News about 53rd St. in Hyde Park, Chicago

Native Foods

Celebrate the Season with Hyde Park Holly-Day on Saturday, December 10

Hyde Park gets into the holiday spirit with a daylong schedule of family-friendly special events for “Hyde Park Holly-Day” on Saturday, December 10th, from 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.

Start the morning off with breakfast with Santa at Einstein Bros. Bagels at 5230 S. Harper Court, from 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. Santa will be available for selfies and posed pictures free of charge; there will not be a professional photographer available, so make sure to bring your camera or phone.

Stay close to Harper Court for the ice carving demonstration from 10 a.m. - 12 p.m. Ice carving artists from Nadeau’s Ice Sculptures, Inc. will be on site creating an original ice sculpture while you watch.

Four costumed characters – Elsa, Elena of Avalor, Wonder Woman, and Spiderman – will be at Hyde Park businesses from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. ready for photos, hugs, and autographs. Meet Elsa at NoteworthyNotes, 5231 S. Harper Court, from 11 a.m. – 12 p.m. and at Kilwins, 5226 S. Harper Avenue, from 12-1 p.m. Wonder Woman will be at Jojayden Shoes, 1457 E. 53rd Street, from 11 a.m. – 12 p.m. and at The Silver Room, 1506 E. 53rd Street, from 12-1 p.m. Meet Spiderman at The Freehling Pot & Pan Co. at 1365 E. 53rd Street from 11 a.m. – 12 p.m. and at Pearle Vision, 1200 E. 53rd Street, from 12-1 p.m. Elena of Avalor will be at Toys et Cetera, 1502 E. 55th Street, from 11 a.m. – 12 p.m. and at Treasure Island, 1526 E. 55th Street, from 12-1 p.m. Many of the participating businesses will be offering special sales while the characters are visiting in the store, so be sure ask the store employees.

As an added treat, everyone is invited to join 4th Ward Alderman Sophia King for an afternoon of caroling from 12-2 p.m., starting in Harper Court - spreading holiday cheer through the gift of song.

If you missed breakfast with Santa, you’ll have your chance to have lunch with him and take pictures at Native Foods, 1518 E. Harper Court, from 12-2 p.m.; and night owls can enjoy cocktails with Santa at Seven Ten Lanes, 1055 E. 55th Street, from 6-8 p.m.

Receive two hours of free parking at the Harper Court Parking Garage from 11/25 through 12/31 – the entrance is located on South Lake Park Avenue just south of the McDonald’s restaurant on 52nd Street. Pull a ticket when entering the garage, and if you park for less than two hours there will not be a charge when exiting.

Be sure to tag all your pictures and videos with #hphollyday to join in all the fun.

Get all the event details and learn more about other Hyde Park holiday activities at downtownhydeparkchicago.com.

Look-a-like characters inspired by the movie, “Frozen,” to visit local businesses for last week of Hyde Park Holiday Nights

For the last week of the Hyde Park Holiday Nights festivities, look-a-like characters inspired by the popular movie, “Frozen,” will be welcoming children at eight local stores on Thursday, Dec. 17, from 5-7 p.m.

Based on popular demand, there will be two Elsa-inspired characters coming to Hyde Park, with the first Elsa visiting Toys Etcetera at 1502 E. 55th Street in The Courtyard Shops at Hyde Park Shopping Center from 5-5:45 p.m., before stopping a few doors down at Wesley’s Shoe Corral at 1506 E. 55th Street from 6-7 p.m. For “Frozen” fans, Toys Etcetera has a wide selection of licensed “Frozen” merchandise including Elsa and Anna dolls, Ravensburger puzzles, story and sticker books, costumes, doll clothing, braids, and jewelry. Wesley’s Shoe Corral is offering free “Frozen” stickers and popcorn for all children.

The second Elsa look-a-like will be at Bellē Up Boutique at 1504 E. 53rd Street from 5-5:45 p.m., and then across the street at Lively Athletics, 1457 E. 53rd Street from 6-7 p.m. Bellē Up will offer a free $10 gift card for those who check in at the store’s Facebook or Yelp pages between 5-7 p.m., as well as a “Frozen”-themed craft for children to make as a keepsake.

The Anna look-a-like will start at Harper Court’s new Einstein Bros. Bagels at 5230 S. Harper Court from 5-5:45 p.m. and then move to Kilwins, 5226 S. Harper Avenue from 6-7 p.m. Kilwins will be offering free fudge and hot chocolate samples from 6-7 p.m. as well as 10% off all purchases during the hour with the secret password, “Downtown Hyde Park.”

Children can visit the Olaf look-a-like at Ancien, the new bicycle shop and café located at 1558 E. 53rd Street from 5-5:45 p.m. and then at Freehling Pot and Pan Co. at 1365 E. 53rd Street from 6-7 p.m. Freehling will be providing complimentary cookies and cider.

Harper Court is a great place for families to meet before visiting all the characters – Einstein Bros. Bagels is hosting the Hot Chocolate Welcome Station at Harper Court with complimentary hot chocolate and sweets, while supplies last. Native Foods, also at Harper Court, will be offering free “chaider” samples – a mixture of cider and chai tea. Chipotle will be offering first come, first served coupons for free children’s meals to the first 25 guests at the restaurant between 5-7 p.m.

For the full schedule, visit the event website. Be sure to tag your photos and videos with #HPHoliday to share in all the fun.

FROZEN and all related characters and elements (C) & ™ Walt Disney Pictures, Inc.

Families enjoy ice carving demonstrations for the second week of Hyde Park Holiday Nights

The windy weather at Harper Court last Thursday night on Dec. 10 did not deter Al Martinez, the ice artist from Nadeau’s Ice Sculptures in Forest Park, from crafting an impressive ice carving of a penguin standing on a block of ice.

Families and people walking down 53rd Street got a chance to see the artist at work between 4-5 p.m. as he started with a rectangular block of ice before sculpting it with different power tools into a detailed, three-dimensional penguin. As he cut away sections of ice, he delighted several children by etching miniature penguin designs into slabs of ice, which he gave away to a boy and a girl. People also enjoyed the pre-carved holiday tree sculpture lit from within with colored lights near the entrance to the Harper Court office building, as well as a holiday snow globe sculpture with a winter scene and snowflakes frozen inside near Native Foods.

The fun then moved on to The Courtyard Shops at Hyde Park Shopping Center from 6-7 p.m., where the ice artist carved a gingerbread cookie on top of a house; and displayed a pre-carved Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer sculpture; as well as a snowman.

The activities were part of Hyde Park Holiday Nights, the three-week holiday event on consecutive Thursdays – 12/3, 12/10, and 12/17. The event kicked off with holiday caroling on Dec. 3, and will end with characters inspired by the movie, “Frozen,” making appearances at eight local Hyde Park shops on Dec. 17 from 5-7 p.m.

For the full event schedule, visit the event website.

Ten Hyde Park restaurants to participate in June 9 Dinner Crawl

The Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce Dinner Crawl takes place on Tuesday, June 9.

The annual event features 10 local restaurants including A10 Hyde Park, Chant, Clarke’s Diner, Ja’ Grill, Kilwins, Mellow Yellow Restaurant, Native Foods, Porkchop, Rajun Cajun, and ZBerry Frozen Yogurt & Treats.

The crawl begins at 5:30 pm. starting from The Silver Room, and continues until 9 p.m.

Tickets are $35 each, or $25 when purchased online by June 8 at www.hydeparkchamberchicago.org/crawl.

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 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.

 

June 24 Hyde Park Dinner Crawl to feature 53rd Street cuisine

Eight restaurants on 53rd Street will offer culinary delights as part of the Hyde Park Dinner Crawl organized by the Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce.

Stops along the Crawl include A10, Chant, Clarke's, Kilwins, Mellow Yellow, Native Foods, Pizza Capri, and Rajun Cajun.

The event will run from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Tuesday, June 24. Tickets are $30 per person in advance or $35 on the day of the Crawl. To purchase tickets online, visit hydeparkchamberchicago.org/crawl.

Hyde Park Native Foods off to a strong start, planning April specials

Since opening at Harper Court two weeks ago, vegan restaurant Native Foods Café has gotten a welcome reception from Hyde Park, with sales about 20 percent stronger than expected, according to one of the restaurant's owners.

“Our first two weeks have been great, which we didn’t expect since (University of Chicago) students are on spring break,” said Andrea McGinty, co-owner of the Chicago-based restaurant chain.

McGinty said the eatery at 1518 E.  Harper Court is seeing a “very high level of takeouts” driven by dinner orders. However, in recent days, more customers have been stopping in for lunch and dining in.

Native Foods’ menu is 100 percent plant-based, includes gluten-free options, and is updated seasonally. Best-selling menu items in Hyde Park so far include the “Rockin’ Morracan Bowl,” “Native Nachos,” and “Native Chicken,” according to McGinty. The restaurant also features “Native Community Days” twice a month, where sales proceeds go to support local non-profit organizations that focus on animal rescue, educating kids about obesity, or community gardens.

“A lot of people were ready for a place like this,” said Jose Perez, a manager at the location. He added that many Hyde Park customers had previously frequented the Native Foods location in the Loop, where he was an assistant manager before the Hyde Park outlet opened on March 11.

The new restaurant is on the first level of the Harper Court complex, just south of the Hyatt Place hotel. Perez notes that the address is on a new street that was created as part of the redevelopment of Harper Court, so some people have had trouble finding it and it does not show up on GPS systems. He advises people who call to use the intersection of 53rd and Lake Park Avenue for navigation.

To draw customers, restaurant employees have been visiting other businesses on 53rd Street and giving away gift cards for $5 to $10. Current gift cards are good through March 31.

Starting in April, the restaurant will have two new offerings that it hopes will bring in even more customers. Customers interested in recreating the restaurant’s meals will be able to purchase a new cookbook called Native Foods Celebration Cookbook at the location. And on April 11, 12 and 13, the store will offer a new special menu item, the Crispy Avocado Crunch Wrap, which features avocado battered in coconut. The dish will be available for only three days and is part of a monthly promotion of special meals.

Native Foods is open daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.