Bar Louie Hyde Park location of the Restaurant America chain, where the extensive menu of better-than-average bar food ranges from a variety of greasy appetizers to po’boys, wraps, and burgers to salads, tacos, and pizza. Reservations are accepted prior to 9 PM only; the kitchen’s open till 1 Sunday through Friday, 2 on Saturdays.
Harold’s Chicken Shack No. 14 Though our resident Harold’s expert Mike Sula, who surveyed the whole chain a few years ago, says it’s far from the most distinguished of the franchises, the Hyde Park Harold’s has its devotees, especially among U. of C. students. Cash only; delivery available.
Nathan’s Chicago Style and Taste of Jamaica In addition to its namesake Chicago-style hot dog, Nathan’s serves a garden-style dog (Chicago-style plus lettuce, green peppers, and cukes), all the regular items you’d expect at a stand (fries, burgers, sandwiches, baskets), a grab bag of items ranging from tacos to chili mac, and a heap of Jamaican specialties, including jerk chicken, curried goat, patties, callaloo and codfish. Delivery available.
Original Pancake House One of 15 Chicago-area locations (the most famous of which is probably Walker Bros. in Wilmette) of a chain founded in Portland, Oregon, in 1953, the Original Pancake House offers a full range of breakfast items including omelets, crepes, and waffles in addition to its signature apple pancake and the Dutch Baby, an air-filled baked pancake served with lemon, whipped butter, and powdered sugar.
Valois Cafeteria The lines are out the door at breakfast at the Valois (“vuh-loyz”), which despite its cheerful murals of sailboats on Lake Michigan still feels institutional. And that’s part of its appeal: if you’re willing to eat your dinner at a gray Formica table to a soundtrack of dishes being stacked, you can get a prime rib dinner with a potato and a vegetable for $12.95. Steam trays of fried catfish, hamburger steak, baked chicken, T-bones, mac ‘n’ cheese, and chef’s salads await plating by friendly servers; you can also order a grilled cheese or a patty melt from the kitchen. Breakfast (from cold cereal to steak and eggs) is served until 4 PM, and desserts include cream pies and cheesecake.
Bonjour Bakery and Cafe Soups, salads, and sandwiches with a French touch—croque monsieur, Savoyard salad—along with croissants (plain and stuffed), quiche, pan au raisin, madeleines, and French macarons in classic flavors as well as, e.g., lemon-basil and cinnamon-sea salt.
Medici Bakery Just to the east of its parent restaurant, Medici on 57th (see separate listing), this bakery puts out artisan breads, croissants, fruit tarts, and pies and offers Mexican hot chocolate. Food scholar and south-side savant Peter Engler rates it “arguably among the top three bread bakeries in Chicago.”
Ribs ‘n’ Bibs Western-themed barbecue stand offering wood-smoked ribs, rib tips, barbecued or fried chicken, sandwiches, burgers, and hot links. Takeout or delivery only.
Backstory Cafe Founded by a couple of U. of C. grads and located in the nonprofit Experimental Station (which is technically in Woodlawn), this environmentally and socially conscious cafe and used bookstore offers a small menu of soup, salads, and sandwiches; all food waste here is composted. It hosts events like cooking classes, and there are plans for a spoken-word night on Thursdays, when the cafe will be BYO. Also new: a brunch buffet on Sundays.
Caffe Florian This pleasant cafe, a comfortable spot to linger near campus, has clean hardwood floors and colorfully painted walls. Besides the basic coffeehouse menu (teas, cocoa, and a multitude of coffee drinks), there are burgers and a renowned deep-dish pizza; brunch is served on weekends. Delivery available.
Istria Cafe This bright Internet cafe, full of laptop-using, earbud-wearing U. of C. students, is carved out of the crumbling urban infrastructure of the South Shore Line. The coffee and espresso, expertly hand-pulled, are Intelligentsia. Panini, the only real lunch offerings, don’t have quite the crunch you’d hope for, but what’s inside (prosciutto and fresh mozzarella, a couple of vegetarian choices) is fresh and flavorful. The main reason to come here, though, is the house-made gelato. Texturally it’s a little too pliable compared to the authentic European stuff, but the fruit flavors taste of real fruit and the chocolate and hazelnut are dreamily creamy. In the summer, sidewalk tables expand the limited capacity. There’s a second location in the Hyde Park Arts Center (1530 S. Cornell, 773-324-9660).
Medici on 57th The quintessential off-campus hangout, with carved-up wood booths and graffiti-covered walls. The reasonable prices at this Hyde Park institution make it a favorite of students and locals alike. Pizza comes both in classic and designer (pesto, spinach, goat cheese); hamburgers can be topped with jalapeños, bacon, or mushrooms in addition to cheese. Also: hummus, wings, chili, spaghetti. The dining room is spacious, with an upstairs loft and an adjacent outdoor patio for warmer weather. BYO, delivery available (and popular).
Mellow Yellow Opened in 1976 by a former insurance salesman with permission to use the name from Donovan himself, this place still serves period faves like crepes, quiche, and potato skins amid brick walls, wood beams, green plants, and lava lamps. The veggie chili—a five-time award winner, according to the menu—comes five ways, and a sign out front boasts about the rotisserie chicken. There are expected options like fajitas and burgers, plus an extensive list of specialty drinks (the French Connection combines champagne, Grand Marnier, and lime juice), though the beer and wine list is pretty minimal. For dessert there are more crepes, apple pie, and milk shakes in flavors like Butterfinger and Oreo cookie. Service is friendly but extremely laid-back. Live entertainment on Fridays.
Third World Cafe Fair-trade coffee, house-baked muffins and breads, sandwiches, and gourmet ice cream.
The Big Easy Since 1981, under owner David Shopiro, this space has housed several restaurants: Orly’s, Jalapeños, Orly’s again. Then last year owner Shopiro closed down for a three-month renovation and reopened in January as the Big Easy, bringing in former Hell’s Kitchen contestant Jennifer Gavin as chef. She’s already history, and Ronisha Preckwinkle (daughter-in-law of Democratic county board candidate Toni) has been promoted. The menu still features New Orleans fare like jambalaya, etouffee, and po’boys, plus southern barbecue, and an on-site bakery turns out the bread for the po’boys, bagels, beignets, muffins, brownies, coffee cake, and other items available in the all-you-can-eat dessert buffet during weekend brunch. The full bar has 15 microbrews on tap.
C’est Si Bon! Best known for its catering, this breakfast-and-lunch spot offers baked goods, Cajun dishes, and southern specialties like cheese grits. BYO.
Calypso Cafe At this sibling of the late Hyde Park Dixie Kitchen, tropical decor sets a cheerful tone that’s mirrored in the lively flavors of appetizers like spicy jerk chicken wings, plantain chips with cumin-spiked black beans, and conch fritters. Entrees like peppered perch and coconut shrimp come with sweet plantains, vegetables, and Dixie coleslaw.
Uncle Joe’s Jerk Hyde Park outlet of the Cottage Grove jerk shack that made the news last fall after a judge jokingly told a man who’d pleaded guilty to misdemeanor battery and criminal trespass that he’d waive his community service if he supplied the courtroom with jerk chicken—and the man did. In addition to chicken, there’s jerk fish as well as soul and Caribbean sides, patties, and Ting soda. There are a few seats, but business is mostly takeout.
De Rice This Kenwood Chinese restaurant offers a much more varied menu than you’d expect, ranging from appetizers like scallion pancakes, barbecued pork, and Szechuan meat wontons to duck preparations (Cantonese roast, Peking), black-pepper beef, and a variety of salt-and-pepper seafoods (shrimp, smelt, soft-shell crab, squid, scallops). There are also some fruity, fusiony dishes like mango beef, strawberry chicken, and kiwi or lychee shrimp, plus fresh fruit smoothies. Takeout and delivery only.
Fung’s Chop Suey Takeout-only chop suey with the standard vast menu; combo plates like beef chop suey and shrimp fried rice for under $5. Cash only; delivery available.
Nicky’s Chinese Food Strip-mall Chinese, with takeout, delivery, free parking, and late-night hours. The extensive menu contains some novel-sounding items (“Shrimps With Boy Toy,” “Beef With Finger and Green Onion”). Delivery available.
Wok N’ Roll Express Hyde Park location of a local chain offering a large selection of surprisingly good Chinese dishes; lunch combos run between $5 and $6. Delivery available.
Park 52 A Jerry Kleiner project (Marché, Carnivale, Club 33, etc), Park 52 is heavy with his signature drapery and fin de siècle fixtures. But we found the aggressively uneventful chow just this side of fine. There’s a comfortingly predictable lineup of strip steak and herb-roasted chicken, all capably done. Lump crab cake was all meat, but like the halibut special flat and uninspired. This place tries to appeal across the food chain, with red meat offerings as well as salads like baby spinach with jicama and cherries; as at a steak house, though, be prepared to supplement entrees with a la carte orders like succotash or “Fat Tire O Rings” (onions fried in name-brand beer batter). Still, it’s a feasible dining option for a community that has fewer good restaurants than it should.
Morry’s Deli This Hyde Park fixture isn’t what it used to be. If you had visited Morry’s, say, in the mid-1970s—when you might have found college student Suze Orman working behind the counter for her dad, the original owner—you could have enjoyed some of the best chopped liver in town and all the other Jewish deli favorites. But chopped liver hasn’t been on the menu for years, and the sandwiches have gone way downhill. The hot corned beef piled on the Reuben during a recent visit was decent enough (though no match for Manny’s), but the little scraps of pastrami in triple-decker #3 were so dry they made me want to hop on a plane to New York. Piping-hot chicken soup, not too salty and loaded with the right stuff, was our best pick. Breakfast sandwiches (served on bagels), burgers, and hot dogs make up the rest of the menu, posted on an overhead board, and there are packaged baked goods, salty snacks, a drinks cooler, and a freezer with frozen treats.
Zaleski & Horvath MarketCafe This welcome resource in culinarily deprived Hyde Park takes pride in its regionally sourced and international cheeses, meats, and packaged goods. The deli offers creative soups of the day, like coconut-ginger-carrot and sweet potato and chorizo, along with vegetarian chili. Sandwiches include the Butcher’s Wife (mortadella, hot coppa, finochetta, salami, Provolone, romaine, red onion, tomato, and balsamic on French bread) and the Bleu Moon (grass-fed roast beef, Maytag blue cheese, pearl onion spread, tomato, mixed greens, and mayo also on French); salads include mixed greens with smoked salmon or smoked duck. There’s an espresso bar with an extensive array of options. A second location is slated to open at 1323 E. 57th in late spring or early summer.
Salonica Reasonably priced home-cooked fare at a cozy corner diner. The black vinyl booths and long counter make it a comfortable place for both getting a quick meal and lounging over a lengthy one. Eggs, omelets, pancakes, and waffles come with sides of hash browns, ham, or sausage. For lunch and dinner there are deli sandwiches, burgers, fried shrimp, and Greek specialties like gyros, souvlaki, pastichio, and moussaka, all served with a cup of soup; there’s also a variety of salads. Except for a few steaks, hardly anything’s over $7. BYO; delivery available.
La Petite Folie Michael and Mary Mastricola, both former U. of C. students and longtime Hyde Park residents, decamped to Paris in the mid-90s so Mary could attend the Cordon Bleu cooking school, then returned to Chicago to open this charming restaurant serving spectacular baguettes and a wide range of French classics on a frequently changing menu. Begin, for example, with an Alsatian onion tart or smoked pheasant salad. Elegant entrees follow—perhaps a rabbit saddle stuffed with a truffled veal mousse. A $32 three-course prix fixe is available from 5 to 6:30 PM. The strictly French wine list is ably selected and reasonably priced; it works especially well with the seasonal assortment of imported cheeses.
Rajun Cajun This vegetarian-friendly place has burgers-and-dawgs decor, fast-food prices, and a menu that combines Indian and soul food. Fried chicken, collard greens, Cajun rice, and macaroni and cheese sit in the steam trays right alongside chicken curry, chana masala, and samosas. Delivery available.
Leona’s Since its start in 1950 with a single restaurant in Lakeview, Leona’s has grown into a successful local chain on the strength of efficient delivery, friendly service, and generous servings of simple American-Italian chow. The vast, kitschy menu includes pizzas, pastas, steak, chicken, ribs, sandwiches, and salads.
Piccolo Mondo Located in one corner of the Windermere, an enormous old Hyde Park hotel gone residential, this spacious, sunny room is two-thirds trattoria, one-third Italian deli. D’Amato’s bread, meats, and jars of olives and pasta sauce dominate the small grocery up front, where carryout patrons can pick up anything from a meatball sub to veal scallopine. Opera music and green and white linens on the table set a different tone in the large dining area. The lengthy menu offers interesting pasta dishes like rigatoni alla Carlo (in a spicy tomato sauce with pancetta and fresh mozzarella) and fettuccine Vicenzo (with tomatoes, mushrooms, basil, and garlic in white wine sauce) as well as carbonara and eggplant parmigiana, several chicken and veal dishes, and half a dozen daily specials. Desserts include cannoli, tiramisu, and luscious-looking cakes. Delivery.
Kikuya Service at this restaurant is cheerful and welcoming, and the food is just fine. The menu includes the standard lineup of appetizers, dozens of maki, and several dinner combos. BYO; delivery available.
Shinju Sushi Ambitious and upscale for Hyde Park, this BYO sushi place offers fusiony appetizers like deep-fried scallops and bacon with mixed greens and balsamic or a “pizza” of seafood pancake topped with spicy mayo and eel sauce. Vegetarians will find plenty of options, including nine vegetable maki rolls. In addition to the standard sashimi and nigiri, makimono and specialty maki, teriyaki, and bento boxes, Shinju offers grilled beef, chicken, or salmon with a “secret special BBQ sauce” and an ear of corn on the cob. An all-you-can-eat buffet is $14.99 from 11 AM to 3 PM and $20.99 thereafter. BYO; delivery available.
The SitDown Cafe & Sushi Bar An odd mix of Japanese and Italian food, with a long list of sushi and maki, design-it-yourself thin-crust pizzas, and martinis in addition to beer and wine. There’s prosciutto and melon, there’s shrimp tempura, and the four soups are chicken-rice, pasta y fagiole, miso, and jambalaya. Delivery available.
Cafe Corea Mandoo (dumplings), pajun (Korean-style scallion pancake), and egg rolls are a few of the starters at this Hyde Park mom-and-pop, and items included in a $7.95 lunch deal range from tofu dishes to noodle soups. For dinner, choose from Korean mainstays like bulgogi (thinly sliced marinated beef), kimchi pork, kalbi (thinly crosscut beef short ribs), and chap chae (shredded vegetables with buckwheat noodles). BYO.
Maravillas Maravillas may have been displaced from Harper Court, but the food at its new location remains authentic—there’s posole, chicken mole poblano, and menudo—and still attracts a regular clientele. Carrot and orange juices are fresh squeezed, fruit shakes are topped with a sprinkle of cinnamon, and the Coke is Mexican too. Delivery available.
Cedars Mediterranean Kitchen This Lebanese restaurant offers the usual fare—marinated chicken kebabs, falafel, and hummus to spread on unusually good pita—in generous portions. BYO.
Nile Restaurant A favorite among U. of C. professors and students for its simple, hearty meals. Start with stuffed grape leaves, a refreshing tabbouleh salad, and creamy hummus squeezed with lemon and dotted with garlic. A combination platter lets you taste four intensely seasoned dishes: filet mignon kebabs, chicken shawarma, shish taouk (marinated and charbroiled chicken), and kifta kebabs made of seasoned ground lamb. All dishes come with soup or salad, warm pita, and yellow rice. There are usually several fish specials, like whole red snapper or salmon kebabs. Great prices, good quality, ample quantity. BYO; delivery available.
Noodles Etc. Despite the generic name, it’s not part of a chain. The pan-Asian menu features standards (spring rolls, pot stickers, satay) plus a few innovations like wasabi-flavored shumai (dumplings) and deep-fried vegetable croquettes made of a mashed mixture of potatoes, onions, peas, and carrots and served with sweet-and-sour sauce. Extensive noodle options include udon soups, Vietnamese vermicelli soup, lo mein, lad nar, and Filipino pancit (rice noodles with barbecue pork, egg, cabbage, carrots, and green onions). In one room customers can pull up a stool and watch the kitchen action. BYO.
Cholie’s Pizza Oriented especially to the student crowd—high school and college—and to bar patrons at the Falcon Inn next door, Cholie’s serves slices, thin-crust and stuffed pizza, and fries in addition to pasta, chicken, ribs, burgers, and shrimp baskets (you can also get shrimp on a pie). BYO; delivery available.
Edwardo’s Natural Pizza This chain was born out of the health-food craze of the 80s, but don’t be discouraged (or encouraged) by the word natural—Edwardo’s no longer offers much out of the ordinary in terms of toppings or ingredients. Franchised in the late 90s, the chain still offers pies and Italian entrees at reasonable prices. The stuffed pizza tends toward the greasy side, but the blend of spices and sauce is delicious. The $6.95 lunch special, which includes a small stuffed pizza, salad, and pop, is a favorite for those with hearty appetites, although service can be quite slow. BYO; delivery available.
Giordano’s The progenitor of this just-left-of-a-fern-bar chain was the birthplace of stuffed pizza. The stuffed spinach and mushroom number is still a decent choice, but don’t stray too far from pizza when ordering.
Italian Fiesta Pizzeria This family-run place got its start in the 40s and has since expanded to a couple suburbs. The thin-crust is a local favorite—Michelle Obama has said that her parents used Italian Fiesta pizza to reward her for good grades. Also on the menu: Italian beef, Italian sausage, and meatball sandwiches; a few pastas; and chicken. Cash only; takeout and delivery only.
Pizza Capri Hyde Park location of the local chain specializing in “gourmet” pizzas like the Pesto Lover’s, with shrimp, mozzarella, sun-dried tomatoes, roasted garlic, sweet onions, parsley, and fresh tomatoes. There are also lots of salad options, pasta dishes and Italian entrees, and sandwiches and wraps, plus weekend brunch.
Argo Tea Kiosk of the chain offering gourmet teas, chais, and specialty drinks, in the lobby of the U. of C.’s Duchossois Center for Advanced Medicine.
Chant Hyde Park’s food scene is notable for two things—overwhelming mediocrity and a glut of Thai food. So Chant, a slightly above-average Thai joint, may seem fine to visitors but disappoint locals. Avocado rolls, a vegetarian substitute for sushi, are bland and small even for an appetizer, but overall vegetables seem to be a strength here, with entree options including spinach tofu, Asian ratatouille strudel, sesame polenta with mushroom-asparagus ragout, and the Drunken Angel, stir-fried vegetables served with angel-hair pasta and Thai basil-jalapeño oil. Chant is best appreciated for what distinguishes it from Hyde Park’s other Thai restaurants: its bright, contemporary atmosphere, its late hours, and its bar. There’s live music on Fridays and Saturdays and a Sunday blues brunch. Delivery available.
Jarunee (Thai 55th) Restaurant Ceiling fans and wood-paneled walls covered with family photos give this otherwise typical Thai restaurant—billed as the oldest in Hyde Park—a relaxing atmosphere. The long menu of typical Thai fare includes nine noodle dishes, ten curries, and 13 seafood preparations, including four with catfish. BYO; delivery available.
Siam Thai Cuisine With multiple Thai places on this block, the competition is fierce, but patrons fill the tables nevertheless. The cheerful, clean room is trimmed in green and hung with attractive Thai artifacts. The extensive menu offers a bit of everything: pot stickers, yum nua (chilled Thai beef salad), noodle dishes, rice dishes, and curries including mussaman, yellow, pineapple, or Bangkok style (with lightly battered and fried vegetables). Fish specials, all made with a whole catfish, are mostly deep-fried, then topped with either stir-fried broccoli and red curry, a sweet-and-sour sauce, or garlic. BYO.
Snail Thai Cuisine Friendly, assiduous service and a menu that offers more than most. Alongside all the standard appetizers, soups, salads, and curries are less common items, including duck spring rolls, pork dumplings, fried squid, chive dumplings, northern Thai sausage, and “golden bag,” a pastry stuffed with corn, peas, potatoes and deep-fried. That’s just under appetizers; under noodles you’ll find spinach, wheat, and bean-thread noodle dishes in addition to rice and egg noodles, and there’s an entire “Vegetable Lovers” section. BYO; delivery available.