HYDE PARK — Plein Air Cafe, a new restaurant in the shadow of the University of Chicago, was mobbed on its first day.
“Today, we were unexpectedly pretty busy,” said Soo Choi, the owner of the cafe, which shares a building with the Seminary Cooperative Bookstore at 5751 S. Woodlawn Ave. “We pretty much sold out of everything.”
The cafe opened Monday with shortened hours from 7 a.m.-2 p.m. serving select items from a menu by Art Jackson and Chelsea Kalberloh Jackson, founders of Pleasant House Bakery in Bridgeport.
“Breakfast is something we really don’t get to do at our central location,” Art Jackson said.
Jackson said he jumped at the opportunity to try things at the cafe that aren’t in Pleasant House’s realm of savory pies and other English dishes.
“As well as an English background, I also have a French background,” Jackson said, pointing to the French open-face sandwich tartines on the menu next to the chicken balti and cold pork pies.
Jackson said he was trying to pair the tartines with salads and vegetable bowls that mimic the flavors with hearty grains instead of bread, basing both on what is fresh at the 61st Street Farmers Market.
“The whole Midwestern market approach is going to make it unique,” Jackson said. “The menu is going to roll and evolve and things will change seasonally.”
On Monday, the menu featured a root vegetable tartine with a spinach pesto and arugula and pumpkin seeds on sourdough bread.
Choi was excited about a rotating menu of coffee from local roasters, starting with a special selection from Metric Coffee Co.
“Even when you look in the bean bag, everything looks so balanced, there are no lighter beans or darker beans,” Choi said.
The cafe will be open from 7 a.m.-2 p.m. this week and will expand its hours and menu options in the coming weeks.