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Lathrop House Café, 26 Lathrop Ave., opened for a “sneak peek” over the weekend. The former Blue Max opened its doors Saturday and Sunday in anticipation of officially opening on Aug. 17.

“This place has been shuttered too long,” said owner Patrick O’Brien. “We want people to know this is real. This is happening.”

The restaurant is 90 percent done according to O’Brien. Inviting people visit the shop before it fully opens was designed to build anticipation for the official opening of the breakfast and lunch café/private event space. Approximately 80 guests stopped by for the sneak peek and many were former Blue Max customers.

“We had a constant flow of people in the café,” said O’Brien. “They were all vocal, curious and extremely supportive.”

While Lathrop House Café is still a work in progress, it is easy to see O’Brien’s vision for the house turned café. The side yard is home to a future bocce ball court and there are plans for a BBQ pit in the backyard as well. O’Brien intends to tent the deck in hopes of keeping outdoor seating available well into autumn.

“I was so excited to see that the back patio is all set up and that the back yard has been strung with party lights and is in the process of becoming an additional seating area,” said River Forest resident and sneak peek attendee, Karen Skinner. “The staff was so friendly and happy to see the customers that stopped by, the interior has been freshly painted, new art and fresh white counters. Most important though, my cappuccino was perfect!”

During the sneak peek guests enjoyed free Back of the Yards coffee and purchased specialty drinks and snacks like cinnamon rolls, egg bites and miniature Danishes.

O’Brien is also busy training his core staff of three. He intends to hire more employees eventually but wanted to keep the team small at the start. The three baristas are busy learning to make a proper latte and look forward to connecting with the Forest Park and River Forest community.

“We are looking to grow organically,” said barista Bobby Duff.

“As our connection as a team grows it will impact the atmosphere here and spread to the customers,” said barista Cali Carlson. “We want to build relationships with our customers.”

With the past weekend’s sneak peek behind him, O’Brien will close the restaurant to the public and get his kitchen in order. When the cafe reopens the menu will cover all the breakfast basics like omelets, skillets, pancakes and waffles while supplementing with global fusion specials.

O’Brien anticipates officially opening Lathrop House Café on Aug. 17.