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The Real-Life Restaurant That Inspired Seinfeld's Chinese Restaurant Episode

As Jerry Seinfeld and his three friends navigate dating, overstepping parents, and close-talking colleagues, "Seinfeld" has largely been hailed as a "show about nothing." However, there's one episode that arguably cemented this status, one that chronicles a mundane yet infuriating task we've all experienced — waiting for your table to be ready in a crowded restaurant.

In Season 2, Episode 11 ("The Chinese Restaurant"), Jerry, Elaine Benes (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), and George Costanza (Jason Alexander) decide to grab dinner prior to seeing "Plan 9 From Outer Space," but this is easier said than done. As host Bruce (James Hong) seats table after table, including some guests who arrive after them, the trio becomes understandably frustrated.

Despite being one of the most memorable "Seinfeld" episodes, NBC was hesitant for it to air. In a behind-the-scenes interview, network executive Warren Littlefield revealed, "I read that script, and I went, 'Nothing happens! Am I missing pages? Literally, they go to the restaurant, they stand around, they can't get a table. Nothing happens. Are they trying to save money?' I didn't get it."

Alexander, who hailed the episode as the "defining beginning of the anarchy of 'Seinfeld,'" said of NBC, "They thought this was a betrayal. They thought this was sacrilege." This simple plotline by Seinfeld and the show's co-creator Larry David caused quite the uproar at NBC. But how did they come up with the idea in the first place?

A long wait at L.A.'s Genghis Cohen inspired the Seinfeld episode

In a behind-the-scenes interview, Jerry Seinfeld revealed that the idea for "The Chinese Restaurant" came while he and Larry David were in a similar predicament at a well-known establishment — Genghis Cohen, located in the Fairfax District of Los Angeles, California.

"We were waiting for a table, and I remember him writing the idea down," said Seinfeld. David added, "I thought this could be a pretty funny idea, waiting in real-time. You get 23 minutes to do the show; let's just have them wait 23 minutes for a table."

Genghis Cohen was founded in 1983 by the late music producer Allan Rinde, who loved Chinese food. According to his obituary, after learning from chef Sophie Wong, Rinde crafted a Jewish-inspired Chinese cuisine, which would become the heart of Genghis Cohen's menu. Over the years, the restaurant has become quite the hot spot for celebrities and tourists alike thanks to its unique food and drink offerings, in addition to live music. Because of its popularity, even big names like Seinfeld and David often have to wait their turn.

Artie Wayne, a friend of Rinde's who brainstormed the clever name of the restaurant, reflected on their visit in a blog post: "Not a single table top was available for them and, as it turned out, even moving them to the 'front of the line' still forced them to wait almost half an hour to be seated." Thankfully, the pair turned the frustrating experience into a positive one. Wayne said, "[T]hey managed to find humor in the situation, giving birth to one of the series' most acclaimed episodes."