Location: 2 East 90th Street (on 5th Avenue/Central Park East.)
In a recent foray to New York City’s Upper East Side, I decided to make a check online for any new places that had opened in the area. In my search, Bluestone Lane, an Australian-style espresso bar that has been opening locations throughout the city, popped up just north of the Guggenheim Museum, right along Central Park East. Having gone to high school around there, I was thrown for a bit of a loop – there was a century-old church there, wasn’t there? That couldn’t possibly be right.
Turns out, it wasn’t.
The aesthetic is a bizarre juxtaposition between traditional church architecture and modern LED ambiance lighting and decor.
Right next to the church proper, in the former Family Chapel of the Episcopal Church of the Heavenly Rest, is the named-somewhat-on-the-nose Heavenly Rest Stop. While Bluestone Lane didn’t put its spin on the café until sometime last year, it has actually been in business as a fixture since 2009. The aesthetic is a bizarre juxtaposition between traditional church architecture and modern LED ambiance lighting and decor. I found it both fascinating and, in some odd sense, a little troubling – I’m not super religious by any stretch of the imagination, but I couldn’t help but feel that some sort of sanctity was being toed across by this institution being here.
However, the Rest Stop’s mission is actually right in line with the mission of the church itself – it is designed as an instrument of kindess, openness, and hospitality towards strangers. In a time and world where coffee shops are seen as sanctuaries of sorts to pause and reflect on life (albeit in a more secular fashion), the church strives to provide a venue in which to do that to the best of their ability. And, if you happen to become curious enough to hear their story, and perhaps even some of their philosophies, all the better. Not that there’s pressure to do so – if you want to just come in and grab a drink and snack in a truly unique environment, that’s just fine.
In hindsight, I think it’s actually pretty awesome that a café like this can exist with all parties being happy with the way things are run. I have mentioned that a coffee place can be a reflection of its purveyors’ personality and sensibilities, a sort of mind palace given physical form. If that person also happens to be a child of the Lord, then why couldn’t this sort of thing be encouraged? I can certainly appreciate the amount of respect that went into the concept, execution, and operation of this location. If you’re around, I highly recommend coming by to take a look.
Until next time, take care. 🙂