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Plein Air Cafe Prepares to Open After Long Delay

By Sam Cholke | January 23, 2014 8:21am
 Plein Air Cafe is expected to open next month next to the Seminary Cooperative Bookstore after nearly a year delay.
Plein Air Cafe is expected to open next month next to the Seminary Cooperative Bookstore after nearly a year delay.
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DNAinfo/Sam Cholke

HYDE PARK — A new cafe next to the Seminary Cooperative Bookstore is poised to open next month after numerous delays.

First announced in May 2012, Plein Air Cafe was scheduled to open the winter of 2012 serving European bistro fare and adventurous baked goods like bacon butterscotch and sweet potato and blueberry jam doughnuts.

“Everybody constantly every day is asking, ‘Where’s your coffee shop?,’” said Heather Ahrenholz, the interim manager of the bookstore at 5751 S. Woodlawn Ave.

Soo Choi, the manager of the Plein Air, said the cafe was delayed because of permitting and communication issues and is expected to open on Feb. 15.

She said the focus on European food like quiche Lorraine, the open-face sandwich-style tartines and other dishes remains, but the doughnuts were cut from the menu when the original chef left the project.

“The chef we were working with couldn’t stick around and wait when it was open-ended,” Choi said.

The delay has not been a curse, and Choi said she was now developing a menu with Art Jackson of the popular Pleasant House Bakery in Bridgeport.

Jackson is best known for his take on English food at his restaurant at 964 E. 31st St. Choi said Jackson would still offer some savory pies, but was moving in a direction more influenced by French and modern American cuisine.

“This is a good opportunity for Art so he can explore a different side of his culinary skills,” Choi said.

She said the cafe would put a major focus on coffee, offering a daily roast from Chicago-based Metric Coffee and rotating options from other local roasters.

Workers were at the site Wednesday working around a large communal table and a counter along the widows facing the courtyard and Robie House.

“It feels like you’re sitting in a European cafe and enjoying your coffee,” Choi said, adding that the restaurant would feature a rotating gallery of art, starting with artist Steve Eichhorn.

Workers said they had two more weeks of work, and Choi said she was currently finalizing the business license.