rick's Café Américain, a classy and exotic locale where we're certain we'd feel right at home.

Chubbie's Famous (Boy Meets World)

Millennials may not be the first group that springs to mind with the phrase latchkey kid — take your long-awaited bow, Gen-X — but there's no denying many were often left to their own devices while growing up. Consequently, many 1990s kids were raised in part by their small-screen pals, like Cory Matthews (Ben Savage) et al from "Boy Meets World." Remembering those characters doesn't just make us nostalgic for the show, though — it makes us wish we could have dined at its favorite frequented restaurant, Chubbie's Famous.

Like many entries on this list, it's almost inconceivable how many crucial moments from "Boy Meets World" took place inside Chubbie's. Yet setting aside the location's importance to the overall series, the bottom line is Chubbie's Famous looked like the coolest place to hang out as a teen. With a simple menu of burgers and fries to go with a general lack of adult supervision — even by the greatest teacher in the history of education, Mr. Feeny (William Daniels) — it's hard to imagine a more perfectly-designed (and, therefore, unrealistic) restaurant for an under-18 crowd.

That the restaurant seemed more like a bar than a teenage hangout, as one person previously noted on Reddit, only upped its appeal. While we can never visit Chubbie's Famous, we can still relive the memories, like several former cast members began doing when their retrospective podcast, "Pod Meets World," launched in June 2022 (via KTLA-5).

Bob's Burgers (Bob's Burgers)

The titular business on "Bob's Burgers" may be constantly teetering on the precipice of bankruptcy, but it's always clear the food isn't the reason. After all, Bob Belcher (H. Jon Benjamin) — not Bob Burger, as Teddy (Larry Murphy) once amusingly believed — is always presented as an exceptionally talented chef. With an endless array of delicious, pun-driven "Burger of the Day" options to choose from over the years, it should be obvious why the show's central restaurant belongs on this list.

With the show's 13th season debuting in the fall — on the heels of "The Bob's Burgers Movie" released in May 2022 — you don't need us to convince you that "Bob's Burgers" is revered by fans. Whether on the silver screen or otherwise, though, it's easy to understand why we wish Bob's Burgers was real. Between the food, and the general wackiness perpetuated by the Belcher family inside the Wonder Wharf-adjacent restaurant, there's little chance we'd walk out with anything but a smile.

Frankly, it's almost amazing how far "Bob's Burgers" has come since debuting in 2011. The wholesome, if often bizarre, comedy has outpaced most expectations from the start, particularly those who believed the series would be little more than a low-key, quirky addition to Fox's Animation Domination block on Sundays (via The New York Times).

Chotchkie's (Office Space)

In a severely saturated food service market, restaurants tend to need something extra to set themselves apart. This may be why we wish the fictional chain, Chotchkie's (from "Office Space"), existed in real life. After all, a person can get a cheeseburger anywhere, but at Chotchkie's, you'd get more than that — you'd get "the attitude and the atmosphere" to put it over the top.

If we're entirely honest, there's nothing all that remarkable about Chotchkie's based on what we see, but we still wish it were real. Of course, the generic banality on display was so true to life that it's almost like we have had the chance to dine there. The satire was so spot-on, in fact, that several years after the release of "Office Space," TGI Friday's actually removed all employee flair and buttons from its uniforms, hoping to distance itself from the film's restaurant (via Deadline).

The brilliant analysis of everyday minutiae shown in "Office Space" has caused it to linger in the public consciousness for decades after its release (via The Guardian). The public's insatiable appetite for Chotchkie's and all things "Office Space" even led to the sale of collectible flair buttons like those seen in the film — which prompted a losing lawsuit in 2014 from actor Todd Duffey, who played the restaurant's model waiter (via Hollywood Reporter).

Satriale's Pork Store (The Sopranos)

Unlike the vast majority of entries on this list, our desire to visit Satriale's Pork Store doesn't mean we hope to encounter any familiar faces. After all, is there any group of television characters less inviting than the Dimeo crime family associates — as in Tony (James Gandolfini) and his fellow New Jersey mobsters? Other than a quick, respectful nod as "The Sopranos" crew enjoyed espresso outside, there's little we'd be interested in from Satriale's beyond some imported deli meats and homestyle Italian-American dishes.

Perhaps you're surprised by this choice, and wonder why we'd prefer Satriale's over, say, Nuovo Vesuvio, the fine-dining establishment owned by Tony's childhood friend, Artie Bucco (John Ventimiglia). But the bottom line is we're not super fancy, and the pork store's importance to "The Sopranos" mythology dwarfs Vesuvio — something demonstrated by the decision to build a new Satriale's set for "The Many Saints of Newark" prequel film in 2019 (via NJ.com).

With more than four pieces of Satriale's-specific merchandise still for sale by HBO as of 2022, it's clear the base of the Sopranos' operations remains an iconic fictional establishment. One we (and others, it seems) would love the chance to visit.

Guigino's (It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia)

As befitting a series that became the longest-running live-action sitcom in history in 2021 (via NPR), there are far too many iconic moments in "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" to keep track of. Thankfully, we're not here to recap every single memorable moment, just those that demonstrate why the show's oft-featured fictional restaurant, Guigino's, would likely earn our patronage if it existed in real life.

It's easy to see why the fictional fine-dining establishment belongs in the pantheon of places frequented by the Paddy's Pub gang. As a Reddit fan thread from 2022 showed, there are a lot of hysterical scenes involving Guigino's. For our money, though, the crowning moment for Guigino's came during the classic bottle episode, "The Gang Dines Out" (Season 8, Episode 9). Featuring all five main characters at their most amusingly deranged — and each actor at the peak of their comedic powers — the slowly simmering tension in "The Gang Dines Out" builds in gut-bustlingly funny fashion from start to finish.

Of course, while nothing thus far may top that episode for Guigino's-based humor, who knows what the future holds? After all, as the cast told AV Club in 2019, there's no end in sight for the show. And if we've learned anything after 15 seasons, it's to never underestimate the capabilities of "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia."

La Ratatouille (Ratatouille)

A restaurant featuring a rat on its front entrance isn't the type of place we'd usually be eager to check out. But if it's a fine-dining establishment serving the imitable cuisine of Remy the rat (Patton Oswalt), from Disney's "Ratatouille," well ... we'd happily inhale anything prepared by the quintessential embodiment of the ethos "anyone can cook."

Given the nature of the 2007 film, it's no wonder we at Mashed hold the classic animated tale near and dear to our hearts. The film displays some of the most appetizing dishes ever put on screen (animated or otherwise). And, according to The Ringer, the influence of Anton Ego (Peter O'Toole), the film's ostensibly villainous food critic, continues to reverberate through food criticism and writing as of 2022.

La Ratatouille may not be the main restaurant featured in the film (that honor would go to the doomed Parisian eatery, Gusteau's). But as the place where Remy was able to fully execute his culinary visions — and where the sanitary concerns of cooking rats were somewhat ameliorated — we'd opt for La Ratatouille every day of the week.

Sugarfoot's BBQ (King of the Hill)

Whether or not you're a fan of "King of the Hill" (FYI, you should be), it doesn't take a genius to figure out why Sugarfoot's BBQ, a fictional restaurant located in the heart of Arlen, Texas, would make us long for a real life counterpart. We wouldn't want to ingest the indulgent barbeque and Southern-style sides every single day, but moderation is the key to life for a reason.

Appearing in different episodes as either Sugarfoot's BBQ, Sugarfoot's Express, or Peggy's Sugarfoot's BBQ (as it was known for a time), the animated Southern cuisine was a beloved institution within the fictional central Texas town. It's also stood the test of time with fans of the long-running — and soon-to-be rebooted — animated classic.

A Facebook page purporting to be a business account for the restaurant still exists for fans to like and follow as of 2022. Additionally, a variety of different merchandise emblazoned with "Sugarfoot's Express" — a food truck version of the restaurant used in "Trans-Fascism" (Season 12, Episode 11) to skirt a local trans fat ban – remains for sale at TeePublic in 2022, as well.

Skip Church's Bistro (Arrested Development)

It's actually quite easy to see the appeal of Skip Church's Bistro, the favored weekend brunch spot from "Arrested Development." Between the view offered along the water in Newport Beach, California, and the bevy of virgin cocktail options, it's no mystery why we still yearn for a real-world version to go to when we, well, skip church.

Located near the Bluth family's long-running banana stand, the convenience of Skip Church's may be the most logical explanation for its consistent appearances on the series. But who can blame a family as legendarily lazy as the Bluths for prioritizing convenience above all else? As long as they avoided the Skip's Scramble (because you "do not order the Skip's Scramble") they'd be golden. Not that that advice stopped excited fans from creating their own version of the Skip's Scramble in celebration of the 2013 series revival, of course (via Los Angeles Times).

The undeniable turn for the worse taken by "Arrested Development" during its later, post-revival seasons may cause some to disagree with our inclusion of Skip Church's Bistro. But the widespread influence of "Arrested Development" can't be minimized comedically speaking, nor can the impact of its 2013 revival, on the entire television industry, be denied (via Vulture).

MacLaren's Pub (How I Met Your Mother)

Have we moved on from the utterly disastrous "How I Met Your Mother" series finale yet? Is it possible that enough time has passed since that veritable national tragedy — where, spoiler alert, the long-anticipated, titular Mother (Christin Milioti) was revealed as nothing more than a plot device to bring Ted (Josh Radnor) and Robin (Cobie Smulders) together — to reflect positively on the series? Maybe. Either way, the overwhelmingly negative reaction to the sitcom's ending wouldn't have occurred if folks didn't love the show, particularly the many, many scenes set at MacLaren's Pub.

Like Central Perk on "Friends," MacLaren's Pub was located in the same building as the main characters' apartment, justifying its constant presence in the series. A friendly watering hole that, on occasion, served some delicious beef ribs, MacLaren's was an indispensable component of the show's success. It wasn't just a central hub for the characters, quite frankly, but for "How I Met Your Mother" as a whole.

We may not be able to visit the same MacLaren's Pub frequented by the main characters. But fans still bitter about the popular sitcom's ending can take solace in the real-life inspiration, and visit McGee's Pub, located in New York City.

Big Kahuna Burger (Pulp Fiction)

For the most part, the iconic fictional restaurants on this list appear to be singular, stand-alone institutions. Whether or not the fictional fast-casual burger joint, Big Kahuna Burger — seen in several Quentin Tarantino films — fits that bill is virtually impossible to ascertain. But it wouldn't matter, because either way? We'd still find ourselves drooling over the "tasty burger" enjoyed by Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson) during a pivotal early scene in "Pulp Fiction."

While it's unclear what, exactly, Big Kahuna Burger offers beyond burgers, we don't really need to know its full menu. The gusto with which Jackson engorges on the burger belonging to "big brain" Brett (Frank Whaley) was enough to sell us on the veracity of his culinary enjoyment. And we aren't the only ones who've craved a Big Kahuna Burger outside of our television screens, with a homemade burger recipe inspired by the film appearing online in 2017 (via Esquire).

Big Kahuna Burger may not be the most inspired choice on this list, given the slightly generic burger chain aesthetic of its logo. But we won't apologize for desiring a quality, juicy burger. After all, any opportunity to dine on a juicy, well-made burger is one we're always willing to take.