Couple returns to open LIC cafe after spending 15 years in Europe

By Bill Parry

The owners of Long Island City’s newest café are no strangers to the neighborhood.

Faye Hess and her husband, Jonathan Stirling, opened 51st Bakery and Cafe 15 years after they closed LIC Brick Co., a Hunters Point eatery that is now Casa Enrique, so they could move to Europe.

“We sold the place and moved to Italy and France to teach cooking classes, but now my son is school-aged and we wanted him to grow up in Queens,” Hess said. “We loved Italy, but I thought he’d learn more here because of the diversity of the people representing the entire world.”

The neighborhood they returned to is completely different than the one they left.

“When I first lived here the City Lights building was only four stories high,” she said of the first luxury high-rise on the waterfront. “Now there’s a whole new skyline and the population is completely different, too.”

“There are so many more families now and we want this café to be a gathering spot. I want to know everyone’s name and everyone’s story,” she said.

The eatery, at 533 51st Ave., has been serving Intelligentsia Coffee and pastries and baked goods with a daily changing lunch menu made from locally sourced ingredients. All sandwiches are served on Amy’s Bread using cheese from Murray’s Cheese, two companies in Long Island City.

Starting Wednesday, 51st Bakery and Cafe will offer a dinner menu.

“Italian, French, homey American comfort food like roast loin of pork and herb stuffed chicken, we’re all over the map,” Hess said.

The couple is still waiting for a license so they can serve beer and wine.

The café has seating for 50 plus a garden area in the back.

“It’s a challenge to bring back a sense of community that used to be here, plus I’m 50 now, so it’s funny to see how young everybody is in Long Island City now,” Hess said.

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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