Cafe meant to support Seminary Co-op finally poised to open

Staff Writer

The long-awaited Plein Air Cafe will open next door to the Seminary Co-op Bookstore on March 1, according to co-owner Soo Choi.

Construction on the 40-seat cafe at 5751 S. Woodlawn Ave. is complete and the necessary permits have been obtained. Finishing touches are finally being made to the eatery, first conceived of two years ago.

“It was a long, arduous process,” Choi said.

Choi is developing the cafe’s menu with Art Jackson of the Pleasant House Bakery, 964 W. 31st St. She says it will feature pastries, sandwiches, tartines and light continental breakfasts, as well as artisan coffees using locally roasted beans from Metric Coffee. Choi also plans to serve brunch on weekends and host seasonal coffee tastings.

“Food and fashion to me, it’s very visual,” said Choi, whose cafe will also include custom-made furniture and an exhibition of Chicago-based printmaker Steven Eichhorn’s work. An outdoor patio overlooking Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House will be added later this year.

Choi will own the cafe with designer Ken Heisner, a partner at Heisler Hospitality. The group’s concepts include the Sportman’s Club bar in Humboldt Park and the revamped Ohio House Bakery in River North.

Plein Air Cafe is Choi and Heisner’s second joint-effort: Two years ago, they sold the Little Branch Cafe, 1251 S. Prairie Ave., which Choi says U. of C. President Robert Zimmer used to visit regularly.

The cafe’s European flair is inspired by Choi’s time across the Atlantic working for Antwerp, Belgium-based designer Tim Van Steenbergen, during which she attended Paris Fashion Week three times. The cafe takes its name from the French term for “open air,” and according to Choi has the feel of an atelier.

“When I was in Europe I really just loved the ideal of going to European cafes,” she said.