Hyde Park Shows No Sign of Slowing With the Arrival of Plein Air Cafe & Eatery

Any question as to whether Hyde Park has the wherewithal to become the hot new 'hood is rapidly being debunked by a seemingly never-ending stream of chef-driven spots headed to the south side enclave. Far gone from the days when Hyde Park was typified as nothing more than a collegiate stronghold, concepts such as A10, Yusho, The Promontory, and Sugar Hills Bakery have either come already or are on their way, bolstering the neighborhood's foodie cred. The latest development comes by way of Kevin Heisner, a name you've probably etched into your brains at this point thanks to his prolific participation in Heisner Hospitality, a group responsible for such spots as Sportsman's Club, Lone Wolf, Bangers & Lace, Nightwood, and Trenchermen. So apparently while everyone else sleeps at night, Heisner just works on new projects. And to great success, I might add, which bodes well for his next endeavor: Plein Air Cafe & Eatery.

Plein Air Cafe & Eatery
(Plein Air Cafe & Eatery)

Plein Air is set to open this month in the University of Chicago Hyde Park campus, right alongside the historic Robie House. A partnership between Heisner and Soo Choi, the French atelier-inspired cafe and eatery brings rich coffee, food, and toasty environs to the revered area. As at Lone Wolf, where food is curated by Pleasant House Bakery, Plein Air will also feature the culinary stylings of the Bridgeport haunt, including Royal Pies, tartines, and meatloaf. There will also be wholesome grain bowls, salads, pastries, and desserts such as sticky toffee pudding and something called boozy biscuit trifle, which... yes. Just yes. In the a.m., breakfast fare includes continental breakfasts, mascarpone-stuffed French toast, and quiche Lorraine. Coffee-wise, Plein Air will focus on a rotating array of craft roasters.

As the airy name implies, Plein Air will boast a spacious, inviting, open air setting stocked with 40 seats, an industrial motif, wire glass, custom furniture, a maple bench, and a glass partition dividing the cafe from the back of the house in the cozy 1,500 square foot space. Choi is also working to curate a rotating roster of artists, showcasing their work to enliven the space even further. The inaugural artist is Stephen Eichhorn, a Chicagoan whose work includes paper collages of foliage.

- Matt Kirouac