Downtown Lake Bluff is getting a new, open-air restaurant that’s not just on Scranton Avenue, it’s in Scranton Alley. On Tuesday, April 14, the Village Board of Trustees approved a special use permit for Prairie Espresso to operate an outdoor, seasonal restaurant with seating for up to 42 people and the capability to host events and private parties.
Prairie Espresso is perhaps the smallest coffee shop on the North Shore – perhaps in all of Chicagoland and even maybe beyond that, as it is located in what was once a storage closet for the building adjacent to the alley (between its role as a closet and coffee shop, the space was home to Best Wishes Ice Cream).
There is no seating; there’s barely room for two customers to stand in front of the register at the same time while ordering coffee, cold-brew coffee, chai tea, sun tea, hot chocolate, baked goods, and/or coffee beans. Not that anyone minds; since it opened on the 4th of July in 2014, Prairie Espresso has become a popular place for locals, cyclists, shoppers and visitors to the Friday Farmer’s Market to get high-quality coffee to drink on-the-go and also, when weather permits, to enjoy at outdoor tables in the alley.
“The alley provides an amazing space in spring, summer and fall,” said John Davis, who owns Prairie Espresso with his wife Katie McMurray (he is from Seattle, she from Lake Bluff). He said food will be prepared off site and that the offerings will evolve weekly. They are working with local chefs to provide small plates – aka tapas, that will include light, fresh breads and cheeses, fruits and vegetables and smoked fish and cured meats. He is applying for a liquor license and will serve beer and wine once the paper work goes through.
As for events, Davis foresees a limited amount of seating for a private, catered dinner prepared by guest chefs and even perhaps including food trucks.
Hours of operation will be 6 a.m. to 3 p.m., serving espresso and other drinks. They’ll close for an hour and re-open at from 4 to 10 p.m., serving tapas, beer and wine with espresso, of course.