Oak Parker Rachel Dennis rose from waitress, to lawyer, to executive for a national restaurant company. Now, she plans to fulfill her lifelong dream, by opening a bar and restaurant in downtown Oak Park this summer.
Dennis, 39, granted her first interview last week to talk about Lake Street Kitchen + Bar, after the village approved her liquor license on June 20. She was "disappointed" to hear that a burger chain was going to take over the high-traffic corner of Lake and Marion, after Cosi restaurant closed in March. So Dennis inquired to the landlord about the space, the deal ended up falling through with Johnny Rockets, and she snatched up the storefront by signing a 10-year lease in May.
She just left her job as vice president of the corporation that owns the Bar Louie chain, since BL Restaurant Operations is moving to Texas. That turn of events set her up to chase her dream.
"It had always been in the back of my mind that someday I would love to own my own restaurant," Dennis said, later adding, "It just seemed like the right time. I didn't want to do it when I was 60."
They've set about transforming the Cosi space into a bar and restaurant, described as "rustic but classy," using metal, glass, wood and stone, decorated with natural colors. Lake Street Kitchen will have a bar that stretches north-south, the length of the establishment, and an open kitchen that allows customers to see their food being prepared.
The business will likely start off being open for lunch and dinner during the week, and breakfast, too, on weekends, with a close time of 2 a.m. all week. Their menu will change by the seasons and use ingredients from local farmers.
Offerings include a design-your-own frittata option, roasted in their wood-burning oven; tapas plates, such as pork belly and potatoes; and paninis, like apple and brie or organic peanut butter and jelly.
Dennis plans to have a full liquor bar that focuses on local beers and wines. She hopes to open Lake Street Bar Kitchen, 1101 Lake, in August. A website is in the works at www.lakestreetkitchenbar.com.
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