Churches and coffee, two powerful forces in their own right, apparently go together surprisingly well. In fact, there are several coffee shops that are actually inside churches around New York City. From cafes within cathedrals to churches within coffee shops, it’s now easier than ever to combine religion with caffeine. Many of these coffeehouse-church hybrids also serve as music venues and fuse together music, faith, and coffee, thus giving everyone something to believe in.
Read on to discover some of the best coffee shop-church combos in Manhattan and beyond.
1. The Coffee Shop in the Norwegian Seamen’s Church
The Norwegian Seaman’s Church, located at 317 E 52nd street, has its own coffee shop in the back of the sanctuary, and you don’t need to be Norwegian or religious to enjoy it. The cafe serves tea, coffee and Norwegian waffles, along with soft drinks. The waffle plus tea or coffee combination is $3, with sugar and jam as topping. You serve yourself on a fun platter with a built-in spot for your coffee cup, featuring the monogram of the church. Once a month, they serve a buffet lunch featuring Norwegian delicacies. Adding to the coziness, there’s a brick fireplace (non-functional) and a grandfather clock.
One of the best finds here is the small grocery corner filled with Norwegian staples, including chocolates, licorice, baking ingredients, jams, and packaged soups. There’s even a waffle maker.
Originally, the church was founded to provide a respite and gathering place for Norwegian sailors in the late 1800s. In 1878, the Seaman’s Mission in Bergen, Norway sent Ole Bugge Asperheim to set up a church in New York. He purchased a church in what’s now Brooklyn’s Red Hook (home now to the Robotic Church), which would house Norwegian seamen for the next fifty years. In 1928, the congregation moved to the former Westminster Presbyterian Church, on Clinton Street in Brooklyn. The church provided shelter for many Norwegian descendants during the Great Depression.
Eventually, the church moved to Manhattan, and by 1989, the church had to move to an even larger building due to an influx of attendees. They settled on two adjoining brownstones on 52nd Street, and converted them to today’s church.
The church serves as a cultural hub where Norwegian immigrants, exchange students, au pairs, and everyone in between can congregate and caffeinate.
2. Bluestone Lane at the Church of Heavenly Rest
Bluestone Lane opened its seventh location in the Church of Heavenly Rest’s chapel on the Upper West Side in 2015. Previously, the Church housed a small coffee shop cleverly called the “Heavenly Rest Stop,” but the Church eventually approached Bluestone Lane in 2013, hoping to create more of a cafe and food-service-type venue in their beautiful chapel space.
Today, the church’s Bluestone Lane is an extremely popular destination, packed with tourists and locals alike at any given moment. It’s a even a favorite haunt of Australia’s prime minister. The church’s elegant Gothic Art Deco architecture, made of smooth limestone, creates a mood of peace and tranquility, but the calm atmosphere is interrupted by the brilliant blue subway tiles that comprise the counter, adding a hint of the world outside.
The cafe offers an array of beautifully curated lunch foods, such as salads and avocado toast, as well as coffee and lattes complete with artful foam designs. With both indoor and outdoor seating, this little hideaway is the perfect place to refuel amidst the buzz of Museum Mile.
The Church of Heavenly Rest believes the cafe aligns with the Christian imperative to “practice hospitality to strangers.” By incorporating a cafe into its facilities, the church provides a sanctuary for many people who otherwise would not set foot inside. Faith, after all, does not have to be all about names and groups, and sometimes open-armed hospitality and community are the most important methods of worship of all.
3. Postcrypt Coffeehouse in St. Paul’s Chapel
St. Paul’s Chapel of Columbia University is home to one of Morningside Heights‘ most unique places to get your caffeine fix. Hidden away in the chapel’s basement is the Postcrypt Coffeehouse, a music venue that has been “folkin’ around since 1964,” according to its website. It features a variety of up-and-coming folk and acoustic acts, as well as hot drinks. The season has ended for the summer, but come fall, Postcrypt will host acoustic acts every Friday and Saturday as well as a monthly open mic night. The venue is often crowded, so get there early if you plan on going to a show!
4. The Coffee Shop in the Swedish Seaman’s Church
Like the Norwegian Seamen’s Church, the Swedish Seamen’s Church, located at 5 East 48th Street, was originally a rest stop for Scandinavian sailors starting in 1873. The neo-Gothic building that currently houses the church was constructed in 1921 and was sold to the Church of Sweden in 1978.
Today, the building has its own chapel, library, and coffee shop, which sells delicious $2 rolls and sandwiches, all of which can be enjoyed in the comfort of the elegant air-conditioned library. In the summer, it is open from 10-6 on Wednesday through Friday and 10-4 on the weekends.
5. Inside Park at St. Bart’s
Inside Park serves lunch, dinner, and cocktails, all from its location adjacent to St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church. Its elegant Byzantine decor, along with 15-foot-tall stained glass windows and decorative stenciling on the ceiling, create a particularly elegant atmosphere perfect for fine dining.
The restaurant replaced the church’s original Great Hall, but still bears vestiges of its grand past. Its original hanging fixtures still illuminate the room, and its 30-foot ceiling creates a beautiful and roomy feel. The original building was created in a neo-Byzantine style by Bertram Goodhue in 1919.
Still, the restaurant, which serves American Nouveau fare, cannot entirely fill the Great Hall. In fact, its existence is a consolation prize for the church’s lost effort to build an adjacent high-rise in the nineties.
6. The People’s Voice Cafe in the Community Church of New York
Located at 40 East 35th Street, The People’s Voice Cafe is another musical coffeehouse with a bit of an extra spark. Founded in 1979 by members of Songs of Freedom and Struggle (now People’s Music Network for Songs of Freedom and Struggle), the cafe prides itself on facilitating progressive music that advocates for a peaceful world. The cafe is not affiliated with any religious organization, despite its digs in the Community Church of New York.
7. Park Slope’s Postmark Cafe
The Postmark Cafe is an independent non-profit now, but it was started by Brooklyn‘s Church! of Park Slope. With its family-friendly vibe and bustling atmosphere, its insides feel less than church-like. It serves coffee and offers free wifi, making it a decent place to park down for a while.
The coffee shop was actually the subject of a bit of controversy back in 2005, when members of the Church! advertised a storytelling workshop at the Postmark. It turned out that the workshop was actually a Christian workshop, which angered some parents who had unknowingly sent their children. Community members later discovered that the church and coffee shop were being financed by the Orchard Group, which focuses on placing churches in so-called “resistant areas.” The story made the New York Times, partly due to the interesting questions it raised about religious freedom and spatial ownership.
The cafe hosts plenty of non-religious events, including acting workshops and barista training classes.
8. Jue Lan Club at The Church of the Holy Communion
The Flatiron District‘s Church of the Holy Communion has had many lives. In the ’80s and ’90s, it housed one of Peter Gatien’s infamous Limelight Clubs. After being convicted of tax fraud, Gatien shut down the clubs, and the church has gone through one business after another ever since. It was a mall that opened in 2010 after a $15 million renovation, but it closed after only a year. It was then replaced by a smaller collection of shops. The David Barton gym has occupied one floor for the past several years, but its lower level has constantly been in flux.
The space has even been called cursed, due to its legacy of bad luck. First it housed a gastro-pub, then a French restaurant, then a speakeasy-style bar, all of which failed to last more than a year.
In 2015, a Chinese restaurant called the Jue Lan Club decided to take its chances and opened on the bottom floor of the church. The Jue Lan is a venture of the restauranteur Stratis Morfogen, who decided to embrace the location’s seedy past rather than attempt to erase it. He designed the space after a Warhol-esque lounge, with each room having its own individual identity. He also commissioned some of Brooklyn’s most famous muralists to decorate the back alley behind the church.
A lot has changed since this humble church was the site of religious worship, but it seems that the location has been on the cutting-edge of modernity for so long that it won’t be going back anytime soon.
9. ProjectFIND Coffeehouse in the Holy Cross Church
This coffeehouse is a bit different from the rest: Project FIND‘s Coffeehouse is a senior center, located in the undercroft of midtown’s Holy Cross Church. It provides breakfast and lunch (and coffee) free for seniors five days a week, and also offers health and wellness activities. Located at 331 West 42nd Street, between 8th and 9th avenues, it also provides a Thursday meal program and a take-away meal program for vulnerable individuals.
The coffeehouse offers plenty of volunteer opportunities, which can be found here.
10. Christopher Street Coffee House
St. John’s Lutheran Church, located at 81 Christopher Street, transforms into a coffeehouse music venue every Thursday night. Concerts are held in the church’s sanctuary, where the acoustics are raised to new heights by the echoing, resonant ceiling. Every September through June, the coffeehouse hosts an open mic night on every second Thursday.
Some people run on coffee, others on faith, and many on both. Maybe the two are more related than we think. Both add just a little skip to the step and just a little extra jolt to the morning. Both have inspired cultural movements. Both have a lot of different varieties and flavors, both are focal points to convene around, and both are always there for you, providing literal or figurative shelters from the storm. After all, when there’s nowhere else to go, where else do you wind up but in a church or a cafe? Now, with the two combined, you’ll never have to choose.
For more, check out this list of 8 quirky coffee shop combinations in New York City and 10 NYC cathedrals and churches with hidden secrets to uncover.