Search for your location!

Hollywood Diner from “Sleepless in Seattle”

Jul 24th, 2017 | By | Category: Movie Locations

The Hollywood Diner from Sleepless in Seattle-1170344

Another day, another diner from a Meg Ryan movie!  Unlike the Port Café, the Wilmington, California eatery that portrayed East Coast establishments in both When Harry Met Sally . . . and A Few Good Men, today’s locale can actually be found close to the Atlantic – though its name would have you believe otherwise.  I’m talking about the Hollywood Diner in downtown Baltimore, which played the Capital Diner in the 1993 romcom Sleepless in Seattle.  To discuss the restaurant’s history, though, we have to go back to the filming of a much earlier movie, 1982’s Diner.

When writer/director Barry Levinson started pre-production on his semi-autobiographical coming-of-age drama Diner, set in 1959 Baltimore, he sought out to find a coffee shop similar to the one he hung out in during his youth for the shoot.  His former stomping ground, the Hilltop Diner, which largely inspired his story, had been turned into a liquor store years prior, so filming there was not a possibility.  After failed negotiations with the owners of the Double T Diner in Catonsville, Maryland, Levinson wound up coming across a vacant plot of land in Charm City’s Canton neighborhood that overlooked the famed Domino Sugars sign and thought it would make the perfect setting for his movie.  All he needed was a diner.  So he headed to a diner graveyard in New Jersey and quickly set his sights on a streamlined silver structure that formerly served as Long Island’s Westbury Grill.  He leased the 1954 café from the graveyard, transported it to the plot of land in Canton, and proceeded to shoot Diner there, dubbing the fictional eatery “Fells Point Diner.”

Screenshot-005394

Screenshot-005390

Both the interior and exterior of the diner were used extensively in the shoot.  (And yes, that’s a very young Kevin Bacon in the second screen capture below.  <3)

Screenshot-005395

Screenshot-005391

Though some sources claim that Bendix Diner in Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey was used for the filming of Diner’s interior scenes, that information is incorrect.  The establishment does bear a considerable resemblance to the café where Eddie Simmons (Steve Guttenberg), Shrevie Schreiber (Daniel Stern), Boogie Sheftell (Mickey Rourke), Timothy Fenwick Jr. (Bacon), and Modell (Paul Reiser) hung out in the flick, but upon close inspection, it is obvious that the two are not one and the same.

Screenshot-005392

Screenshot-005397

When filming on Diner wrapped, the 48-foot by 17-foot restaurant was shipped back to the diner graveyard in New Jersey, which would have been the end of the story had then Baltimore mayor William Donald Schaefer not stepped in.  Shortly after the movie premiered in early 1982, Schaefer implored local citizens to help return the structure to Charm City, putting purchase and transport of the eatery on his civil “wish list.”  WBAL Radio heeded his cry, bought the restaurant from the graveyard and gifted it to Baltimore.  It was transferred to its new home at 400 East Saratoga Street in the heart of downtown in January 1984.  At the time, the diner lacked a bathroom and a kitchen, but locals donated time and money to spruce up the structure and transform it back into a functional restaurant.  It opened later that year as The Kids’ Diner.  Run by city schools and the mayor’s office, the site served as both an eatery and a vocational training center for area students.

The Hollywood Diner from Sleepless in Seattle-1170328

The Hollywood Diner from Sleepless in Seattle-1170337

Plagued by financial woes from the start, the restaurant was taken over by the Chesapeake Foundation for Human Development in 1991 and renamed “Hollywood Diner.”

The Hollywood Diner from Sleepless in Seattle-1170352

The Hollywood Diner from Sleepless in Seattle-1170332

The foundation couldn’t quell the café’s money problems, though, and, after undergoing a series of different management organizations and restaurant iterations, the site finally shuttered in 2012.  Though there were plans to turn the property into a food truck park, using the interior of the diner for seating, it does not appear that the project ever took of.

The Hollywood Diner from Sleepless in Seattle-1170339

Despite the longtime closure, the diner still stands intact today, thankfully.

The Hollywood Diner from Sleepless in Seattle-1170350

The Hollywood Diner from Sleepless in Seattle-1170330

I was floored when I walked up to the structure and saw that the interior was visible through the front windows!

The Hollywood Diner from Sleepless in Seattle-1170334

The Hollywood Diner from Sleepless in Seattle-1170340

At the beginning of Sleepless in Seattle, Annie Reed (Meg Ryan) stops for tea at the diner while on a Christmas Eve road trip to her fiancé’s parents’ house.

Screenshot-005374

The Hollywood Diner from Sleepless in Seattle-1170349

It is amazing to me how little the restaurant has changed since filming took place over 24 years ago.

Screenshot-005378

The Hollywood Diner from Sleepless in Seattle-1170342

Hollywood Diner has appeared in several productions over the years.  In fact, Barry Levinson has quite a soft spot for the place, having utilized it in two of his other movies.  In 1987’s Tin Men, the restaurant serves as Ernest Tilley’s (Danny DeVito) regular breakfast joint.

Screenshot-005398

Screenshot-005399

And Van Kurtzman (Adrien Brody) also hangs out there in Levinson’s 1999 drama Liberty Heights.

Screenshot-005385

Screenshot-005387

The director even named the eatery “Fells Point Diner” in the movie, as a nod to his 1982 film.

Screenshot-005384

Though some websites state that the diner also appears in the 1990 Levinson-directed drama Avalon, in the scene in which Michael Kaye (Elijah Wood) watches as a restaurant is dropped into place on a vacant lot, that information is incorrect.  As you can see below, the eatery in Avalon looks nothing like the Hollywood Diner (not only do the windows not match, but neither does the general shape of the structure).  Not to mention that by the time Avalon was shot, The Kids’ Diner had already been installed at its downtown location and in full operation for over six years.

Screenshot-005388

Screenshot-005389

In the Season 2 episode of The Wire titled “Duck and Cover,” which aired in 2003, a drunken Detective James “Jimmy” McNulty (Dominic West) heads to the Hollywood Diner for coffee and winds up going home with his waitress.

Screenshot-005379

Screenshot-005380

Hollywood Diner provided the setting for the 2017 short film The Dark of Night, directed by Robin Wright.

Screenshot-005381

Screenshot-005383

The restaurant also reportedly appeared in an episode of Homicide: Life on the Street, though I am unsure of which episode.

The Hollywood Diner from Sleepless in Seattle-1170338

The Hollywood Diner from Sleepless in Seattle-1170353

For more stalking fun, follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Los Angeles magazine and Discover Los Angeles.

The Hollywood Diner from Sleepless in Seattle-1170354

Until next time, Happy Stalking!  Smile

Stalk It: Hollywood Diner, aka Capital Diner from Sleepless in Seattle, is located at 400 East Saratoga Street in Baltimore.  The restaurant is currently closed.

106250

One comment

Leave a comment »

  1. Kira 7 says:

    Aww when I saw “Wilmington, Ca” I was ready to head out there! But it’s closer to my former home in NJ! Shoot! Was ready to order a sloppy joe in a basket with fries!!


Trackbacks / Pingbacks