I am moving to Hyde Park in August and coming for a visit next week. Does anyone have any suggestions for good places to eat? I get the impression that it's not the best place to live entertainment-wise, but will be in school and want to be close. Thanks!
My favs are:
-Shinju Sushi on 53rd, for cheap, fresh all-you-eat sushi
-Calypso Cafe& Dixie Kitchen on 53rd, for Caribbean and Cajun fare
-Park 52 for swanky fine dining
-the Medici for a low-key salad, burger, or pizza lunch
-Noodles, etc. for cheap Thai
I also have a list of good local eateries on my website at mshydepark.blogspot.com
Let's put it this way...I lived/worked in HP for over a decade, and now that I live elsewhere in the city, I would never drive there for a dining/culinary experience. That said, if you think of Hyde Park as a "college town," it's probably on par with any other college town.
Original Pancake house has really good thick bacon. In my opinion it's probably the best restaurant there. Again, it's the bacon. And, you can't screw up pancakes. Lines can be long on weekends, and I think it's only open until mid-afternoon. (That's crazy! Any good student knows you need some serious carbs for those late nights!)
You go to Vallois, Harold's, and Ribs and Bibs once, so you can say you did.
And, I'm sorry to say, that goes for Jimmy's too. (I was more a Tiki fan).
The Med or Florian are mainly for when you go out with a group. I'd stick with thin crust pizza with the pizza at Florian a little better, I think. Florian also has better salads. The chocolate milkshake at the Med isn't bad if you have a milkshake craving.
I don't know if it's still there, but Lucky Strike has a decent chopped salad. Portions are huge.
For a quick cheap bite, I'd often grab a BLT or grilled cheese at Salonica. Or for breakfast the eggs are fine. I wouldn't eat anything else there.
The cinnamon roll (I don't exactly what they call it) at Bonjour Bakery is really quite good. And, I've had other good pastries there too. The cakes are also good, if you need one for a party.
I've been to meetings where the food was catered by Snail, and I thought it was pretty good. I'd probably never go to the restaurant, however.
For soul food go South of Hyde Park, for Chinese go to Chinatown, for Mexican go to Pilson, for Italian go to Little Italy, Greek go to Greektown, etc. Those are all areas that are close enough to Hyde Park, but you'll need a car. If you don't have a car, I believe that there's a U of C bus route that can take you to the North Side, where you can take your pick of restaurants.
100 W Randolph St Lowr 115, Chicago, IL 60601
1440 E 57th St, Chicago, IL 60637
Having just read the whole Hyde Park section, I am surprised no one mentioned The Nile, on 55th Street, east of the IC tracks. It is a small middle eastern restaurant with the best lentil soup in the world, particularly when you add some fresh lemon juice with the conveniently supplied wedge that comes with it. Our family also really likes their Shish Tauk sandwich, with grilled to order marinated chicken.
Hyde Park is sort of an island, especially if you're very involved with school or work. We lived there 7 years when my husband was a student then for the next 30 years were away from Chicago and if we would go to a party and meet somebody else from the university, nobody ever said "When were you in Chicago" but always "When were you in Hyde Park"---that says it all. Fast forward to the present: Calypso Cafe is great . For decades the grocery shopping venue was the Co-op but now that's history as the Co-op is now a Treasure Island (small local Chicago chain of upscale supermarkets). Go to "chicago restaurant menus" and click onto Hyde Park---check out Calypso Cafe (Caribbean) and Dixie Bait Shop (Southern). You'll mostly be north of the Midway.
This discussion is bringing back old memories and new fears. I spent four years in Hyde Park, and after four years in the culinary paradise of Northern California I'm back for 6+ more. So I'm interested to know if the neighborhood's restaurants have improved - but I'm guessing they haven't.
I agree with most of the posters that the neighborhood is horribly served by restaurants. I have memories, most of them not fond, from probably all of those that existed from 2001-2005. I remember getting sick from Cedars (I think it's really mediocre), bored with Noodles Etc and Maravillas, being obliged grudgingly to eat at the Med, getting creeped out by Orly's, priced out of Petite Folie, and so on. But you guys have overlooked some of the neighborhood's very best places.
1. Salonica's. The best diner and breakfast place in Hyde Park by far. It's straightforward American cuisine with the echo of Greek-American ownership. So, eggplant chicken, bacon and eggs, souvlaki. I ate there every Sunday morning for years and I've never felt disappointed. It's on 57th, a few blocks west of the Metra tracks. Beautiful decor, friendly owners, clean and vibrant. It's packed on weekends around lunchtime.
2. Right next to Salonica's is Florian, a slightly more upscale and Italian-influenced place. Small personal pizzas, pasta dishes, and a lot of standard American fare.
3. The best Middle Eastern restaurant in Hyde Park is the Nile, somewhere on 55th street just east of the tracks. It's far better than Cedars in every way.
4. The big secret: SAMMY'S TOUCH. A dirt-cheap Greek gyro and spanakopita place north of the Hospital right by Cottage Grove on 57th. All I've had there is a predictably delicious standard gyro slathered with tzadziki an onions for about $3, but it quickly became my standard place for lunch. Most of the customers at that time were workmen building the new hospital and science buildings.
As for bars, there are (were) three. Jimmy's Woodlawn Tap, which is famous for its dinginess but also for its charm, the Cove, east on 55th street a few blocks from the lake which had good deals on pitchers certain days of the week, and the pub at Ida Noyes. Oh, and I forgot Bar Louie's, which I've never had the desire to set foot in. None of these places will satisfy a craving for good or non-standard beer.
I don't think things have changed much, unfortunately. A major weakness of the University's situation is that the strip of eateries nearest campus on 57th is so small and lackluster; if 53rd street were moved two blocks south, it would all be more tolerable.
Upon my return to Chicago I've decided to live somewhere on the North Side and commute in to the University; the restaurant situation, among other factors, makes Hyde Park feel very isolated from the city (and world) at large.
I've been gone a few years now but get back fairly often. You first need to embrace Hyde Park is Hyde Park and that the food choices reflect that. The population is students and working-middle class and the food reflects that.
Food wise the only problem we had was groceries. W/o a car you're at the mercy of the Co-op who are bad and over-priced. Produce Mart on 53rd is nice but only gets you part of the way. The great joy of our last year was having a car and being able to drive up to Roosevelt to buy groceries.
Ribs and Bibs, Morry's Deli (55th near HP Blvd), Windy's deli (53rd and Ellis for cheap sandwiches and Asian DVDs),Valois, Jimmy's, and the Pub got me through college. None are culinary landmarks but each makes sense in the context and history of the area.
FWIW, geographically and public transit wise, HP is in a great spot for eating. It can be a 10 minute drive to Chinatown, to very good, authentic Mexican out towards Cicero, to old school E. European food of various types, to the very little Little Italy, to S. Side institutions further south, etc. etc. Also, you're 7mi and a $2 CTA fare from downtown, Riverwest, Near North, etc. where most recs on this board are found.
to brokegradetc: Around 1955 there was a restaurant on 57th called Continental Gourmet where a complete dinner cost $2.99. I clearly recall a first course of shrimp bisque (they put the whole tureen on the table) and two giant pork chops for the main course but I don't remember dessert. We went for Valentine's Day; it was a big splurge.
As all of us who went to U of C will attest, we surely didn't go to Hyde Park for the food. However, on reflection, I must admit that the fourteen years I spent in that neighborhood, studying and working were, without doubt, some of the best, most memorable years of my life. At this very moment I'd even settle for a Medici pizza or, for that matter, an ice cream cone from Ida Noyes - along with my five kids, of course.
O my god, I'm sorry, I'm almost crying while reading this. The food in Hyde Park, it must be said, is nearly pitiful. And these recommendations are truly baffling.
Medici? PLEASE! This place has barely passable food, even their hamburgers. It's overpriced and never fresh and seems to be the only restaurant anyone at the university ever knows.
Snail? I've never had a decent meal here. My potatoes were never cooked in my curry. It happened three times. It's not a coincidence.
Medici Bakery's pastries hyperbolically represent everything that is wrong with American eating habits, ES?PECIALLY the ham and cheese croissants, which taste of chemicals.
Pizza Capri is bafflingly bad, although their deep dish pizza is okay. It's like a poor cousin of California Pizza Kitchen.
La Petite Folie is aptly named--the owners are completely crazy and the food is overpriced and really horrible. This is where all the older professors go after conferences to eat underseasoned food. I once tried to make a reservation for 2 for my bday at 8pm on a saturday night and was refused because they were not sure if enough other people were going to dine there during that time. They refused my offer to make it 7:30pm, telling me that they didn't believe I would show up exactly then.
Dixie Kitchen's chicken fried steak is fine, but there's no excuse for how bad their catfish tastes on a regular basis.
Bonjour Bakery's baguettes are just horrible, and their coffee is LITERALLY UNDRINKEABLE. Literally. I absolutely cannot believe someone endorsed their coffee. I am a regular patron of Bonjour nonetheless (gotta love those morning rolls) and so many people have been trying to gently tell the owner to use a different coffee supplier, but she does not drink coffee herself and has no idea. Intelligentsia coffee is vastly superior!
what else--Orly's is also one of these restaurants that lacks any sort of taste or knack for execution whatsoever.
Yet there are some gems: CEDAR's, notably--their day old sandwiches shipped over to the Divinity School cafe might be inedible, but their grilled meats are just wonderful--especially the prawn appetizer, the tandoori chicken and lamb, and the kefta. Always succulent, and the vegetables are perfectly done too. I find Cedars to be the best restaurant in Hyde Park.
Rajun Cajun's butter chicken is to be rivalled, and their weekend biryani is very very good. they use a lot of organic and local ingredients--I've seen the farmers in there getting paid for their cauliflower.
Maravillas is a wonderful little hole in the wall and they recreate tacos al pastor (no spit) quite admirably.
And Thai 55 is fine, nothing to write home about, but definitely the best on the block.
Ribs n Bibs is an institution, but the quality is not always there. I've had transporting bbq experiences there, and I've also had chicken thre that was "off."
I've had wonderful fried chicken and waffles at c'est si bon, which is next to dixie kitchen,
Might I suggest you go to the north side and eat at Milk and Honey?
Ribs n Bibs has been there a WHOLE lot longer than 4 years... and no visit to Chicago is complete without a trip to Hyde Park for their Baby Backs and Rib Tips! I've never, in all the years I've been going there, ordered chicken, but their ribs are my absolute favorites from any restaurant.
i think AlliterativeRevival has been patronizing ribs and bibs for four years, s/he didn't say that ribs and bibs had only been open for four years--just a clarification! I think everyone knows that r+b has been around for a very long time... Will get the rib tips right when I return to chicago in July!
jfood can verify that ribs and bibs was there in 1978-80 and that's a whole lot longer than 4 years.Friend of mine ate R&B's while in Law School and he graduated in 1976. When jfood came back east the ladies at R&B gave me two big jugs of sauce to tide hime over.
Looking at the list of choices, although meager, is waaaaay better than what we had in the late 70's when it was R&B and the pizza joint in the strip mall on, i think 55th.
Did you notice that someone here recommended a restaurant where you go, purhcase a frozen pizza, then warm it up in your oven? That's a pretty accurate anecdote. Hyde Park is vastly better served by liquor stores (Binny's is consistently well-staffed and amazing, and I have a soft spot for the place in Kimbark plaza) than by restaurants. I wonder why.
I'm shocked--shocked--that no-one has mentioned Ribs and Bibs yet. In nearly four years, for what it does, it's never let me down. And Rajun Cajun--which, naturally from that name, is an Indian restaurant--is better than it has any reason to be.
As to other places: meh. For anything fancier than strictly unpretentious, I'd say go downtown or further out. Dixie Kitchen is alright, although their mint julep (I swear it was straight bourbon with a peppermint in it) is a crime against God, and service varies tremendously. I got tremendously ill at Orly's off a steak sandwich, a saying which I'm going to have made into a t-shirt. (I wonder how often most of the things on that big weird menu are ordered?) Cedar's is improved immensely by the BYO--it's better half-sloshed or more, unless you want to be amazed by vegetables simultaneously half-singed and slimy; and the Medici restaurant-half is the sort of place that only survives because of a lack of competition. (That's actually sort of a trend in restaurants here in general--sing it, Chicago School.) Bonjour is just above cafeteria food; that weird Italian place by the Museum of Science and Industry is well below it.
Say what you will for the neighborhood, it makes chain restaurants look disproportionately wonderful. Leona's is a Leona's--not bad, but nothing special. For a sit-down meal, frigging Pizza Capri might be the best restaurant in Hyde Park. God hates us (ok, not really, but He apparently wants us to be without restaurants.)
And, ah, the bar scene. The voice from the whirlwind says we're not supposed to have one. God might actually hate us. And our (lack of) real supermarkets.
And, finally, the Medici bakery plain baguette is astounding. (Their muffins are a good pick if your physician announces you need more butter in your diet.)
And don't get me wrong: I love Hyde Park dearly--HP Produce 4 life, etc. But no-one moves here specifically for the restaurants.
"Vastly"? This situation has been headed south for some time as well. Walgreen's used to have a liquor department open nightly until midnight. The Cornell dollar store (or half of it) was a liquor store notable not so much for its selection as its lovely original wood accoutrements. The Village shopping center had a big Foremost, and Village Foods, with its small selection, was open 24 hours and issued defective wristwatches to the staff. Gill's on 47th provided gallons of Won't-Go-Flat light and dark beer. And the Tiki of course was happy to bag up Ballantine Ale until 4 a.m. I sure I'm forgetting someone... ah, yes, some narrow portion of the present Bonne Sante/Valois space was another liquor store that opened bright and early, competing with Osco down the street.
And it was pretty much the same cadre of restaurant spaces all along.
re: Guar gum
Hey, point taken. By "vastly," I just mean that I don't absolutely *need* to shop outside of Hyde Park for alcohol. The Tiki place was gone before I arrived, but I mourn its passing, too.
And, yes, about Ribs and Bibs: I'm sure it's been around forever--I've just only been going to it for four years, as long as I've been around. Long may it rein, etc.
Hey, I've got a question: has anyone tried that "Chant" place on 53rd? It looks...well, new. Can't say too much else.
1. The ONLY thai place worth your time is Thai 55 (on 55th street right after the metra tracks). The snail, in my opinion, is nearly unedible slimy noodles. Noodles etc is a bit of a joke. Thai 55 is actually really great (and has real spicy food)--the Original Hot #1 and #2 are particularly good.
2. The Med is where you want to go for comfort food (Burgers, and perhaps Pizza, but not really anything else).
3. The "best" bakeries in Chicago? I love the ham and cheese croissants at the med bakery, as they are so insanely bad for you. But it is by no means a "best" bakery, and bonjour comes NOWHERE near "best".
4. As for newer offerings: Homemade Pizza Company is a godsend, right next to the coop at Harper court. They even deliver.
5. Why has no one mentioned Harold's Chicken Shack (another find institution in Hyde Park) where you can get dinner for two for about $6, and then pick up beer at Kimbark next door.
6. Cedars? Are you kidding me? I've been forced to eat sandwiches from there many times and it's just quite bad, flavorless and a sad excuse for middle eastern food.
For shopping, Hyde Park Produce is a wonderful store (and they're expanding over the summer). They have great cheap produce and a well stocked deli counter (try the #1 sandwich). The coop is really nothing special and moreover, it is usually an extremely depressing experience to go in there.
I agree with sbk, Bonjour is really not that good, the pastries are dry and lack refinement. I am big fan of Thai 55 as well, the food is great, as well as the service.
Recently got a medium pizza from Homemade Pizza Company (which, when I first walked by, totally ripped in to, muttering that you could just as easily make your own pizza) with the cheese and added the free anchovies for under 10 bucks. Cracked an egg on top of it when I got home, chucked it in the oven, and it made a great dinner for two, and with a 6 pack of the "champagne of beers', had a fantastic and easy meal for under $15.
Hyde Park gets really disappointing when it comes to dining options for the weekends, the thought of going out on a Saturday night to eat in a parking lot (Cedar's) or in a shopping mall (La Petite Folie) really doesn't do it for me. I would stick to eating in Hyde Park on the cheap during the week and saving your cash for the more interesting options elsewhere in Chicago.
Having a bad day, are we ?
I agree with most of what you are saying (although I have yet to be impressed at Thai 55 --- must try your recommendation). However,
2. I'm not a big fan of Medici but occasionally go as you say for comfort food. One of my guilty pleasures is their Fettucini Alfredo --- which is unfortunately rather inconsistent but sometimes quite good. They also have a decent goat cheese appetizer.
3. While Medici is definately not the best bakery in Chicago, they do make a mean plain baguette. I don't think I like any of their other bakery offerings.
6. I don't know about their sandwiches but it sounds like you have not been to the restaurant. Their lamb dishes really are quite good --- grilled just right and finger licking delicious. I think the Falafel's were pretty good too although I am not an expert on the matter.
So, let's see. I would second some of the comments here. Avoid Orly's and the Med as far as dining-in goes. The service at the Med is terrible and the food at Orly's leaves something desired. But, the bakeries at these 2 spots are awesome! Try the ham or tukey and cheddar croissant at the Med bakery or the cakes at Orly's. So good.
I like the indian food at Rajun Cajun, especially the butter chicken and samosas. I'd avoid the southern menu, though.... I've always had a bad experience with it.
Cedars is WONDERFUL! My favorite restaurant in hyde park. Food is great and reasonable. You can dine-in with a bottle of wine from next door. Or you can drop by and pick up a cheap pita to eat at home. Just great. Go for the falafel or shwarma.
Suprisingly, I like the chili at this chain, potbelly's, though I'm sure you could probably do better.
Maravilla's is ok for mexican as far as hyde park goes, but I would really venture elsewhere in the city for some GOOD mexican.
PIZZA: Pizza Capri is great! They have these fun specialty pizzas, like the Shroom (which is probably my favorite) and Zorba the Greek. Pasta is supposed to be good too, but I've never tried it. Also, while the various giordano's chains can be hit or miss, I think we happen to have a good one in Hyde Park as far as pizza goes. Very good! But, I wouldn't order anything else there! You can also BYOB at Edwardo's for pizza which isn't bad. And I like the deep dish at Cafe Florian on 57th. The spinach versions at Giordano's and Caffe Florian are the best! Go ahead and brave the E. coli. It's worth it.
Also, no real good chinese in hyde park either if you ask me. Hit up chinatown for this. It's not that far.
Let's see - what else? Oh, the breakfast at Valois is good and cheap. Oh, and I've had gelato at the new Istria cafe near the metra on 57th, and I think that's pretty good too. I have yet to try their coffee or panini's, though.
I can't believe that no one has mentioned Cafe Corea (also known as Seoul Corea). It has to be the best restaurant in Hyde Park in the 6-15 dollar range. It isn't a Korean BBQ, but the noodle soup dishes are excellent. Much more flavorful than the Snail and definitely blows noodles etc out of the water. Everything is home made to order. They have lunch specials from between 5-8 dollars, which are also excellent. You will wait for a while, but the tastiness of the food is worth it! The owners are sort of awkward and don't speak much english, but are very, very nice. It is on 55th street between lake park and Cornell aves. Cafe Corea, Cafe Corea, Cafe Corea.. try it!!
Also, Nathan's taste of chicago is good for a COUPLE of their Jamaican dishes... i.e. plantains, callalloo (sp?) sandwiches and chicken curries. I haven't tried the chicago style dishes though. On 53rd near dorchester or blackstone..
Also, the new shisha cafe is pretty cool. nice owners and decent shisha, excellent atmosphere. the food is kind of blaa but coffee drinks are good. Also on 55th street btw cornell and lake park.
There are a wide variety of Thai places in Hyde Park, none remarkable, but most are good and all are cheap. My favorite is Snail (55th St.), but Thai Twee (53rd St.), Siam (55th St.) and Noodles, Etc. (57th St.) are all decent.
Other Places to go:
- The Medici!!! I think SmithClay was thinking of the Mexican Milkshake at Medici, which is really good. The Medici is not haute cuisine, but its fun and it does its thing well.
- Edwardo's and Giordano's each have an outpost in Hyde Park.
- I second the recs for Cedars, Pizza Capri, and Calypso. I went to all of them on a regular basis when I lived there.
In general the service at restaurants in Hyde Park leaves a lot to be desired, but it is particularly bad at Dixie Kitchen (the food is good though), and Mellow Yellow (don't even bother).
Also Orly's (55th and Hyde Park Blvd.) just opened a bakery. I haven't been, but I've heard its good.
Actually, I was at Orly's last night for dinner (for the first time). They have a massive dinner menu that includes everything from Chinese to Mexican, which was understandably overwhelming. While my meal was fine (service a bit slow, but fine by Hyde Park standards), I'd suggest going for breakfast.
The owner came by and brought our table some fresh baked goods from the bakery, which was thoughtful. The banana bread with chocolate chips was great.
I regularly get the Mexicana milkshake at the Med. Last December I remember getting some type of coffee drink with a scoop of vanilla ice cream in it. I think it was just one of those drinks that appears and disappears on the chalkboard.
Having started a new job at UCH, I too, am on the quest for good food in Hyde Park. BonJour is truly fantastic and the rugala are divine! Also, I highly recommend Cedars for Lebanese fare - service is excellent. Next door is a liquor store that has a decent selection of wine. I heard great things about the cheap thai food, i.e Snail, but haven't ventured there yet.
"I get the impression that it's not the best place to live entertainment-wise"
True enough, but things are looking up with the opening of the New Checkerboard Lounge near Harper Court. Otherwise, most of the entertainment possibilities are university connected, altho Doc Films is one of the best university film societies in the country. But you'll probably be too busy studying, anyway . . .
For eating, control + F + Hyde Park: you should find plenty of suggestions. For openers, tho, you might want to stop by at the Medici (on 57th St.). Respectable hamburgers, salads, and a good intro to deep-dish pan pizza (try the spinach and goat cheese).
Most people can also find some Thai food to their liking in Hyde Park. My personal preference is The Snail. The food is superior to that of the other Thai places on 55th Street in my estimation (some of the other spots have some pretty gloppy sauces), and Marisa and Chom (the owners) make the place so warm and friendly. I recommend the chicken and rice soup for when you're sick, too. It's packed with ginger.
Passable Mexican can be found at Maravillas (delivery is sometimes a pain, though; they often get your order wrong, so I'd recommend going there when you're in the mood). Also in Harper Court are Dixie Kitchen (fried green tomatoes and baby catfish - yum!) and Calypso Cafe (plaintain chips and most of the entrees are great).
Harold's on 53rd in Kimbark Plaza has awesome fried chicken, and Bonjour Bakery in the Co-op plaza is a delightful french bakery.
I'd stay away from any of the chinese places, but otherwise, have fun exploring! There's also middle eastern, indian, and a couple of Italian places (Pizza Capri over Piccolo Mondo for me).
re: Mike McElliott
Hyde Park is not packed with eating establishments like on the North Side, but there are few notables. To start with, Hyde Park is home to two of the best bakeries in the whole city. One is the Medici Bakery on 57th Street. They make great breads, especially their cinnamon raisin, their small and large ciabattas, and their basic white. The other is Bon Jour. I've never had their coffee, but their morning rolls, rugala, and cakes are amazing. Very buttery but not greasy. (For the greasy--but still good!--pasteries, go to the Medici.) Bon Jour takes orders for special cakes around the holidays. Go for their sweets, because their breads are okay but not amazing.
While other places in the neighborhood are worth trying (and here I have to disagree with the tip about Thai food in Hyde Park--those aren't the places worth exploring), like Dixie Kitchen and Cedar's, it is the larger South Side deserving of your exploratory dining attentions. Franco's in Bridgeport, BJ's in Chatham, a number of notable joints in Chinatown, Mabenka out by Ford City, etc.
re: Mike McElliott