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Hunters Point Cafe Aims to be Neighborhood Gathering Spot

 Faye Hess and Jonathan Stirling opened 51st Bakery and Cafe, serving baked goods and sandwiches.
51st Bakery and Cafe Opens in Long Island City
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LONG ISLAND CITY — Faye Hess and her husband Jonathan Stirling aren't newcomers to the Hunters Point food scene. 

The couple ran their first cafe, LIC Brick, in Hunters Point about 15 years ago, when the neighborhood was very different than it is today — before it was a hotspot for young families, dotted with luxury high-rises.

"With all these new buildings here, there's a lot more people," said Hess, a longtime baker and chef. There were fewer strollers back then too, she added. 

"Now it's kid central," she said.

Hess closed LIC Brick to teach cooking classes for several years in Italy and France. But now she and Stirling have launched their second eatery in the neighborhood — where they're also longtime residents — opening 51st Bakery and Cafe three weeks ago at 5-33 51st Ave.

Hess says their goal is to create a gathering place that locals can call their own.

"Now, I think even though there’s all these people, it's harder for them to find community," she said, saying the neighborhood is in some ways a "bedroom" community, with residents spending more time in Manhattan than where they live.

"I wanted to have a place where people can really just come, get to know each other, somebody that they might not have known before," Hess said. "That's what's important to me — to make people feel like this is their place."

The cafe opened with a menu of pastries and baked goods, like house-made raisin and lemon zest scones or pumpkin cranberry date pecan muffins, paired with coffee from Intelligentsia Coffee.

Croissants hail from Amy's Bread, which bakes its goods nearby, and also provides the bread for the cafe's sandwiches, which are made with cheeses and cured meats from Murray's Cheese.

The lunch menu changes daily but includes options like an organic meatloaf sandwich with roasted onions and tomatoes, or roast turkey sandwich with cranberry and stuffing.

"Really classic, American stuff," Hess said.

The couple plans to expand soon to offer dinner, which will be served "supper club" style, taking reservations for one seating a night featuring a different set menu, Hess said. Possibilities include dishes like homemade gnocchi and roast pork loin with roasted tomatoes.

They also plan to start serving beer and wine in the future, she said.