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April 4, 2014

Caffeinated aesthetics: Plein Air Café opens

For months, the sign in front of the building located at 5751 South Woodlawn Avenue, which houses the Seminary Co-Op Bookstore, hinted at the existence of the Plein Air Café. However, it was only on March 24 that the café opened to the public.

According to Plein Air co-owner Soo Choi, the gap between the opening of the recently-relocated Co-Op and the opening of Plein Air was not a strategic maneuver but rather had to do with the process of meeting food licensing requirements.

“The University wanted us to open at the same time as the bookstore did, but books and food are two completely different businesses. We needed the proper food licenses in order to open; it just took this long to acquire all of the necessary administrative approval. That is why we opened when we did,” Choi said.

In addition to serving various café beverages, including coffee, tea, and espresso, Plein Air features table service, full meals, and ambient music. However, Choi sees Plein Air as distinct from existing on-campus and local cafés not because of any one of these features, but because the entire operation is driven by the owners’ vision of the aesthetics of the dining experience.

“The difference between this café and others in the area is that [Plein Air] is conceptually well–thought out at every point. It’s not just that it isn’t dingy and there is no patchwork furniture; the entire experience is designed to be cohesive at every point. Food, atmosphere, everything,” Choi said.

The Plein Air Café is open on Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., and on Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Plein Air does not accept Maroon Dollars, the currency issued by UChicago Dining.

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