Henry’s Cafe is bringing breakfast, coffee and more to the Esdohr House of Jefferson Park this summer


JEFFERSON PARK – A cafe and community center are set to open in Jefferson Park’s namesake park later this summer.

Henry’s Cafe will open inside the Esdohr House, 4820 N. Long Ave., on the east side of Jefferson Memorial Park. Neighbor Ashley Romero, who partnered with the Jefferson Park Advisory Council to activate the space and restore the building, sits behind the cafe.

Romero signed a contract with the council last week and is awaiting inspections, permits and construction from the city. But with little work to do, the mother of four hopes the process will go smoothly and she can open Henry’s Cafe in July.

“I want to embrace the community and [make this] a Jefferson Park corner of people doing things: art, income, community. … I’m all for it,” Romero said.

The cafe will offer breakfast items — including pastries, croissants, breakfast sandwiches, smoothies, coffee and acai bowls — though Romero said menu details are still up for grabs. being finalized.

Romero, who has a background in culinary studies and has worked in the hospitality industry, also wants to bring snow cones, a lunch menu and pop-up events to the cafe to showcase talent in the food and beverage world. .

Romero wants to use his cooking skills to connect the neighborhood, wake up the park, and meet his neighbors.

“I want to be part of the neighborhood [and] activate the park with events,” she said. “I want it to be a meeting place, a coffee destination, a place for art.”

Romero envisions Henry’s Cafe having an interior wall for local artists to showcase rotating works and serving as a meeting place for children and their parents due to its central location in Jefferson Park and proximity to the newly upgraded playground and pool.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
The playground at Jefferson Memorial Park on May 17, 2022.

The Jefferson Park Advisory Council is working with the Park District to add outdoor seating, a patio and new bathrooms to the cafe building, council chairman Lionel Rabb said.

The cafe will also donate a portion of its revenue to the council to help with programs and events, Rabb said.

Rabb and Romero said the cafe will use local ingredients and work with area farmers and business owners to support the local economy.

“We want to source locally — we’re making it really hyperlocal,” Rabb said.

Henry’s Cafe is part of the council’s mission to bring more awareness and activity to the park. The council was formed in 2012 to organize community events, raise funds to organize innovative programs, and preserve Esdohr House.

The cafe’s name is a tribute to the man who helped establish the Jefferson Park area. The 140-year-old house, which was built in 1882 and was commonly referred to as the Craft Shop, was once the home of Henry Esdohr, who was the area postmaster and treasurer of the first school board in the township of the state during the 19th century, according to the Northwest Chicago Historical Society.

The house was originally on Higgins Avenue where the country house now stands, according to the historical society. It was moved to its present location in 1921 and it has been preserved as part of the neighborhood’s history. In 2006, Jefferson Memorial Park and the Esdohr House were listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The cafe’s upcoming opening is well-timed with improvements to the park, which included a new grass playground using $500,000 in city tax increase funding funds. Expiring city money was also used to repair drainage on the lot and some of the park’s sidewalks and surrounding streets, Rabb said.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
The sidewalk is repaired next to the Jefferson Memorial Park pavilion on May 17, 2022.

Rabb said the improvements are “not everything” the council wanted but were necessary and better than nothing. Council members hope to attract more people to the park and participate in events now that summer has begun.

A family day with outdoor games is planned for Sunday, a songwriters workshop is planned for July, and the council is working on movie nights, arts events and more. The Jefferson Park Farmers Market also returns to the park this season.

“We’re happy with the improvements and happy to see people coming back to the park,” Rabb said. “We want to encourage people to reach out and volunteer.”

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