News about 53rd St. in Hyde Park, Chicago

Yusho Hyde Park Opens Its Doors for Dinner Sept. 13

By Rachel Wasielewski

After months of planning, award-winning chef Matthias Merges will open his second restaurant in Hyde Park tomorrow, Saturday, Sept. 13. Yusho, a yakitori-inspired concept located at 1301 E. 53rd Street, will be open for dinner from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m.

Merges, who also owns A10 at 53rd Street and Harper Avenue, said yakitori is a Japanese street style in which every piece of the chicken is grilled through simple cooking techniques. The original Yusho opened in the Avondole neighborhood three years ago and has become a popular dining spot.

“Kids come in and enjoy the chicken skin. Foodies love the grilled octopus with egg yolk vinaigrette,” said Merges. “We have a wide breadth and scope of flavors and techniques, so there’s something for everyone.

The Yusho concept was inspired by Merges’ travels to Japan and other parts of Asia. The word “yusho” has two meanings, the older of which was used to describe serving great wine to friends. The modern definition is used in Sumo and means first rank. Both elements are reflected in the Yusho dining experience.

Dinner prices range from $5.50 for the Chicken Skin to $17.00 for Kakuni Pork Belly. Sweets range from $6.00 to $10.00. The bar offers a variety of alcohol—whiskey, sake, wine and more. The cocktail on draft will be the Calamansi Daquiri, made from El Dorado rum and an exotic citrus fruit from the Philippines that adds floral notes such as orange blossoms, dried citrus zest, and yuzu fruit.

Merges said he and his team had been looking at Hyde Park for years and that his first restaurant in the neighborhood, A10, has received a great reception and that many people have reached out in anticipation for Yusho since he first announced plans to open it two years ago. He plans to add lunch at the new restaurant sometime in the future.

In addition to the Avondale location, Merges also operates Yusho in Las Vegas. He notes that customers can expect to see variations and individualization among the three spots.

Reservations for Yusho Hyde Park are not necessary. The restaurant serves customers on a first come, first served basis.

 

Chef Matthias Merges will open Yusho Hyde Park on September 13.

New Location Brings Ja' Grill Closer to Familiar Customers

By Rachel Wasielewski

Ja’ Grill, the Jamaican restaurant that opened quietly in Harper Court last month, may be new to Hyde Park but not necessarily to Hyde Parkers. Before the restaurant relocated from Lincoln Park, about 30-40% of its customers were from the South Side, said owner Tony Coates.

Coates noted that he was “thrilled at the chance to be closer” to loyal customers and “to build a state of the art restaurant from scratch.” Ja’ Grill is the latest restaurant to open in a burgeoning food corridor in the redeveloped Harper Court, alongside Porkchop, Native Foods, Red Mango, and Chipotle.

Because the new location was specifically designed for Ja’ Grill, the setup is quite different from the previous location.  In the center of the restaurant is one large communal table, with regular-sized tables on one side and the bar on the other.  While there is no formal lounge area, the restaurant’s bar is twice as large as the one in the previous location and Coates believes the bar area and communal table will naturally operate as a lounge.

Aside from the different layout, some things about Ja’ Grill remain the same—the fun and festive environment and the expectation for an authentic Jamaican experience. Ja’ Grill’s motto remains "authentic cuisine, spirits, and beats." Specialties include jerk chicken ($12-$14), curry goat ($18), ox tail ($18), “vegan” Ital Stew ($15), and the whole red snapper eschoveitch (market price), where, yes, you get the entire fish. Prices range from $3 for the coco bread appetizer, to the market-priced whole red snapper; the majority of entrees are between $11 and $20.

Ja’ Grill’s drink menu still includes a variety of rums, such as Ja’ rum punch, a customer favorite, along with many Caribbean drinks and martinis. The restaurant features Jamaican music on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, with DJs spinning reggae and dancehall during dinner hours through closing.  

Ja’ Grill’s kitchen is open Sunday through Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Thursday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. The bar will stay open later.

The Red Balloon offers free ice cream today in Hyde Park, launches Story Time

By Rachel Wasielewski

The Red Balloon children’s clothing boutique in Hyde Park will offer free ice cream today to anyone who stops into their new store on 53rd Street from noon to 3 p.m.

An ice cream truck will be parked outside the Red Balloon, and the only requirement is to go into the store to get a ticket.

The Hyde Park Ice Cream Social is the second community-centered event the new store has launched this week. On September 2, Red Balloon began Story Time, where parents are invited to bring in young children for a free story reading.  The store will host two sessions of Story Time every Tuesday, from 10:30 a.m. to 11:15 a.m. for 18-month olds to 3-year olds and from 3:30 p.m. to 4:15 p.m. for ages 4 and older.  

The Red Balloon is located at 1504 E. 53rd Street.

Red Balloon on 53rd Street

Red Balloon pop-up opening on 53rd Street August 1

By Rachel Wasielewski

Children’s apparel retailer The Red Balloon is popping up in Hyde Park just in time for back-to-school shopping.

The Chicago-based boutique is set to open a 1,400-square-foot pop-up shop at 1504 E. 53rd Street in Hyde Park on Friday, August 1. The Red Balloon, named after the acclaimed 1956 French movie, operates two other locations in the Bucktown and Andersonville neighborhoods, selling high-quality clothes, toys, gifts and books for children up to age 16.  The 53rd Street location will target youth between one month and 12 to 14 years old, and will focus more on gift items, with a wide selection of infant and Chicago-themed items along with the store’s signature initial t-shirts.

Owner Jennifer Pope said she was drawn to Hyde Park by the family atmosphere and “great restaurants and shops” available in the neighborhood. She is excited about the potential to extend the six-month pop-up to a longer-term presence in the 53rd Street area.

“The vibrant, family-friendly feel of the Hyde Park community is an ideal fit for the Red Balloon,” Pope said. “I am thrilled with the idea of being part of the community and having the opportunity to meet new kids, hold new babies and toddlers and listen to their silly stories.”

At its two other locations, the Red Balloon is a favorite among parents and children for its merchandise, comfortable and friendly environment and special events such as Storytime. The store is also well-known for its novel gifts, free gift wrapping and handwritten gift cards. All of those features will also be available at the Hyde Park location.

At the grand opening event this Friday, the boutique will offer free treats such as cookies and balloons and will give away free sunglasses with any purchase. The store will be open daily from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m.

The Red Balloon pop-up shop is set to open on 53rd Street August 1, 2014.
The Red Balloon is known for its intial tees.
Among other merchandise, the Red Balloon offers a small selection of classic children's books.

Harper Court sale allows UChicago to ensure continuing community benefits

The University of Chicago has sold the Harper Court mixed-use development at 53rd Street and Lake Park Avenue in a deal that allows the University to continue working with a leasing agent to seek the mix of national and locally owned businesses identified by the Hyde Park community as important to the neighborhood.

Read the University's announcement here.

The Promontory opens today

The Promontory restaurant and bar will open for business today, adding a new dining experience to a growing restaurant scene in Hyde Park’s 53rd Street corridor.

The new establishment, at 5311 S. Lake Park Avenue, features a “hearth to table” theme and a menu by Chef Jared Wentworth, whose work at Longman & Eagle earned that popular Chicago restaurant a Michelin star. The Promontory, named for Promontory Point in Hyde Park, is the newest concept from Chicago restaurateurs Bruce Finkelman and Craig Golden, who are also partners in Longman & Eagle.

The restaurant, which joins A10, Porkchop, Native Foods, and Red Mango among new 53rd Street-area eateries, is part of a multiyear effort led by the University of Chicago to revitalize the 53rd Street corridor. The Promontory occupies the south end of the two-story building at 53rd and Lake Park that had been a shuttered Borders bookstore.

“The Promontory is a great addition to Hyde Park and will offer another venue for local community members who have expressed a desire for a variety of dining options,” said James Hennessy, Associate Vice President for Commercial Real Estate Operations for the University.

The restaurant and bar occupy the first floor of the two-story building. Beginning this fall, the Promontory will also offer live musical performances in its second-floor space.  It will feature an eclectic lineup of local and national touring artists, similar to Empty Bottle and Space, two other venues Finkelman and Golden are partners in, respectively.

“Both the Empty Bottle and Space have established themselves as institutions for live music in the Chicago area, and The Promontory will bring that same commitment to the Hyde Park community,” the restaurant’s owners said in a written statement.

The space, which is expected to have capacity for 300 seats, will also serve as a community center, hosting events such as farmers markets and craft fairs.

The hours of operation for the restaurant and bar will be Sunday through Thursday, 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.; Friday, 5 p.m. to 2 a.m.; and Saturday, 5 p.m. to 3 a.m.

 

The Promontory in Hyde Park. Photo by Justin Anderson.
The Promontory hosted a benefit for the Hyde Park Jazz Festival on June 26, 2014. Photo by Charlie Meyer.
Community members enjoy the Promontory's terrace during the 2014 Hyde Park Jazz Festival benefit. Photo by Charlie Meyer.

53rd Street Shuttle stop moved back to Harper Court

The Harper Court stop for the 53rd Street Express Shuttle for University of Chicago employees and students has been moved back to the east corner of 53rd and Harper Court, effective today.

The stop had been temporarily relocated to 53rd and Blackstone Avenue due to a construction project along E. 53rd Street, and the change had been expected to stay in place through July 28. Progess on the project enabled the Harper Court stop to be restored two weeks early.

For the latest information on the 53rd Street Express Shuttle, visit UChicago's transportation and parking website.

 

UChicago offers free validated parking during construction

The University of Chicago will offer free validated parking at the Harper Court parking garage and surface lot during parking restrictions related to a three-week construction project on E. 53rd Street beginning today, July 7.

UChicago is set to install fiber optic communications cable underneath the street between the Harper Court office building and the Harper Theater Building complex, which will house the Chicago Innovation Exchange. Street parking between S. Lake Park Avenue and S. Blackstone Avenue will be temporarily restricted on weekdays between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., during the project.

Individuals visiting businesses within that area and parking at Harper Court during parking restrictions can bring their parking ticket to the lobby of Harper Court, 5235 S. Harper Court, to be validated for free parking. The entrance to the Harper Court garage is on the west side of S. Lake Park Avenue, just south of the McDonald’s restaurant. The entrance to the Harper Court surface lot is on the west side of S. Harper Avenue, between 52nd and 53rd Streets.

There will be no parking restrictions on weekends or during non-construction hours on weekdays, and 53rd Street will remain open to two-way traffic during construction. The project is expected to be complete by August 5.

The Chicago Innovation Exchange, UChicago’s new hub for collaboration and business startups, is scheduled to open this fall and is expected to attract more than 100 visitors a day to the 53rd Street corridor, according to John Flavin, executive director of the Chicago Innovation Exchange.

Change in UChicago 53rd Street Express Shuttle stop July 7 – 28

The Harper Court stop for the University of Chicago’s 53rd Street Express Shuttle for UChicago students and employees will be temporarily relocated to the northwest corner of 53rd Street and Blackstone Avenue from July 7 – July 28.

The three-week change is due to a construction project that will impact traffic on 53rd Street between Lake Park and Blackstone Avenues. The University of Chicago is set to install fiber optic communications cable underneath the street between the Harper Court office building at 5235 S. Harper Court and the two buildings on Harper Avenue that will house the Chicago Innovation Exchange, the University’s new hub for collaboration and business start-ups.

The University will also offer validated, free parking at Harper Court for customers of businesses impacted by parking restrictions during the construction period. Information will be available at Harper Court and affected businesses.

Silver Umbrella expands thrift in Hyde Park

By Lilian Huang

Shoppers looking for bargains in Hyde Park have a new option to consider: the Silver Umbrella thrift store on the corner of 53rd Street and Hyde Park Boulevard.

The store, co-owned by sisters Zakiyyah and Shaakira Muhammad, opened in March this year and aims to provide shoppers with a range of new and gently used clothes, furniture and books at low prices. The owners say it also offers an environmentally friendly way to dispose of high-quality, fashionable items no longer in use.

Zakiyyah, who has worked in the fashion industry for over a decade as a sales representative and boutique manager, was inspired to open The Silver Umbrella after observing the lack of stylish budget shops in Hyde Park. The only other similar store in the neighborhood is Encore, a clothing resale store at 1553 E Hyde Park Boulevard.

“Thrift options are non-existent,” Zakiyyah said in a recent interview. “I felt like the South Side really needed a thrift store.”

Zakiyyah described business as being good so far, with University of Chicago students comprising around 30 percent of the customers. She believes one reason for the store's appeal is that it “doesn't look like an ordinary thrift store, but more like a boutique.”

While the clothes, art, and furniture would blend in at a boutique, the prices would not. The highest priced items are furniture, which might run as high as $400. But the shoes or shirts might range from $6 to $14. In terms of overall style, Zakiyyah said, “we try to have something that will appeal not just to one group of people, but to many.”

The store also benefits from its location inside the Del Prado building. Foot traffic in the area is heavy and there is no shortage of walk-in customers.

The Silver Umbrella’s owners hope Hyde Park residents will “stay tuned” for what the future holds. The store’s website is currently under construction, but customers can stay in touch through Facebook.

The Silver Umbrella is located at 5305 S. Hyde Park Boulevard. It is open on Monday through Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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Rachel Wasielewski contributed to this article.

 

Photos by Rachel Wasielewski