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Hyde Park & Kenwood Issue: Restaurants

The Medici, Valois, Park 52, Backstory Cafe, and more

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American

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. Lunch, dinner daily, brunch Sun, open till 2 nightly, 5500 S. Shore, 773-363-5300, restaurants-america.com/barlouie. $$

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.  Lunch, dinner daily, open till midnight Fri-Sat, 11 Mon-Thu, 1208 E. 53rd, 773-752-9260. $

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.  Lunch, dinner: Mon-Sat, 1372 E. 53rd, 773-288-5353. $

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. Breakfast, lunch daily, 1517 E. Hyde Park, 773-288-2322, originalpancakehouse.com. $

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.   Breakfast, lunch, dinner daily, 1518 E. 53rd, 773-667-0647. $ —Holly Greenhagen

Bakery

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. 7 AM-7 PM Tue-Fri, 7 AM-6 PM Sat, 7 AM-5 PM Sun, 1550 E. 55th, 773-241-5300. $

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." 7 AM-11 PM Mon-Thu, 7 AM-midnight Fri, 9 AM-midnight Sat, 9 AM-11 PM Sun, 1331 E. 57th, 773-667-7394, medici57.com.

Barbecue

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. Lunch, dinner daily, open till 12:30 AM Fri-Sat, 5300 S. Dorchester, 773-493-0400.

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Backstory Cafe

Cafes

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.  9 AM-4 PM Mon-Fri, 10 AM-2 PM Sat-Sun, 6100 S. Blackstone, 773-324-9987, backstorycafe.com. $ —KS

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.   Lunch, dinner daily, brunch Sun, open till 11 nightly, 1450 E. 57th, 773-752-4100. $ —LLS

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).  Winter hours 6:30 AM-7 PM Mon-Fri, 7 AM-7 PM Sat, 7:30 AM-7 PM Sun, 1520 E. 57th, 773-955-2556, istriacafe.com. $ —Michael Gebert

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). Breakfast, lunch, dinner daily, open till midnight Fri-Sat, other nights till 11, 1327 E. 57th, 773-667-7394, medici57.com. $$ —LLS

Medici on 57th

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. Breakfast, lunch, dinner daily, open till midnight Fri, 11 PM Sat. 1508 E. 53rd, 773-667-2000, mellowyellowrestaurant.com. $ —HG

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