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Thirsty moviegoers leaving the Lake Theatre after a late show got a new option on Tuesday.
Lake Street Kitchen + Bar has opened at 1101 Lake St., taking the place of Cosi, which closed in March. Rachel Dennis, a longtime Oak Parker and former Bar Louie exec, plans to serve up a seasonally based food menu, accompanied by a choice of 30 wines or 12 microbrews they have on tap.
Dennis, 39, said she wanted to give Lake Theatre patrons another option for post-movie drinks, other than driving downtown or traipsing over to Madison Street in Forest Park.
"This way, if you parked at the Lake Theatre, you can just cross the street," she said.
They'll stay open seven days a week, serving lunch every day at 11 a.m., and closing at midnight weekdays, and 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. If all goes smoothly, they'd like to eventually open a couple of hours earlier on the weekend to serve brunch.
The "American eclectic" menu will make use of seasonal ingredients from local sources, according to the chef, Jason Kurosaki, who most recently worked as head baker at Avec. Offerings include paninis stuffed with pork belly or Nutella and flatbreads topped with chorizo sausage or eggplant. Dennis said they took influences from several countries, hoping to create a "melting pot" menu. Main dishes include half a roasted Amish chicken, or Moroccan-spiced country ribs with apples and parsnips.
"We have a lot of great ethnic restaurants, but not a lot of great global cuisine, where you can get something of everything," she said.
The space, which Dennis said she designed herself, is decked with walnut tables and slate floors and walls. A lengthy bar seats about 22 and offers views of the wood-burning oven or a few TVs adorning the wall (she doesn't want Lake Street Kitchen to be a sports bar). Communal tables have been placed near the front window facing Lake Street, and a chalkboard behind the bar displays the day's specials.
Dennis told Wednesday Journal in July that she was "disappointed" to hear that a burger chain was going to take over this high-traffic corner of Lake and Marion after Cosi restaurant closed. So she contacted the landlord about the space, and when the deal fell through with Johnny Rockets, she took the leap, signing a 10-year lease in May, just before leaving her job with the corporation that owns Bar Louie.
Pat Zubak, executive director of the Downtown Oak Park, hopes Lake Street Kitchen will help add more nightlife to the village's main shopping district. Zubak said she has "high hopes" for the new restaurant.
"The interior build-out is beautiful, and it appears that she knows what is needed here and is responding to it," Zubak said.