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Prairie Espresso + Wine Bar

“Big things come in small packages,” the adage goes. Prairie Espresso + Wine Bar is both. Proprietor and local resident John Davis has created a creative coffee and entertainment space in Lake Bluff using just under 100 square feet of space tucked into a cozy downtown alley.

Prairie Espresso opened its doors in 2014, but the story starts much earlier. In 1998, the Village of Lake Bluff set out to revitalize a sleepy downtown whose biggest attraction was a gas station. As part of creating a walkable and activated downtown, planning firm Teska Associates envisioned that Lake Bluff’s central business district would be characterized by private niches to “provide an element of exploration, surprise, and intimacy” that “invite the public to wander” into spaces which provide a breath of “variety and spontaneity.”

Prairie Espresso is exactly that. John Davis has turned a snug and forgettable parking lot cutthrough into an inviting space, lush with plants and decor that spill out between downtown storefronts on Scranton Avenue. Grape vines spread across an overhead trellis for shade... they could serve other purposes, but John hasn’t quite figured out how to make wine out of them. Yet.

Something else that makes Prairie unique? Every coffee shop is a community gathering place, sure, but not every coffee shop turns into a karaoke bar by night. John hosts a summer’s worth of events using the Scranton Alley as a backdrop for food trucks and local musical talent.

Visitors can enjoy Hoagies and Hits when Waukegan’s Hoagie Hut comes to visit on Thursdays. If you’re more into Italian, you can grab a Friday night slice made on-site in a traveling pizza oven operated by Libertyville’s Pizzeria Deville. Local bands like Lake Bluff’s own Bushwood and open mics frequented by mother-daughter duets set the tone for after-work happy hours.

Just when it seems that you couldn’t fit any more people into the Scranton Alley, Prairie Espresso finds another way to bring more Lake Bluff locals together. We think that’s why Prairie’s a Third Place Champion.

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