This summer, from the large windows of his retail biz and bistro, Eric Larson, founder and co-owner of Marion Street Cheese Market, hopes to see a crowd of hungry diners eating alfresco on his new, enlarged patio dining space.

Larson relocated and expanded his retail enterprise to the intersection of South Boulevard and Marion Street in 2008.   He  says the wider sidewalks  in the Pleasant District will enable him to  seat up to 55 patrons outside this summer, as compared to the 14 or so seats set up previously.  The same menu, Larson adds,  will be offered in and out.

Across the street, and a few steps west on South Boulevard, is LaBella, which was purchased last year by Joe Oliverio and his family. Oliverio says he plans to take full advantage of the extra space with a covered and open air outdoor dining option.  Outside they will serve smaller plates and, of course, the gourmet pizzas for which they are known.

On the corner of Marion and Pleasant is Poor Phil’s, and its long-time proprietor, Dennis Murphy.  Since early June, he and his mirthful wait staff have been counting down the days to when they could  shift  back to servicing customers sans yellow construction vests. But, enthuses Murphy, the wait, and disruption, will have been worth it, considering the new and improved streetscape that will now be in place.

Since his pub already offers alfresco dining, he isn’t planning anything groundbreaking. “I feel that if I utilize all the new sidewalk space, we would lose a bit of our intimacy, so we will not expand as much as we could on the south Marion Street side.”

Instead, Murphy will begin serving up breakfast all day long — Eggs Benedict, sizzling skillets, pancakes and other traditional breakfast fare.  The rest of the menu will stay on course, with specialty beers, burgers, soups, salads and so on.

”We were always the ugly step child on the other side of the tracks, as compared to the north side of Marion Street,” says Oliviero at LaBella.  “All of the vendors are excited.  Now with the lighted and more appealing viaduct, and our new streetscape, we have come to a level playing field with the businesses up and down Lake Street and North Marion Street, and I think people are going to see that South Marion Street has a lot to offer.”

Pleasant District Opens!

This story is part of Pleasant District Opens!, a special advertising section celebrating the opening of the Pleasant District on South Marion Street in Oak Park. Click here to view the entire Pleasant District section.

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Deb Quantock McCarey

Deb Quantock McCarey is an Illinois Press Association (IPA) award-winning freelance writer who has worked with Wednesday Journal Inc. since 1995, writing features and special sections for all its publications....

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