Hyde Park & Kenwood Issue: Restaurants | Restaurant Review | Chicago Reader

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Hyde Park & Kenwood Issue: Restaurants

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

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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.  Lunch, dinner daily, open till 11 nightly, 1408 E. 53rd, 773-643-3500. $

Contemporary American

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. Lunch Mon-Sat, dinner daily, brunch Sun, open till 11 Fri-Sat, 5201 S. Harper, 773-241-5200, park52chicago.com. $$$ —David Hammond

Deli

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. 7 AM-8 PM Mon-Sat, 9 AM-4:30 PM Sun, 5500 S. Cornell, 773-363-3800, morrysdeli.com. $ —Anne Spiselman

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.  7 AM-7 PM Mon-Fri, 8 AM-6 PM Sat-Sun, 1126 E. 47th, 773-538-7372, zhmarketcafe.com. $ —KS

Diner

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.  Breakfast, lunch, dinner daily, 1440 E. 57th, 773-752-3899. $ —LLS

French

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. Lunch Tue-Fri; dinner Sun, Tue-Sat; 1504 E. 55th, 773-493-1394, lapetitefolie.com. $$$ —LLS

Indian

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.  Lunch, dinner daily, 1459 E. 53rd, 773-955-1145. $ —HG

Italian

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.  Lunch, dinner daily, open till 12:30 AM Fri-Sat, 11 PM Mon-Thu, 1236 E. 53rd, 773-363-2600, leonas.com. $$ —Laura Levy Shatkin

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. Lunch Mon-Sat, dinner daily, 1642 E. 56th, 773-643-1106, piccolomondo.us. $$ —HG

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