I’ve lived next two diners which have claimed to be the inspiration for Suzanne Vega’s “Tom’s Diner.”
Currently, my apartment is around the corner from Tom’s Diner in Prospect Heights. This diner has no actual connection to the song, it’s just a restaurant with the same name. On the other hand, Tom’s Restaurant in Morningside Heights is just blocks away from Barnard, where Vega and I went to college. Vega has stated this restaurant was the inspiration for the song.
Both of these diners attract a strange demographic of tourists. People line up around the corner, in fact, up to my very apartment building, waiting for Tom’s in Brooklyn. And it’s true, their pancakes are delicious, and if you’re ever backed-up or hung-over, their coffee and sausage can be a big help.
Still, the wait for Tom’s surpasses the wait for equally priced and more interesting restaurants in the neighborhood. And I think this is because people in Brooklyn can get tired of fusion cuisine, and occasionally want a meal that reminds them of the food that is making everyone in their hometown fat. Incidentally, my window overlooks the backyard of Tom’s, and my room smells like bacon right now.
In the case of the fan base of Tom’s in Morningside Heights (where the pancakes are average, though the milkshakes are pretty good), the exterior of restaurant was used in Seinfeld, and quite simply, people miss the 90s.