In 2009, the SyFy Channel made a huge change at San Diego Comic-Con. No longer did the giant, amorphous, purple, blob-shaped booth grace the convention floor at San Diego Comic Con. Instead, Syfy decided that they wanted to create a more immersive and interactive experience for the fans. The Hard Rock Hotel had just opened two years earlier and while Nobu and Pink Berry (RIP!) were delicious, it was really Maryjane’s diner that offered up a fantastic opportunity. Fans attending San Diego Comic-Con in 2009 found they could visit Café Diem- transported directly from SyFy’s popular show Eureka!
With menu items plucked directly from the universe of Eureka, it was hard not to expect the sheriff or of one the other characters to pop in through the front door. In the meantime, it was a great place to plot out the rest of the day’s panel schedule or, better yet, people watch. Maryjane’s, no matter the theme has one of the BEST people watching outdoor eating spots. This is a prime view of any zombie march, Sharknado shenagigans, families in themed costumes and just the general flow of Comic-Con. You never know who might walk by!
Café Diem returned in 2010 and 2011 but was reinvented in 2012 as the Defiance Café. Syfy stuck with this universe through 2013. Once more, Maryjane’s went all out. They don’t just call it a theme- they live and breathe it. The place is wrapped inside and out, the chairs are branded, the table tops reflect the theme. There are immersive experiences, interactions and pens. Themed pens! Napkins, coasters… you name it. This year, guests who walked in the door were reminded that if they wanted to eat, they needed to stow their weapons. Defiance was both a game and a show, so Maryjane’s transformation added a special layer of immersion for Defiance fans.
For 2014, the SyFy mini-series Ascension took over the restaurant, with an epic rebranding of a retro, spaceship-themed interior. (Little did we know we actually never left Earth.)
In 2015, Syfy and Mary Jane’s kept it fresh and fans were introduced to The Expanse. Some of the hands down best writing on television (and the books! Trust me, read the books!) graced the walls of the café. This year, fans could see the belt and asteroids as the exterior wrap– and even an explorer climbing across the asteroids of the Belt. Inside, as always was a treat! Guests checked in at the UN desk and were able to dine in the hallways of the Roci. Props from the show were on display and guests could down load a free VR activation to complete their experience.
Before Mary Jane’s shifted gears away from SyFy, 2016 showcased the intricate show Incorporated. Set in dystopian Milwaukee, the café embraced the corporate future. The exterior wrap was eerily bleak, depicting briefcase holding shadows on their way… somewhere. The lobby welcomed guests with the cold cooperate feel of the company Spiga Biotech- all to give the café the right atmosphere. Once again, interactive and VR components made the time in the café fly by, as did the delicious food!
2017 brought a change in direction for Maryjane’s, which kept it’s name but featured an immersive café experience that was more focused on gaming and interactive VR games. SkyDance Interactive featured their game Archangel. The feel this year was very different and was more subdued, like a standard wrap for restaurants in the Gaslamp during Comic Con. But, don’t worry, they still took care of us at Maryjane’s.
The Good Place came whooshing in for 2018 and 2019. Who doesn’t want to eat at The International Hole of Pancakes! The waiters and waitresses’ uniforms for the 2019 event reminded us with pain in our hearts “Holy Shirt! It’s the Final Season!” It breaks our hearts still.
Let’s talk about the menus! Maryjane’s and the Hard Rock never once skimped on the graphic design for the menus! Fans could order up specials branded to their favs, reflected in the theme of the year. In the early days, Café Diem actually had a mixed bag, menu items were geared to their shows including Caprica, Eureka, Stargate: Universe, Warehouse 13, and others. The Defiance Café menus featured the languages from the show- with different covers for each year of Defiance Café. Each menu for each year had thoughtful touches and elements that reflected the show. While the core menu never changed, the design and time that had been put in was obvious! Plus, if you’re gonna have a salad at San Diego Comic-Con, it’s way more fun to order a Cylon Caesar Salad.
Who knows what could have been for the Cons-that-weren’t, AKA SDCC 2020 and 2021. I’m guessing that they would have continued to carry on one of the best annual traditions at San Diego Comic-Con. Let’s all make pancakes at home, put costumes on your partners, cats, kids, plants… and pretend we’re having a late night grilled cheese sandwich at Maryjane’s.