Best of the South Side 2014 | Hyde Park

Hyde Park

KIRAN MISRA

Everyone knows that in Hyde Park the Medici has the best milkshakes (get the mexicana with a shot of espresso), Valois the best post-anything brunch, Blackstone Bikes the best quick fix, Open Produce the best 1am raspberries, the Point the best bonfire, LSD bike path the best way out, Grounds of Being the best $1 coffee (cash-only), Kimbark the best student-friendly liquor store, the quad the best shade, Powell’s the best cheap books, the Seminary Co-op the best class books, Clarke’s the best place to avoid at all costs, Swift Hall the best fire escape, Mansueto the best thunderstorm view, Rajun Cajun the best palak paneer and butter chicken, Harold’s the best half dark with salt and pepper (hot sauce on the side), Hyde Park Produce the best greens, WHPK the best 2am tunes, Jimmy’s the best thing to do when there’s nothing else to do, and Maravillas the best thing to do after that.

As a neighborhood, Hyde Park is an embodiment of the phrase, “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” The neighborhood has historically been a site for great change and great resilience, with the University of Chicago often playing a central role in these dramas.  Its boundaries have been reshaped many times over—by the landmark Columbian Exposition of 1893, by the architecture of Daniel Burnham, Mies van der Rohe, and Frank Lloyd Wright, by a brutal period of urban renewal, by subsequent preservationist campaigns, and now by the University’s commercial development initiatives on 53rd Street. University-spurred construction has brought about the additions of Yusho, The Promontory, A10, and the retail strip Harper Court. But a Sunday morning in Valois looks the same as ever, with the same set of president-worthy specials and the same waves of post-church Hyde Parkers wandering in for some eggs and french toast.

BEST LINEUP
Court Theatre
Court Theatre, building on its strong reputation for reinterpretation of the classics (“classics” defined broadly), has kicked off its sixtieth season with the world premiere production of Richard Wright’s iconic Chicago novel, Native Son. Co-produced with American Blues Theater and written by Bronzeville-born actor and playwright Nambi E. Kelley, Court’s production investigates Wright’s themes of oppression, justice, and survival, clearly aware of the story’s resonance for a contemporary Hyde Park audience. Currently in the middle of an extended run, Native Son closes October 19. This season’s classical offering is Euripides’ Iphigenia in Aulis, which will run November 6 through December 7. Following up on the incredible success of An Iliad, Artistic Director Charles Newell directs Iphigenia in Aulis as the first installment of a three-year Greek cycle, which will include Aeschylus’ Agamemnon and Sophocles’ Electra. Court artist-in-residence Ron OJ Parson will return mid-season with a departure from his usual August Wilson repertoire, with Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, running January 15 through February 15. For its second world premiere of the season, Court will bring back the artists behind An Iliad—Denis O’Hare and Lisa Peterson—to tackle another great text of the Western tradition: the Bible. The Good Book, running March 19 through April 19, travels from ancient Judea to medieval Ireland to suburban modern-day America and examines stories of creation and devotion and doubt. Closing out the spring with a family-friendly musical, The Secret Garden, Court Theatre’s sixtieth season looks to be a strong one. Court Theatre, 5535 S. Ellis Ave. Call or see website for show information. (773)753-4472. courttheatre.org (Meaghan Murphy)

BEST LIQUIFIED NUTRIENTS
Bonne Sante Health Foods
Tucked away on 53rd Street where it’s sandwiched between Mellow Yellow and Valois, Bonne Sante stocks an impressive range of natural health products. These include but are not limited to: vitamins, supplements, protein powders, essential oils, shampoo for your child, shampoo for your dog, cod liver oil, and anything else your grandmother says is good for the skin. They can sell you the oil of just about any nut imaginable, from walnut to lychee to Brazil. With a deli counter and a panini menu, Bonne Sante does lunch as well, but the smoothie bar is where they really shine. With standouts like the Perfect Life shake—a standard and excellent medley of fruits, juices, and health supplement powders—and the Avena Shakedown, which can only be described as oatmeal in smoothie form, Bonne Sante somehow manages to blend all that health into something you actually want to drink. Bonne Sante Health Foods, 1512 E. 53rd St. Monday-Friday, 9:30am-8pm; Saturday, 9:30am-7pm; Sunday, 11am-5pm. (773)667-5700. bonnesantehf.com (Meaghan Murphy)

BEST LANDLORD
Dev Bowly
The story of 57th Street Books began with Devereux Bowly in 1982 and continued with him until just a few months ago. Dev, as everybody called him, was the owner of the apartment building at 1301 East 57th Street in Hyde Park, occupying the south-east corner of Kimbark Avenue and 57th Street. He passed away on August 6, at the age of seventy-one. See feature-length story. (Jack Cella)

BEST ZALESKI & HORVATH MARKETCAFE
Zaleski & Horvath MarketCafe, 57th Street location
The 47th Street Z&H has one really great study table: sturdy, wooden, big enough to sprawl a term paper across. They panini their bagels instead of toasting them. When my friend from New York came to visit and I gave her a Z&H bagel with cream cheese, she said, “It’s different,” which is the nicest thing a New Yorker has ever said about a Chicago bagel. They once gave me free soup. It’s the original.

Less a sequel and more a prettier, brighter, sibling, the 57th Street Z&H thoroughly outmatches its predecessor. Ten blocks south and two years younger than the original, the 57th Street Z&H sits just next to its natural rival, the Medici, and across an alley from FedEx. I have never mailed a sandwich, but if I did, it would be the Tenzing Norgay, which layers ham, bacon, a fried egg, and cheese between a halved croissant. At Z&H, you can put an egg on anything.

In the midst of finals, you can eat three square meals a day here: breakfast sandwich, lunch sandwich, dinner sandwich. If you do this often enough, they will give you ten dollars off your next order. Two sandwiches are featured on Z&H t-shirts: people like these sandwiches enough to wear them.

Last year the management rearranged the tables to maximize space, adding a thin metal bar along one wall that provides enough room to type on your laptop or enjoy a sandwich, but too little to do both at the same time. This is probably a case of social engineering. “Slow down,” says the metal bar, “multitasking does not increase productivity, according to Forbes Magazine.” There still aren’t enough tables during a rush, but Z&H consumers are good people to sit in communal silence with, brows collectively furrowed. Almost always, a few of these people are editors of the South Side Weekly.

The bathrooms at the 57th Street Z&H are gender neutral. This is true at the 47th Street location as well, but they only have one bathroom. The wifi code at Z&H is baconbaconbacon. The network grows fainter on the back patio, which sits past two alleys and a chain link fence. It used to feel like a secret, but has grown more popular since Z&H provided a chalk access map on their indoor “House Rules” sign and started hosting weekend taco nights.

Friday and Saturday, the café stays open until around 10pm to provide four kinds of tacos, all of which are delicious—consumed on the premises, carted home, or forgotten and eaten for breakfast the next day. They also offer a kale bowl topped with your choice of taco filling, which sounds gross but isn’t. The food is good. The back patio is full. Cold beer (BYO), warm conversation, and the promise of tacos; on a Friday night in Hyde Park, there’s nowhere better to be.

This past summer, as I wrapped up six months away from Chicago, I dreamt that I walked into Z&H and didn’t recognize anybody. No one knew anyone I knew. The next day I decided that in my nightmare, Z&H had represented home. That Friday night I flew back from the East Coast, and twelve hours later I was back in Z&H, a wide-mouthed cup of coffee in front of me. Like most homes I’ve had, they seemed almost as happy to see me as I was to see them. Zaleski & Horvath MarketCafe, 1323 E. 57th St. Monday-Friday, 7am-7pm; Saturday-Sunday, 8am-6pm. $7-$12.5. (773)538-7772. zhmarketcafe.com (Hannah Nyhart)

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