The Exquisite Pain of the ‘Gilmore Girls’ Pop-Up Diner

I went to Luke's this morning (sort of)

The line at Ground Central Coffee Company was out the door, but it was easy to identify the few regulars: small clusters of men and women in business casual with ID badges bouncing at their hips here, no doubt, on a break from one of the many offices within a few blocks of the coffee shop’s Financial District location.

The rest of the line consisted of pairs and trios of girls with their iPhone cameras poised and ready to take an Instagram shot of their manicures wrapped around a coffee sleeve emblazoned: “Luke’s.”

These were the Gilmore Girls fans, here because Ground Central was one of the many coffee shops around the country that, for today only, promised the experience of Stars Hollow’s own Luke’s Diner.

Here is what that promise consisted of:

  • A cardboard cutout of Luke, the crotechty diner owner and love interest, holding up a sign confirming his general crotchetiness. (“NO MAN BUNS!”)
  • Employees in flannel and backwards baseball hats, and aprons that said “Luke’s”
  • A “Luke’s Diner” sleeve around your coffee in a coffee cup printed with a quote about coffee from the show. For some people. When I arrived at 10:30am, they were all gone, given away to fans who showed their commitment to the show by arriving earlier.

From Instagram, I’ve gleaned that some locations gave more gusto to the façade: a hanging sign outside, a copy of the “No Cell Phones” sign that Luke has behind the counter in the show.


“We don’t have any more Luke’s merchandise or coffee cups!” an employee shouted to the winding line. “They were gone by 8!”

Disappointed murmurs among the would-be diner patrons. They came all this way. I overheard a discussion among a few girls sharing one Luke’s coffee cup among them for each of them to individually take a photo with. The line dispersed like smoke, its remnants only a few of the people in business casual.

“Could I buy that apron off you?” a middle-aged man asked the boy working the register. “Or that hat?”

“Uhhh, a lot of people have asked that,” the boy said. “I’m not sure that’s allowed.”

The man glumly ordered just a small black coffee.

You could take your photo with the Luke cardboard cutout and order a coffee, but the illusion, if it had ever existed, was gone.

I love Gilmore Girls the way I love autumn: I have a vision of it, built in my head, of comfort and dried leaves and warm hats and drinking cider with people who love me while we talk much too quickly about pop culture and our love lives. Like Community and The Office, Gilmore Girls has the uncanny ability to take strange and sometimes unlikeable people and turn them into family. The fantasy of Stars Hollow is ordering coffee from someone who knows you, and your mom, and your boyfriend, and where you’re going to college, someone about whom you know all of that too. That is Luke’s Diner.

This was Ground Central. I ordered a latte and a scone, and it was the same as Ground Central ever was. You’ll be at Luke’s Diner when you and your friends order some Chinese food, pour some coffee (from wherever) into your favorite chipped mugs, and marathon a season of Gilmore Girls together on the couch. The Exquisite Pain of the ‘Gilmore Girls’ Pop-Up Diner