Jerusalem Cafe plans Lake Streetopening

Owner will open new cafe on Westgate just 6 months after Jerusalem's opening

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By DREW CARTER

Jerusalem Cafe, the Mediterranean restaurant at 1110 Westgate, will move to Lake Street in early November, opening in the former Panda Express space.

The new space will triple the restaurant's size, said owner Mousa Al-Sheikh.

"It's definitely organized better. The whole setup is better," Al-Sheikh said.

Jerusalem Cafe will remain open at its Marion Street Mall location until the move is finalized.

Al-Sheikh said two major reasons drove the decision to move. First, for the increased traffic?#34;vehicular and foot?#34;on Lake Street. Al-Sheikh said he likes that the new location, 1030 Lake St., will be right next to the Lake Theatre, and that approximately 13,000 cars drive past the site each day.

Also, he didn't want to move too far from the original location, which he and family members opened in May.

"We just wanted to build on the success by not moving too far," he said.

A lesser concern, Al-Sheikh said, was the ongoing discussions of the redevelopment of the downtown "superblock," which may include making major changes to Westgate and Marion Street.

With seating limited already, the Westgate space relied heavily on outdoor seating, Al-Sheikh said, something that could be lost if the street is opened to vehicular traffic as proposed in recent plans.

However, "it wasn't a major factor for the move," Al-Sheikh said.

Indeed, the restaurant owner will not abandon the current location. His lease will continue there, and he plans to open a Mexican to-go style restaurant, because of the store's limited seating capacity. The idea came from the fact that his brother recently sold a Mexican grocery in Chicago that had an attached taqueria, or informal to-go prepared food stand.

The grocery's new owners plan to replace the restaurant with a liquor counter, so the brothers plan to relocate the operation in Oak Park when Jerusalem cafe moves from its Westgate space. Al-Sheikh hopes the Mexican restaurant will open the day after the move to Lake Street.

He said both restaurants should be able to offer outdoor seating. No name has been chosen for the Mexican restaurant.

A representative from Panda Restaurant Group Inc. could not be reached before press time.

Willis Johnson, owner of the Lake Street space and the Lake Theatre, said the Rosemead, Calif.-based Asian food eatery did renew its lease, which ended Sept. 30.

"We feel really good about it," Johnson said in a voicemail recording. "We were sorry to see Panda leave, but Jerusalem Cafe has a great reputation, so we're happy to have them as a tenant."

CONTACT: dcarter@wjinc.com

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