NFT Chicago Hyde Park

Hyde Park

A university's best attempt to summon up images of Oxford collides with its misguided efforts toward urban renewal in this neighborhood, where the student and middle classes drink in the same bars as the academics and politicians governing their lives. In one of Chicago's most racially integrated neighborhoods, ethnic dining abounds, as does artistic graffiti. Don't miss the bookstores along 57th Street; replicas of Borges's libraries?

Hyde Park boasts plentiful entertainment and dining options, including many of President Obama's favorites, such as Valois and 57th Street Books. Blues and jazz fans flock to hear live music daily at the Checkerboard Lounge. For more upscale dining, savor the cuisine at See more.

>La Petite Folie.


On Our Radar:

Posted By:  Brendan Keating
Photo:  Brendan Keating

Valois is a world away from the North Side of Chicago--11.8 miles south of Wrigley Field to be exact. And also, it's pronounced "Vah-loyz," not the French way. Please, this is the South Side. If you live nearby, you already know about this Hyde Park institution. If you don't, it's well worth a Sunday morning jaunt. Although the cafeteria-style restaurant is open for dinner seven days a week, breakfast is when it really shines. The first thing you’ll notice when you walk in to Valois’ ample confines is the clientele. It's as diverse as an Obama rally, and for good reason. This is the president's old stomping ground, and the restaurant has earned his seal of approval. While you're standing in line, make sure you make up your mind by the time you get to the front. The service is friendly, but it’s crackling, and you don’t want to gum up the works. The food at Valois is classic and great: bacon, eggs, omelets, pancakes, and is cooked right before your eyes, the way it should be. Go nuts and get a dessert, too. Prices like these, and places like this, just can't be found north of Madison.

Posted By:  Craig Nelson

Bond Chapel
Three cheers for one of the coolest couples NFT has had the privilege to know. These two have been big supporters of Not For Tourists for years attending parties across the country from to Seattle to Chicago to Brooklyn (look for the dude in the lion outfit). They even planned their engagement around the release of the Seattle book! Now that's dedication. Or maybe it's just plain weird. Whatever it is, we wish them well in their future life together and many, many years of happiness and fabulous future NFT parties (like Paris, Hong Kong, Rio...).

Posted By:  Kristen Orser
Photo:  Kristen Orser

O'Gara & Wilson
The oldest bookstore in Chicago is still selling awesome books! Places like O'Gara and Wilson remind us that reading a book as a pdf file is not the same experience as reading a physical book. This place values the art of bookmaking as much as it values the literature it carries. You can find old poetry chapbooks in dust jackets, art books that challenge the idea of what the shape a book should be, and history books on the most esoteric subjects. Because of the kinds of books being sold, antique and well-taken-care-of books, a lot of what you'll find will fall into the category of collectible books--a lot of first editions and rare books. Of course, you can spend time in the shelves and find something that is still rare, but more affordable. This place takes time to go through, there's a lot to look at. At the end of the day, it was probably worth sneezing from all the book dust and rummaging through a few shelves because you probably found a book not many other stores carry. And, because it's on the Southside, the prices for the collectibles are still cheaper than any Lakeview second hand bookseller.

Posted By:  Kristen Orser
Photo:  Kristen Orser

Experimental Station
With all these art programs around town, you'd think we'd see more social events with an artistic bent. Sure, we have First Fridays at the MCA, but what about a space where not everyone is champagne-sipping and little black dress-wearing? I mean, where are all the non-commercial, anti-institutional artists hosting parties? A lot of them are utilizing the Experimental Station in Hyde Park. People are gathering there and something is happening--something is usually being made. At the Experimental Station, you can get your bike fixed and support local youth in learning about bike culture and business, go to the coffee shop on the grounds, assist in sustainable food projects, and host (or attend) an awesome art party. The space is perfect for artists to help artists, for relationships to be built between artists and audience, and for people to begin to explore and ask questions. I'd suggest checking the space out, planning an event at the space, or supporting the idea of an alternative to museums, institutions, and ready-made culture.

Posted By:  Tina Fakhrid-Deen
Photo:  Tina Fakhrid-Deen

Calypso Café is a “mutt” restaurant, serving various dishes from around the Caribbean. This Hyde Park spot is easy to get to, has a bright, spacious atmosphere, great staff, and is next to the famous Checkerboard Lounge. Although the main dishes aren’t “authentic” worth a dam, they taste quite good. So unless you’re a snotty professional food critic or missing your long lost Caribbean roots (cook it yourself), the level of authenticity doesn’t matter. The portions are humongous, even the appetizers and drinks. Start off with the conch & shrimp fritters or the Plantain Nachos drizzled with black bean sauce, cheese, pico de gallo, and jerk chicken. It serves about three; so don’t be stingy. Mix that with a giant, tasty island drink so that you can be nice and mellow. Then relax and take in the tropical vibe because the service is slow. It’s the islands mon, whatchu expect? For the main course, grab the delectable Pineapple-Glazed Tilapia or the Oxtail Stew. End your quasi-Caribbean experience with a heavenly slice of that Key Lime Pie baby! I promise, Calypso Café will get you through until your next trip to the islands.

Posted By:  Tina Fakhrid-Deen
Photo:  Tina Fakhrid-Deen

Third World Café
Third World Café is a quaint (read: visually dead) little nook in Hyde Park. Who cares if the aesthetics suck? A nice café is about other important crap. Is the service great? Yup. Is the fair trade coffee fabulous? Definitely. Free Wi-Fi? Hell yeah! Is the music a soulful blend of Jill Scott meets Danity Kane? Check. Is the food lip-smackin’—especially the hummus & veggie sandwich or the egg and cheese breakfast sandwich on a phat ass buttery croissant? Double check. Do they have homemade pastries? Triple friggin’ check! Their caramel cake is almost too much moist, gooey goodness to handle. Your stomach begins to hurt about 3/4 of the way in, so if you can finish off this 2” thick, beastly slice, you are a sloppy, gluttonous, pleasure-loving cryptid who deserves every finger-licking bite. As a matter of fact, you totally deserve Third World Café. Go get you some.

Posted By:  Keidra Chaney
Photo:  Courtesy A. Kotlowitz

57th Street Books
If you’ve not yet read the non-fiction of Alex Kotlowitz, you’re missing out on one of the city’s most distinctive and authentic literary voices, carrying the torch of Nelson Algren, Studs Terkel, and other preeminent Chicago writers. Author of bestsellers There are No Children Here and The Other Side of The River, and frequent This American Life contributor, Kotlowitz explores the real Chicago, including its messy, complicated history of race and class relations with both compassion and gritty honesty. Here’s an opportunity to hear Kotlowitz read from his latest book, Never a City So Real, and having heard him before, it is bound to be a riveting experience. The reading is a benefit for non-profit literacy organization Literacy Works; 100% of the $10 suggested donation will benefit the organization. For more information, contact Literacy Works at 773-334-8255.

Posted By:  Darwyn Jones
Photo:  Darwyn Jones

The University of Chicago campus is academia to the Nth degree. We’re talking gothic-style buildings, ivy growing on every surface, alumni that include 79 Nobel Prize winners and 6 Pulitzers. The tallest building on the campus is the Rockefeller Memorial Chapel. It was built in the mid- to late-1920s with money given by the University founder, John D. Rockefeller with the request that it be the “central and dominant feature” of the campus. Of course services are held in the space, but there are also other activities and events including choir performances, film screenings with live organ accompaniment, and art exhibitions. December attractions include the performance of Handel’s Messiah (8 pm, December 1) and a display of panels from the AIDS Quilt (December 1-23).

Posted By:  Jennifer Campbell
Photo:  Jennifer Campbell

Mellow Yellow has been around for more than 30 years and it is still a popular stop in the neighborhood. The reason for its popularity may be the multitude of choices on the menu. Their award-winning chili comes in several variations. If you’re not a chili lover (which I’m not), you can choose the more refined Crepe Florentine, my favorite; it’s one of several crepes on the menu. The food is basically American with a few Mexican items like burritos and quesadillas thrown in for good measure. It’s a nice place to go to hang out with friends. It is very predictable— not exciting or romantic—and sometimes that’s all you need for dinner.

Posted By:  Jennifer Campbell
Photo:  Jennifer Campbell

My 10-year-old niece thinks record albums are giant CDs. To many music aficionados, vinyl albums and 45’s are the mother lode. Hyde Park Records is a relatively new store that buys and sells used LPs, CDs, DVDs, VHS tapes, and stereo equipment. Hyde Park Records took over the Second Hand Tunes shop at that address last November. No doubt that is why business is so good. Most of the offerings are older than the employees. I went there with an amateur DJ and he was salivating at all the old albums—I literally had to drag him away. Another guy was leafing through all the Latin albums. Genres of all types are for sale, and rarer albums and 45s are kept behind the counter for special requests and Ebay auctions. You can ask the friendly staff for help with that old record you can’t remember the name of—they’re very knowledgeable. And what they don’t know, they can google for you on their computer.

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