There’s no better argument against a Gilmore Girls pop up cafe than the simple fact that Luke Danes would never stand for it. The surly owner of Stars Hollow’s “Luke’s Diner” would certainly go ballistic over his name and likeness being used for a major national ad campaign, let alone one as hastily assembled as Netflix’s promotion for their upcoming revival series, Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life. On Wednesday, October 5, sixteen years to the day that Gilmore Girls premiered on the WB, 200+ coffee shops nationwide were minimally transformed to bear some resemblance to the Gilmore’s favorite eatery. I braved the long line at one of the locations so you wouldn’t have to and you owe me big time.
Luke’s popped up today in a variety of third wave and not-so-third-wave coffee shops across the nation, and the immediate problem with this concept is that Luke’s was not a coffee shop. Though perhaps best known for what Lorelei Gilmore deemed the best coffee in Stars Hollow, Luke’s is a classic small town diner that serves eggs and bacon in the morning and hamburgers in the afternoon and evening. The “best coffee in Stars Hollow” is pre-ground Hill Bros. This is coffee from a can; it definitely isn’t a seasonal offering from Miami’s Panther Coffee made with a Kalita brewer, and hell would freeze over before you would see a Luke’s Diner in New York City. But in the interest of keeping as close as possible to an authentic Luke’s experience, and quickly ruling out a four-hour journey to Hartford, CT so I could at least be close to Stars Hollow, I journeyed just a few blocks from my home in Manhattan to The Bean on Broadway and 12th near Union Square for an unpretentious coffee experience that Luke might be able to stomach.
Serving Gillies Coffee made in a well-worn Bunn brewer and espresso drinks made on an automatic machine, The Bean prides itself on being your neighborhood coffee shop. Its community feel and lack of fussiness over coffee preparation helped lend a slightly Luke-ish vibe, but that’s about as close as it gets to having any connection to the curmudgeonly object of Lorelei Gilmore’s occasional affection. As I stood in line for over an hour, not even knowing what Gilmore Girls themed drink or merchandise would be waiting for me at the end, I got a full sense of the lower Manhattan cafe and just how much Luke would despise it. The menu is sprawling, featuring a variety of coffee beverages and smoothies and a heavily advertised new acai bowl. Of particular note is its enormous pastry case with quiches, pastries, and twenty different kinds of brightly colored macarons. Luke’s downhome American cuisine would have no room for anything remotely French and for all of the homemade pop tarts available, there were no doughnuts, a Lorelei favorite.
The transformation into Luke’s was unremarkable. A few signs, including a “No Cell Phones” admonishment, hung on The Bean’s brick wall. A shoddily made cardboard cutout of Luke stood to the side of the register, toppling over upon several eager selfie-takers. The staff of The Bean wore Luke’s caps and aprons. After an hour of standing in line, I finally reached the counter to receive my bounty: a small coffee served in a paper cup with a sleeve advertising the upcoming Gilmore Girls revival series. “Look under the sleeve for a surprise!” the friendly barista told me. A quote was stamped on the cup. It read:
“You like coffee?”
“Only with my oxygen.”
-Lorelai (S01. Ep05)
An hour of my life for a paper cup and sleeve. An hour where I could’ve gone to a diner for a righteously bad cup of Hill Bros. An hour where I could’ve been reading smutty Luke/Lorelei fan fiction. An hour where I even could’ve watched one of those terrible episodes from the dreaded post-Sherman-Palladino Season 7. All I was left with was a cold feeling that Stars Hollow was even further out of reach than before. I stared at the lifesize floppy cardboard cutout of Luke on my slow walk out of The Bean. His crooked smile seemed forced. His eyes were slightly sad as if to ask, “What has been done to me? What have I done?”
Eric J. Grimm writes about coffee's place in pop culture and media for Sprudge.com. Read more Eric J. Grimm on Sprudge.
Photos by Sam Penix for Sprudge Media Network.