TV characters have different ways of dealing with stress. Some of them react with frustration, with anger, or with punching people. A more peaceable breed of TV citizen, however, responds to tough times by retreating and eating. Whether it’s a beloved greasy spoon or a favorite breakfast nook, plenty of TV characters ease their woes by returning to a familiar food sanctuary and piling on the calories. We’ve compiled some of TV’s most memorable food sanctuaries—there are six in all, so don’t fill up on the first course.
This post is sponsored by The Jim Gaffigan Show, which premieres July 15 at 10 p.m. Eastern on TV Land. Inspired by Gaffigan’s real life, The Jim Gaffigan Show explores one man’s struggle to find a balance between fatherhood, stand-up comedy, and an insatiable appetite. The show stars Jim Gaffigan (naturally), Ashley Williams, Adam Goldberg, and Michael Ian Black. For more, check out the official show page at tvland.com.
In the first two seasons of House Of Cards, Freddy’s BBQ Joint is Frank Underwood’s go-to spot when he grows weary of pulling political strings. Not only does the authentic barbecue fare remind Frank of his South Carolina roots, but it makes Frank feel like he has a reliable friend in a city where nobody can be trusted. The eponymous Freddy opens the restaurant anytime, day or night, if Frank has a hankering for freshly cooked meat and companionship—although on the latter count, we learn in later episodes that Freddy might not be quite the bosom buddy that Frank likes to imagine.
Leslie Knope has campaigned to improve the health of her fellow Pawnee residents on many occasions, but she draws the line at reducing her own intake of sugar and carbs. Leslie needs her waffle fix from JJ’s Diner, preferably with double helpings of syrup and whipped cream (although in particularly desperate moments, she’ll wolf down plain waffles with no complaints). For her, JJ’s waffles are the ultimate comfort food, and the restaurant where they’re served is her cherished refuge from the selfish, complaining residents she is sworn to serve.
The inscription on Michael Scott’s favorite mug may claim that he’s the “world’s best boss,” but the actual world often sends him a different message, as his efforts to inject fun into Dundler Mifflin meet with consternation from his employees and superiors alike. Michael can always recapture his inner peace, though, at his favorite “neighborhood” haunt, Chili’s. The chain eatery is the site of The Dundies, Michael’s self-produced awards show, and he brings a client there in the episode “The Client” to successfully close a big deal. Michael may be unable to avoid the dull realities of his job most of the time, but at Chili’s, work is bliss.
The Max isn’t just a diner where the teens of Bayside High hang out. It serves as a place where Bayside teenagers can work through their stresses and social dramas away from the authority figures (read: Mr. Belding) who rule on school property. It’s more than just a restaurant: In the diner’s very first appearance, it turns into the site of a dance contest hosted by Casey Kasem. The Max is where Zack, Slater, Kelly, Jessie, Lisa, and Screech experience some of the most significant moments in their young lives. The reason? There’s a kind of otherworldly magic about The Max. Is that because of its magician owner, also cleverly named Max? Only the respective Maxes know for sure.
Where would Tony Soprano be without his precious meat market? A much-beloved local establishment serving coffee and deli-style sandwiches, Satriale’s gives Tony not only a place to meet up with his compatriots but also a storefront table that isn’t subject to the prying ears of an FBI wiretap. Plus, unlike the Bada Bing, there isn’t the worrisome possibility of dealing with drunk strip club patrons. It’s a liminal space of both comfort and danger: Satriale’s is the location of Christopher’s first murder and Big Pussy’s Christmas appearances as Santa Claus. The Pork Store is a place for inner-circle business, but you’d be waved away if you tried to walk up and talk shop to Tony. It gives the Soprano crime family a place to be both sides of themselves—and some pretty decent espresso.
When the residents of Twin Peaks need to get away from it all and unwind with a damn fine cup of coffee and a slice of cherry pie, they come to the Double R. Stepping through its doors is like stepping back in time to a simpler era, one in which your worries are never as bad as they otherwise seem. Shelley the waitress, or maybe Norma Jennings, is there with a smile and a friendly meal. You can have a troubled mind, a troubled heart, or a plan to cause trouble. It doesn’t matter, as the diner isn’t a place of judgment. There are dates, dances, and laughs—and sure, maybe the occasional slap or heated word, but life doesn’t stop at the doors of the diner. It just gets a little better. And, okay, yes, a little odd, too.