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Downtown Dining
By Theresa Grimaldi Olsen

You don't have to go to Chicago or St. Louis to enjoy a fine meal, fresh air and entertainment.

Numerous downtown Springfield restaurants have outdoor tables. Relaxing in downtown Springfield can evoke images of horse-drawn buggies, men in tails and top hats and women with long gowns. The atmosphere is casual nowadays. But elegance still prevails with the backdrop a stately view of the Old State Capitol and a city richly blessed with history.

"It's wonderful downtown with the museum and other historical sites and the Farmer's Market," says Archer Bailey, owner/proprietor of Robbie's Restaurant, 4 S. Old State Capitol Plaza. "We probably have one of the nicest views in the city, right across from the Old State Capitol."

History mixes with the contemporary in downtown Springfield. In the summer, art festivals, jazz music and more liven up the heart of a city that is slowly receiving a rejuvenating makeover as young professionals convert buildings into loft apartments, thus infusing a new appreciation for the cosmopolitan life style.

Michael Higgins, owner of Maldaner's, 222 S. 6th St., says the outdoor tables are very popular, especially on weekend nights.

"When the legislature is in, it is very busy out there," Higgins says. "Young people like to be outside. It's the in thing to do in Springfield in the past few years. People see it in Chicago and New York. Springfield has gotten more cosmopolitan in the past five years."

From Robbie's, Maldaner's and Augie's and others, outdoor diners can see the live entertainment at the festivals and events in the blocked-off area of Washington Street.

"It makes for a nice environment," Higgins says.

Cathy DeLong, owner of Tea Thyme, says she is adding two more tables outside this season as part of an expansion into the former Weiner Dog. Warm weather, she says, means more customers.

"It's a little slow in the winter," she says. "It would be nice if it were busy all year long."

Another draw for an early morning crowd downtown is the Farmer's Market on Wednesday and Saturday mornings. Shoppers can stroll and select fresh fruits and vegetables and pastries to bring home.

Mark Forinash, owner of Café Moxo, 411 E. Adams, says the Farmer's Market is a big draw, especially when there is entertainment. People enjoy going to the market and then stopping at Café Moxo for a cup of coffee and a scone while reading the paper, he says.

"We are very dog friendly," he said. "We have dog treats."

Lisa Spurlin, owner of Dulce Vida Bakery and Café, says Dulce Vida means the sweet life in French and Italian.

"It's where we can live the sweet life," she says. Downtown Springfield has the sweet life in the summer, Spurlin says: "Downtown is so pretty in the spring and summer. The fresh air makes it feel so good. We can't wait for it."

Story published Friday, November 7, 2008 ( Volume 3, Number 6 )

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