Bluestone Lane, Rittenhouse Square

The Bluestone Lane logo (a five-pointed star in a blue circle) from the window of the cafe on Locust Street in Philadelphia.Bluestone Lane is the Aussie-inspired chain which, having started in New York, made its way to Philadelphia in November 2015 and now boasts branches as far afield as San Francisco and Los Angeles. I first came across the Broad Street branch in Manhattan’s financial district. Small and cosy, this was very much a coffee shop, one of 17 that Bluestone Lane now boasts. At the other end of the scale, Rittenhouse Square is very much a café, currently one of eight such Bluestone Lane establishments, offering full table service and an Aussie-inspired all-day brunch menu, containing such Aussie standards as banana bread, avocado smash and various egg-based dishes, all backed-up by an interesting selection of cake. Large, bright and airy, it’s as far as you can get from my experience in Manhattan.

Turning to coffee, there’s a standard (for Australia/UK) espresso-based menu with a single-origin espresso, plus a blend (Maverick) that’s used in milk-based drinks, which include piccolos and flat whites alongside the more familiar (for America) cappuccinos and lattes. Pleasingly, all are served in suitably small-sized glasses/cups. There’s also bulk-brew for those who fancy filter. Having originally sourced its coffee from San Francisco’s Sightglass, it’s now all roasted in-house.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • On the corner of Philadelphia's Locust and South 17th Streets stands the Warwick Hotel (all photos from 2016 unless otherwise stated).
  • Menawhile, on Locust Street, there's an entrance to the Bluestone Lane Cafe.
  • Mind you, the main entrance (which not many people use) is from the lobby of the hotel.
  • This is the view from the Locust St entrance which deposits you in the front left corner...
  • ... while the door from the lobby is down here on the left.
  • Want takeaway? You don't need to go far. The menu's on your left and the till's opposite.
  • A panoramic view from the front. Tthe till is on the left-hand corner of the counter.
  • You also get a good view of the split of the counter from here: coffee, left; kitchen, right.
  • The bulk of the seating is at the back, but there's a small, two-person window-bar up front.
  • Another view of the window-bar.
  • Alternatively, you can sit along the kitchen-side of the counter...
  • ... although it can get crowded when busy!
  • A view of the counter seating as seen from the back...
  • ... and here when it's quiet. These days the stools extend all the way along the counter.
  • If you don't fancy the counter, there's always the window-bar at the back.
  • Meanwhile, if you want a table, there are plenty in the space between the counter and the back wall. The door in the corner is another entrace that opens onto 17th St.
  • The seating at the back, seen here from the other side.
  • Taking centre stage is this large, communal table...
  • ... although these days, the chairs have been taken off the ends to give you more room.
  • There are two tables against the back wall, and then these four along the left-hand wall.
  • Finally, the view back up the other side of the counter, back to where we started.
  • The view from the lobby doors towards the seating at the back.
  • Check out the neat armchairs by the lobby doors. There's a four-person table here now.
  • Obligatory light-fitting shot. Although there are plenty of windows, they're all quite small...
  • ... like this one. Nice logo, by the way.
  • Bluestone Lane through the looking glass.
  • Interesting decoration on the walls.
  • I also liked the flowers on the tables.
  • The coffee mneu and the retail shelves are on the left when you enter from Locust St.
  • The menu in detail...
  • .. and here in 2018. Not much has changed, although prices (and sizes) have come down!
  • The coffee used to be roasted by Niccolo and Sightglass...
  • ... with lots of merchandising for sale as well.
  • ... along with cups, both sit-in and takeaway.
  • Again, not much as changed, except that now Bluestone Lane roasts its own coffee.
  • In true Aussie tradition (at least going by Aussie cafes in London) there's lots of cake!
  • And you know it's Aussie-inspired when there are Lamingtons on offer...
  • ... as well as banana bread.
  • To business. The La Marzocco espresso machine is just by the door...
  • ...and you can get a good view of it in action from the other side of the counter.
  • There's also the obligatory batch-brewer tucked away behind the counter.
  • On my first viist in 2016, I had a split shot to try out the house espresso. Nice presentation.
  • The brunch menu was on a clipboard...
  • ... from which I selected the Aussie Baked Bean Eggs.
  • Fast forward two years and the menus are now printed up like this...
  • ... with the drinks on the other side.
  • The Baked Bean Eggs are no more, replaced by Red or (seen here) Green Baked Eggs.
  • I paired this with a flat white made using the Marverick blend.
  • Lovely latte art.
  • I rounded things off with a double espresso of the single-origin, a Colombian Hulia.
  • It was the perfect end to the meal.
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Located just east of Rittenhouse Square, Bluestone Lane is off the lobby of the Warwick Hotel, which occupies a large plot on the corner of Locust and S 17th Streets, with its entrance on S 17th Street. While Bluestone Lane is set up to handle customers entering from the lobby, there are also two direct doors to the street, which most people seem to use. These are in opposite corners, one on Locust Street, the other on S 17th, which explains the café’s Locust Street address.

The layout’s rectangular, short side facing Locust, long side running down S 17th. Although this gives Bluestone Lane windows on two sides, they are all fairly small, with just two windows on Locust St and three on 17th. Fortunately, there are plenty of spot lights to supplement the natural light.

I’m going to call the short side on Locust Street the front of Bluestone Land, with the right-hand side along 17th St, while the entrance from the hotel lobby is half-way down on the left. The space is dominated by an island counter, with coffee on left, kitchen on the right. If you’re taking out, the till is at the top (front) end of the left-hand side of the counter, but if you’re staying in, there’s table service, so grab a seat.

There’s plenty to choose from. A series of window-bars run along the Locust & 17th St sides, while there’s also seating at the counter along the (right-hand) kitchen side, and all along the back. However, the bulk of the seating is in a generous space between the counter and the back wall. The centrepiece is an 8-person communal table, a pair of two-person tables against the back wall itself. The right-hand wall holds the final part of the window-bar (six stools) while on the left-hand side there’s a pair of armchairs, a four-person table and then a wooden bench that runs to the back wall with four two-person tables.

The décor is, as my friend Greg put it, very blonde, with off-white painted walls/ceiling and light wooden furniture, which matches the counter. Ironically, given its unashamedly Aussie roots, the Rittenhouse Bluestone Lane is the one place, in all my recent American travels, that most made me feel like I was back in London, which says a lot about the Aussie influence on the UK coffee and brunch scene.

I first called into Rittenhouse Square in 2016, not long after Bluestone Lane had opened, when the coffee was being roasted by Nicolette, with the single-origin coming from Sightglass. Back then I tried a split shot of the house blend, finding the espresso to be quite dark, but excelling in milk, where the sweetness milk took the edge off the coffee. On my return, I went for a flat white, made with the Maverick blend, a smoother, mellower coffee, which was the perfect start to my day.

However, Bluestone Lane is as much about brunch as it is about coffee. In 2016, I had the Aussie baked beans with eggs: a skillet of beans, topped with two poached eggs and a tiny bit of toast. When I returned this year, it had been replaced on the menu with Green Baked Eggs and Red Baked Eggs. I had the green, which were excellent, while the accompanying toast was of more generous proportions, although I’d learnt my lesson from the previous visit and also ordered an extra slice.

I finished with a large double-shot of the single-origin espresso, a Colombian Hulia. This was quite a light roast, with a pleasant acidity, nicely rounding off the meal.

1701 LOCUST STREET • PHILADELPHIA • PA 19103 • USA
https://bluestonelane.com +1 718 374 6858
Monday 07:00 – 18:00 Roaster Bluestone Lane (espresso + bulk-brew)
Tuesday 07:00 – 18:00 Seating Tables, Window-Bars, Counter
Wednesday 07:00 – 18:00 Food Breakfast, Brunch, Sandwiches
Thursday 07:00 – 18:00 Service Table
Friday 07:00 – 18:00 Cards Amex, Mastercard, Visa
Saturday 07:00 – 18:00 Wifi Free (with code)
Sunday 07:00 – 18:00 Power Yes
Chain Regional Visits 12th February 2016, 5th March 2018

Liked this? Then don’t forget to check out the Coffee Spot Guide to Philadelphia for more great Coffee Spots.


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