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Do you remember Luke's Diner from Gilmore Girls? I don't. I know; I am a monster. I confess I grew up treating Gilmore Girls as white noise when I caught its reruns on ABC Family. People love this show, as evidenced by the fact that a sequel in the form of a miniseries is arriving on Netflix next month. On the occasion of the 16th anniversary of the show's premiere, Netflix has taken over 200 coffee shops across America to open pop-up "Luke's Diners."
For the uninitiated, a primer: Gilmore Girls is a beloved-in-almost-all-except-heretic corners of America show, and the characters are known for speaking very fast. Luke's Diner is a fixture of the show's fictional Connecticut setting of Stars Hollow. It is owned by a man named—get this—Luke Danes, the on-and-off love interest of the elder of the show's two titular "girls."
A coffee shop located few blocks from my apartment nestled in the armpit of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, The Bean, is participating in this stunt today. I know this activity is not really made for me, a Gilmore Girls agnostic, but I decide to go anyway.
I arrive at 7:39AM, a pointedly foolish decision. It is a good half hour after the cafe opened. There's a mustard yellow Luke's sign hanging atop the cafe's facade. Its line stretches outside the store and down half the block. I am simultaneously bemused and stunned before I join the line myself for a few minutes. A man passing by asks me why there's such a crowd. I tell him it's a "Gilmore Girls tribute thing," and he rolls his eyes. I want to cry out that I am here for journalism!
I wait three minutes. One more person, a middle-aged woman, gets behind me before I lose patience. I am already exhausted. Besides, I haven't really earned my place in that line; I hear murmurs of people further up the line saying they've been camping out since 6:30 a.m. Stunning. They belong here, and I do not—journalistic dedication be damned. I vow to return after rush hour.
I arrive back at my beloved Bean at 9:50, and the line is now contained in the store. Beautiful; I can stomach this. I enter and there's a standing sign, constructed of cardboard, in Luke's likeness. He is clad in flannel and a snapback, and he has certain demands of me, outlined in jarring typeface. No texting while ordering. No taking pictures of food. No man buns. No headphones. If I can hear your music through your headphones, this piece of cardboard asks me, why are you wearing headphones? All baristas are wearing hats emblazoned with the Luke's logo. The atmosphere conjures up gauzy memories of the aughts. Celine Dion, LeAnn Rimes, Sheryl Crowe hum in the background—ah, yes, the sirens of my childhood!
I ask for a coffee and my quietly aggrieved barista puts a teal sleeve with Luke's logo on it. I suspect I'm the first customer he's seen in the past hour who hasn't flung some jarringly specific Gilmore Girls trivia at him. My "cuppa," as the kids say, renders me jittery and near-catatonic. No matter! I sit at the cafe for thirty minutes observing the clientele, which has shifted in the two hours since I've visited, now skewing towards young mothers with strollers—the kind of people I imagine grew up with this show in real time when it began airing on the WB in 2000. A few regulars, seemingly unaware that their beloved cafe has transmogrified into a Netflix ad with square footage overnight, enter and quickly exit upon seeing the crowds.
I do not mean to have extrapolated a "lesson" from this trip of mine, but if I must provide a takeaway, here it is. This marked the first time I'd seen my neighborhood, filled with perennially sleepy and unenthusiastic and joyless souls like me, come alive. Who knew that Gilmore Girls had such lasting power that it could coax New Yorkers out of their stupor? I don't know Luke's Diner, really, but this pop-up makes me wish I did.
Did you visit your nearest Luke's Diner today? Let us know in the comments!