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Plein Air Cafe & Eatery
Food for thought in Hyde Park.

Between the scholarly crowd at U of C and the artists making boundary-pushing work in nearby studios, the South Side is home to a surplus of brainpower these days.

Want to feel smarter by association? Take your laptop and soak up the creative vibes at two new cafés in the area??.

Plein Air Café & Eatery in Hyde Park is next door to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House and the famous Seminary Co-Op bookstore--meaning the bright, minimalist spot has intellectual cred right off the bat. Order the elegant continental breakfast ($8, above) and a cup of six-spice, house-made chai ($4). Then bury your nose in a book while you eavesdrop on conversations about the theories of everything. 5751 S. Woodlawn Ave.

Currency Exchange Café in Washington Park is a hip storefront gem presided over by Theaster Gates, the famous Chicago artist who has been lauded by everyone from Stephen Colbert to The New York Times. The menu is a mix of comfort and health foods--think biscuit sandwiches ($8) and veggie tacos ($3 each). There’s also a library of books to browse and a long communal table where you'll feel inspired to exchange ideas. Smart! 305 E. Garfield Blvd.

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