Central Park Boathouse
The second day of the “When Harry Met Sally” tour is more conventional. Begin with an early lunch at the restaurant at the Loeb Boathouse in Central Park, but only if you remembered to make a reservation – this is a very popular spot at any time of year. In the movie, Sally dined there with two girlfriends in warm weather. At this time of year the surface of the lake in the background won’t be rippling in the breeze as it was in the movie, but the setting is lovely in all seasons.
Metropolitan Museum of Art
After lunch you can walk to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, whose Temple of Dendur is the setting for a scene in which Harry talks in a nonsensical voice about pepper, pazing spot, an atmospheric marvel in the middle of a bustling city, is an Egyptian monument that was relocated when it was threatened by the rising waters resulting from the Aswan Dam.
The ridiculous exchange in the scene, Mr. Reiner relates in the commentary, was Mr. Crystal’s invention. It may have been the first time the 2,000-year-old temple stones had heard anyone say “paprikash.”
As dinner time nears, make your way across to the west side of Central Park and Cafe Luxembourg on 70th Street. That’s the site of a scene in which Harry tries to set Jess up with Sally, but the four-way dinner (Ms. Fisher plays Sally’s friend Marie, who completed the quartet) doesn’t go as planned: Jess and Marie end up together.
Cafe Luxembourg was relatively new at the time; it opened in 1983. The patrons in the scene sport business attire, but today the restaurant has a relaxed, neighborhood feel. It’s popular enough that a reservation is recommended during prime dining time. Sally ordered grilled radicchio; on a recent visit, I had a delicious plate of swordfish.
Upper West Side Christmas Tree Shopping
Walk off your dinner by strolling north to 209 West 96th Street and the scene that goes a long way toward making “When Harry Met Sally” a holiday movie. Twice in the film, Sally is seen buying a Christmas tree from a sidewalk display at the Plant Shed here. The shop is still operating, and in the weeks leading up to Christmas it still displays an array of trees on the sidewalk in varying sizes and prices. When I visited a few weeks ago, there were also gorgeous decorated trees inside. A blue, green and silver beauty labeled “Fairy Tale” had an $850 price tag on it.
As a point of contrast, the shop’s neighbor is the Church of the Holy Name of Jesus, whose thrift shop was doing a good business that same day. I was hoping for a moment of serendipity as I browsed its collection of used DVDs, but, alas, I saw no copy of “When Harry Met Sally.” It would have cost $2.50 if I had.
I got serendipity of a sort, though, as I turned south onto Amsterdam Avenue. In the movie, the first time Sally is buying a tree, it’s with still-just-a-friend Harry. Sally is alone and looking miserable. Had she dragged her newly bought tree around the corner the day I was there, she would have come to a watering hole called Dive Bar. It had a sandwich board out front that read, “We have beers as cold as your ex’s heart.” Sally would surely have stopped in.
It hasn’t been; this is still an old-school amusement area when it’s operating. (My favorite addition: the “Coney Art Walls,” colorful murals in an outdoor food court across the street from Luna Park.) In the cold-weather months, of course, most everything is in hibernation. Luna Park’s rules of conduct, though, are still prominently posted, including this one: “Guests using profanity or abusive language, symbols or gestures will be escorted from the park without refund.” Harry and Jess may have been borderline candidates for eviction under those rules. In the scene, Harry brags about making a woman “meow” in bed.