It was a rainy day taking the train up to New York City to experience some “Friends” nostalgia. The show, which premiered in 1994, was celebrating its 20th anniversary and to celebrate, Eight O’Clock Coffee created a pop-up coffee shop to mark the milestone and commenorate. One shop was open for a limited time from Sept. 17 to Oct. 18.
Before ultimate “Friends” fans could experience the café, however, they had to wait in line for longer than even most tourist attractions take. Arriving in SoHo, the café was in plain sight. What was not in plain sight though was the multitude of people lining the streets, waiting to get the chance to get inside. From the back of the line, it was a three and a half hour wait just to get to the front. Workers who were maintaining the lines donned Central Perk shirts with the words, “How you brewin’?” on the back.
While waiting for the line to move more than 10 feet, devoted fans sung classic “Friends” songs, such as “I’ll Be There For You” and “Smelly Cat” under the scaffolding of the SoHo sidewalks. The sun had come out and it now felt more like a fall day.
Once inside the small café, the senses were bombarded: the smell of Eight O’Clock Coffee’s limited edition Central Perk roast permeated the room, the voices of the many tourists all crammed into the small space filled the room, everyone searching to capture the perfect picture of all the “Friends” memorabilia.
There were many elements that brought back feelings of nostalgia. Photos from all 10 seasons covered the entirety of one wall, well-known props were in full supply as well including the Gellar cup, an outfit from every main character, Pat the dog, Monica and Chandler’s wedding vows and even the iconic orange couch that the cast spent many hours sitting and chatting. There was a lot to take in among props, souvenirs and memories of Rachel, Monica, Phoebe, Chandler, Joey and Ross.
The pop-up coffee shop was great for all “Friends” super fans. But not all was perfect by any means.
Inside, space was tight. Once you got over to the orange couch, a heightened feeling of hurriedness to make room for the next person waiting to get a photo on the couch loomed. Another thing that was a little disappointing was the area where the coach was set up. Since it was a temporary location, a background photo of the window seat where Lisa Kudrow’s character Phoebe would sing was used instead of adding to the overall atmosphere with something a little more realistic.
Once you got your photo taken, it felt as though you were being rushed out. The last of the prop seen right next to the exit was the yellow peephole frame encased in plastic—a clip from “Friends” being played on top of it.
On the street, people complained of the taste of the free coffee the café was giving out, while people wanting to buy souvenirs had to wait in a separate line out front and go back in before buying anything. This was a bit inefficient, especially after waiting for over three hours just to get inside.
These minor nuisances did not take away from the overall experience though.
Within its last few days of being open, there was another big “Friends” announcement. It was announced that all 10 seasons of “Friends” was coming to Netflix and creatively used Central Perk to promote the news.
In its promo, James Michael Tyler, who played Gunther the barista in the show, channeled his character once again. The Rembrandts played their song “I’ll Be There For You” while Tyler, seemingly annoyed at the song he knows all too well, eventually begins dancing along.
The pros really outweighed the cons in this visit to Central Perk. It was a fun experience for all fans who were there for the show in its 10-year run and it did not disappoint. A general feeling of nostalgia filled the taxi heading back to Penn Station.