Rochester Gilmore Girls popup provides fans with warm atmosphere

Hill's Kitchen blogger Beth Lindly ventured to Rochester to experience the popup of Luke's Diner.

I’ll admit it: I have not been a fan of Gilmore Girls for very long. I started watching the show during my senior year of undergrad (about a year and a half ago) and I only finished it up earlier this year. I’m sure I’ve liked it longer than some people, but still – for a show that’s been around since 1999, it took a little while for me to jump on the train. But once I did, I was all in. (Get it, GG fans? Do you get it?)

I was about as excited as a human person could be when I heard that Netflix, who picked up the series for A Year in the Lifea four-episode season to be aired next month, scouted out 250 coffee shops all over America to be transformed into the show’s classic Luke’s Diner for a day. I was less excited when I realized the nearest location to me was an hour and a half drive away, at Ugly Duck Coffee in Rochester – but I am nothing if not dedicated to TV and coffee, so I decided to make the trek.

The first thing I saw when I arrived was the iconic Luke’s sign, a yellow coffee cup, attached to the side of the building by suction cups. Netflix, who reached out to Ugly Duck through email, supplied each location with at least one Luke’s sign and a “No cell phones” sign displayed behind the counter – though of course, no one heeded it. The baristas wore plaid flannel and backwards baseball caps, the traditional uniform of Luke himself, and would scowl for pictures on command. Each paper coffee cup was printed with a coffee-related Gilmore quote, usually said by caffeine queen Lorelai herself, and patrons received sleeves advertising A Year in the Life.

Overall, the setup was less like the actual Luke’s Diner and more like a coffee shop wearing a Luke’s costume. But the patrons who passed through more than made up for it. There was a nice, caffeinated sense of community over this TV show. Gilmore Girls itself is a very comforting, warm show – one you can come back to time and time again and never tire ­– and it brings that warmness out in its fans. People came in and sat next to strangers and struck up conversations about the show. A couple drove three hours just so they could experience Luke’s in real life, even a replica.

More than one customer thanked the employees for bringing their favorite show to life.

“My sister and I watched the show all the time when we were growing up,” one woman told a barista. “It means a lot to both of us. So thank you for doing this.”

It might not have been a completely identical Luke’s setup, but the atmosphere helped transform Rochester into Stars Hollow. Strangers were friends, conversation was easy, and the coffee was flowing.

And my iced latte was excellent. Lorelai would’ve been proud.


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