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Léa Oak Park first thoughts...

I decided to try Oak Park's new "locally sourced, authentically French" eatery--called Léa--for lunch today. It's a great concept, but was a bit of a rough experience.

When you walk into the restaurant, the line was almost out the door. (A great problem to have!) In the end, it would have been a benefit to have someone greeting guests and explaining both the process and that they were struggling. There are rows of menu cards on the wall, very artistic/rustic and cute, which are divided into 3 rows. Sandwiches on top. Salads in the middle. Tartines and kids meals on the bottom. There are quiches of the day and soups. Plus a little case of bakery items.

Making your way to the registers, there are computers for self-serve order input...something I'd rather not have seen. Each meal comes with sides, different bread types, etc. and it's just easier to tell a cashier. Plus, one of the ongoing problems was that you're asked to take a number from the counter and input it to your order on one of the last screens. But after the numbers were gone, people seemed to be reusing numbers and creating confusion about order delivery to tables. Sliding your credit card was easy enough and a receipt popped out as it should. Most items on the menu are between $7-10 with a sandwich probably likely to set you back $8.50-9.50.

Food was coming out from all over. Desserts separate from other food. Drinks separate from other food. Random salads and soups wandering around the dining room homeless. Whole orders never showing up. I got mine To Go. While I waited, there was a conversation in French with the owner from one guest about missing food. They were trying to recover but not quite successful.

My tomato and mozzarella was good enough. The bread was decent, but the portion sizes maybe are on the small side for what we're being asked to pay. They do serve beer and wine and the atmosphere is clean and friendly...if it's not too crowded.

Probably the best thing I ate was the apple turnover. Flaky crust with a perfectly browned color. Not too much cinnamon. Just the right texture for the apple filling. Sweet but not too sweet. Perfect.

I would definitely be willing to give Léa another try, but it has a few petite problems to figure out. Overall, I love the idea of a crisp, bright, fresh French food experience. I'll be curious to see how the public reacts. My preference would be for things to run a little smoother, perhaps a little more food for the money, and a quieter atmosphere to enjoy a meal.

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