I Visited Every Luke's Diner Pop-Up in New York City Before Realizing Gilmore Girls Is Bad

Art by Bobby Finger.

According to Lorelai of the soon-to-be resurrected Gilmore Girls, there’s no better place for a cup of coffee than Luke’s Diner (it’s been previously proven that she just has terrible taste in coffee), a one-of-a-kind restaurant run by Luke, the lovable curmudgeon who desires nothing more than his business, the occasional free afternoon for fishing, and Lorelai’s pussy.

But for one day and one day only, Luke’s Diner wasn’t so one-of-a-kind. On October 5, Netflix converted coffee shops across the country into Luke’s Diner pop-ups to promote their Gilmore Girls revival (coming in November). Fans were invited to stop on by for a free coffee and to pose with a cardboard cut-out of a stern-looking Luke—or, if they were very lucky, Scott Patterson, the actor who plays Luke on the show.

Not free.

There’s a thing we bloggers like to do called stunt journalism (like gonzo journalism, but dumber) where we intentionally go out to experience a Specific Thing and then write about it. Please believe that I’m not knocking it—it’s enjoyable to do and usually leads to a funny article—but it is typically easy work (for easy hits) and marketers (like the ones working for Netflix) know that. That’s why if you google “luke’s diner netflix” right now, you’ll find dozens of bloggers who wrote about going to Luke’s pop-up to drink coffee like a Gilmore.


I did the very same thing, but my version has a twist: rather than visit one Luke’s Diner pop-up, I would visit every Luke’s Diner pop-up on the island of Manhattan (and one in Brooklyn). Why? Because, like the cafe’s namesake, I am a person who values hard work and doesn’t mind putting in a little bit of elbow grease every now and then. (Also because my boss told me I could do it.) What I didn’t factor in, though, was how the day would slowly drive me insane.

I began my morning at The Bean in Williamsburg where, sure enough, there was a Luke’s sign outside and all of the employees were wearing Luke’s Diner hats and aprons. There was no line, so it was easy work to get to the counter and ask for my free coffee. It was then that I was informed that the free coffee only went to the first 250 people. Still, I was told I could have all the Gilmore Girls branded coffee sleeves that I could carry, so I guess that was nice.


Having bought my coffee like a goddamn fool, I sat down at a table to scrawl some notes. Here they are:

  • Lorelai isn’t a great mom
  • I think Lorelai is a bad person??
  • She seems like the type who “forgets to vote”
  • What was the bathroom like at Luke’s
  • Fucked up that he only had one employee [Editor’s Note: He definitely had a couple employees.]

Yes, I have several controversial Gilmore Girls opinions that I’m happy to share them with whoever whenever.


Finishing my coffee, it was time to move to my next Luke’s location, another branch of The Bean in the East Village. There was no line here either, which was nice because it allowed me to talk to the barista for a little bit. According to her, there actually was a line—it just happened to form at 6:30 am when all the Gilmore Girls fans were raring to go get their caffeine fix on Netflix’s dime.

Now I don’t want to tell anyone how to live their life (I’m not Lorelai, after all), but I will say that a cup of coffee only costs $1-3, an amount I’d gladly (and did) pay to wake up at a reasonable hour and still see all the Luke’s Diner features that these cafes had to offer. But clearly not everyone feels the same way! According to the Barista, one of her coworkers was offered $200 for his Luke’s hat, which—other than “I’m Team Dean”—is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard, an opinion my new barista friend agreed with.


I next moved to another Bean, this one in Union Square. This Luke’s pop-up was much like the other Luke’s pop-ups—no free coffee, baristas in uniforms, and a bitchy sign listing all of Luke’s rules:

  • NO texting while ordering
  • NO taking pictures of food
  • NO headphones
  • If I can hear your music through your headphones, WHY ARE YOU WEARING HEADPHONES?

The sign was actually a good reminder—not to not wear headphones or cut-off my man bun, but of what an asshole Luke is. Look deeper than the Gilmore Girls’ snappy dialogue and you’ll find a man so unhappy and filled with rage that his ex had a daughter and never told him about it because she felt the kid would be better off without her father. Sure, he’s a real man’s man, outdoorsy with a strong work ethic, but he’s also gruff and unable to sincerely express his emotions. I’ll add that he really strikes me as the type of person who’d say “I’m fine with people being gay! I just don’t want to see it!”

Gender normative MUCH?

At this point, I needed to take a break to cool off my temper (just kidding, I had three cups of coffee and desperately needed to poop), so I swung by the office, did my biz, and loudly played the Gilmore Girls theme song—one of the worst theme songs in television history (sorry, Carole King)—for my colleagues.

“Really seems like you should be getting back on road,” they kindly suggested after I played it for a second time. So nice of them to be mindful of my time!


I then headed uptown to 52nd St.’s Ground Central (ya get it?) Coffee Co. where I encountered my very first (though short) line. Outside, there were white bitches snapping photos everywhere I looked—and I am allowed to say that because I am white and a bitch.

It was around this stop on the tour that I fell into a long—some might say too long—contemplation over whether or not I actually liked Gilmore Girls and the answer, I realized around the time that I arrived around my next cafe near the U.N., is only “sort of.” To be clear, I have seen every single episode, some more than once. I know and have opinions on the all the characters (Jess is better than Dean; Logan was too good for Rory; Emily Gilmore, Richard Gilmore, Paris, and Sookie are great, everyone else is okay), I’m interested in their backstories, and appreciate the intricate world building that show creator Amy Sherman-Palladino put into Stars Hollow.


But there’s also another part of me that grits its teeth while watching it. I mean, GOD: so many of the people in this small town are awful—and not in an interesting self-reflective way—and I’m not sure why I’m supposed to be charmed by them. (Yes, I’m talking about Luke, Lorelai, and Rory during her Yale years.)

Don’t mind my bitterness, though. I was tuckered out, having already walked several miles and knowing that I’d have to hoof several more to get to the remaining Luke’s. I was also starving at this point because, despite being called “Luke’s Diner,” most of these pop-ups didn’t sell substantial food. Speaking of, did you know that coffee is a natural diet suppressant? Curious then the two caffeine-addicted Gilmores are always going on about how much they love to eat...


(From my notes: “With all that delivery, what is the Gilmores’ carbon footprint?”)

Is this hat worth $200? Maybe!

Soon, though maybe not soon enough, I was back on the train heading to yet another Bean. I didn’t go inside this one. Sorry, I couldn’t, mostly because I didn’t really feel like it anymore. (It’s nice that my grandpa spent his whole life working in a paint factory so that I could be here complaining about visiting too many coffee shops.) That said, I did remember this great story a friend who worked there once told me about how men would always come in and use the cafe’s desktop to look at porn. Just like Kirk at Luke’s!

I’d finally reached the end of my crawl, the last stop being the West Village coffee shop Local at 144 Sullivan St. Except I misread it as 114 Sullivan St and spent about 20 minutes pacing back and forth in front of a stately private residence, wondering what went wrong—both in this moment and in my life in general. (Answer: Everything.)

You’re not my dad, Luke!

But I did finally make it to Local—located in Jess Mariano’s counterculture stomping ground of the West Village (home to celebrities Sarah Jessica Parker, Julia Roberts, and more!)—and found... nothing. Well, there was a cafe. There were people inside the cafe. But there was no Luke’s sign or cut-out. No fans taking photos. Just a simple business serving simple customers their simple coffee drinks.


“I finally get it,” I whispered to Amy Sherman-Palladino in the heavens (note: Amy Sherman-Palladino is very much alive). “Gilmore Girls isn’t about the bells and the whistles. It’s not about Netflix pop-ups or promotions. It’s about community.”

I reached into my bag to get my phone so I could text my coworkers that I was heading back to the office, but something sharply snagged on my finger. It was the Luke’s Diner coffee sleeve and it had given me a paper cut. Fuck this show.

Managing Editor, Jezebel

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