(Forgive me for this somewhat belated post regarding the Halloween episode of 30 Rock. I’m still catching up after our fall break.)
Despite some recent blacklash from critics, and the fact that it has featured an overreliance on meta-humor, a drawn out debate over the “real America,” and maybe too many inside NYC jokes, the new season of 30 Rock has been as brilliant and hilarious as ever. While I agree that the lack of real emotional attachment to the characters prevents the show from surpassing The Office as the best overall comedy (nay, show?) on television, 30 Rock is still a showcase for impossible sharp acting and writing, and probably offers the highest laugh per minute (lpm) ratio of any prime-time comedy. However, this is yet another post for another day. Today we’re not going to talk about the relationship between Liz and Jack, the disappearance of Rachel Dratch, the curious case of Lonny Ross or the parade of guest stars that has more than once elicited unfair comparisons to Will & Grace. No, today we’re going to talk about Dairy Barn.
In the episode from 10-29, entitled “Stone Mountain,” Jack and Liz travel down to Georgia to discover a new talent for TGS, a cast member who would speak to the kinder, simpler, “better” people of middle America. Instead, they find Jeff Dunham, and his crude ventriloquist’s dummy. But before they can get to the Laugh Shack (after it switches over from the Chuckle Hut), they stop at a Southern quick serve chain named “Fatty Fat’s Sandwich Ranch.” However, those viewers with a quick eye and a Northeast heritage immediately recognized the edifice as the great Long Island institution known as Dairy Barn.
Dairy Barn, if you’re unfamiliar, is a chain of drive-thru convenience stores with 46 locations throughout Long Island, easily identified by its fake silo, red barn exterior and twin drive-thru lanes. When I was a child my mother used to frequent the store, passing through mostly for milk, although I also have a vague memory of asking for and receiving Hostess powdered donuts. However, while the franchise is still in business, I feel like the stores are not as popular as they should be, especially in a society that these days seems predicated more on convenience and the availability of cupholders than life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness (in fact, for my undergrad application to Princeton I wrote a short essay on this very theme. Needless to say, I was not asked to matriculate. I will, however, try to locate said essay). Reached for comment, my mother said, “I guess I used to go, just for milk. I guess it’s good for when you have kids, it’s like a drive-thru. And I think a lot of people might use it for… [voice lowering to a whisper]…cigarettes. But I don’t know if they sell them there,” (A quick perusal of their product listing shows that yes, they do offer cigarettes. As well as beer, which seems a bit odd for a drive-thru, but I imagine it’s probably one of their top-sellers). But I digress…
I took it upon myself to try to identify exactly which Dairy Barn franchise 30 Rock retooled into a Fatty Fat’s Sandwich Ranch location. Since 30 Rock shoots at Queen’s Silvercup Studios we just did a quick Google Maps search of nearby Dairy Barn locations, and approximately 17 miles east of the studios, at the corner of Route 25B and Franklin Ave in New Hyde Park, it appears that we found our Fatty Fat’s Sandwich Ranch. Thanks to Google’s (creepy) Street View feature, you can be the judge:
And from a slightly different angle:
Now, obviously they threw on the Fatty Fat’s logo and added appropriate menus, and maybe even a fresh coat of paint, but it looks like a match. Granted, all Dairy Barns look-alike, but in comparing the New Hyde Park location to other Dairy Barns in close proximity this looks to be the most similar, considering the orientation and surrounding environment. It’s a bit hard to tell in these snapshots, but if you click on the photos for a closer look you’ll see congruent tree patterns in the background, as well as a street light in the same location. Below I’ve lightened the 30 Rock snapshot and circled the street light.
What does this tell us? Really, nothing. But it’s always fun to play detective.
Then again, the lesson of this episode was that there is no “real America,” it’s all the same because we’re all different, and that all of God’s children are terrible. So, perhaps then, it’s fitting that the Southern sandwich shack that fed Liz Lemon rancid meat was, in real life, a Northeastern drive-thru that sells milk, cigarettes and beer to anyone with a car and a valid ID. Guess Liz was right, we’re not that different after all.
(However, as far as I know, Dairy Barn does not offer sandwiches made with chuckle.)
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