News about 53rd St. in Hyde Park, Chicago

Yusho

Shop and celebrate local – Hyde Park businesses turn up the romance for Valentine’s Day

Hyde Parkers who want to stay close to home for Valentine’s Day shopping and celebrating will have lots of options on 53rd Street to make it a holiday to remember for their sweethearts.

CARDS/GIFTS/CANDY

Kilwinshas a wide assortment of candy and chocolates perfect for gift-giving. Valentine’s Day specials include chocolate-dipped long stem strawberries – six for $30 and 12 for $55 in milk, dark, or white chocolate. 5226 S. Harper Avenue.

NoteworthyNotesin addition to a selection of Valentine’s Day cards, NoteworthyNotes also has great gift options for everyone on your list, including cookies, socks, books, pillows, candles, and more. The store also offers same-day printing on select personalized items – even if you’ve waited till the last minute, you can look extra thoughtful with a monogrammed cocktail shaker, travel mug, journal, stationery, and more. Personalization is also available with more notice on pens, flashlights, phone cases, and clipboards. 5231 S. Harper Court.

Modern Cooperative look to Modern Cooperative for a selection of unique jewelry and cards for your honey. 1500 E. 53rd Street.

The Silver Room – with a great collection of jewelry, records, t-shirts, backpacks, hats, and sunglasses, you’re sure to find something special for your Valentine. Or consider a gift certificate for The Silver Room’s in-store massage therapist. 1506 E. 53rd Street.

Jojayden – if your beau or male sweetheart has an eye for fashion, you’ll want to check out Jojayden’s custom-made suits and shoes, and accessories including watches, cufflinks, bracelets, belts, socks, and more. 1457 E. 53rd Street.

Sir & Madame – shop for “classic with a twist” clothing, shoes, and accessories from the store’s namesake clothing label. 5225 S. Harper Court.

Freehling Pot and Pan Co. – keep the little ones busy and come home with delicious cupcakes at Freehling Pot and Pan’s free Valentine's Cupcake Decorating Workshop on Saturday, February 11 from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. The workshop is for children aged 5 and up accompanied by an adult, with all materials provided. 1365 E. 53rd Street.

DINING

A10 – is offering a Valentine’s Day a la carte menu or Couples Bar Special ($35 for half bottle of Champagne and choice of two snacks). The menu includes a choice of Clam Chowder or Fritto Misto and special dinners for two – “Lady and the Tramp” Squid Ink Bucatini for $30, Whole Roasted Branzino for $45, or 22-ounce Bone-In Ribeye with Lobster and Sweet Potato Hash and Truffle Béarnaise for $65. Specials are available from Friday through Tuesday, February 10-14. Call 773-288-1010 for reservations. 1462 E. 53rd Street.

Chantstop by for a before or after dinner drink on Valentine’s Day. The restaurant is offering drink specials including a PAMA Belvedere Martini for $6.00, a glass of Mark West Pinot Noir for $6.00, and a glass Moet & Chandon Imperial Champagne for $8.00, along with a complimentary long-stem tuxedo strawberry dessert. Specials are available from 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. on February 14. 1509 E. 53rd Street.

Ja’ Grillget the night started with Ja’ Grill’s complimentary rum tasting from 6-8 p.m. on Tuesday night, featuring Captain Morgan rums. Guest Host Jeremy Geiger will be sampling Cannon Blast and Loconut rum. Be sure to try the $7 Classic Daiquiri made with Captain Morgan Cannon Blast. All customers with reservations that night will receive a bottle of select bottle of wine or sparkling wine (per couple). 1510 E. Harper Court.

Porkchop – offering a special Valentine’s Day menu for $33 per person, including the choice of any appetizer, soup or salad, and 14 different entrées; along with a deep-fried brownie dessert. Entrée options include Southern Fried Chicken, Slow Smoked BBQ Chicken, Blackened Catfish Filet, burgers, ribs, and more. The menu is available from Friday through Tuesday, February 10-14. 1516 E. Harper Court.

The Promontoryenjoy a romantic dinner and a show at The Promontory on Tuesday, February 14. The second floor concert hall will host the “Valentine’s Day Love and Laughter” concert featuring R&B vocalist Michel’le, along with Just Nesh, Da Wild Cat, BLT, and Gemini Porter, while the first-floor restaurant will offer two prix fixe dining specials. Executive chef Andrew Graves will offer two tasting menus with tailored options:

  • 5:30 p.m. Seating - For lovebirds looking to attend the Michel’e concert at 7 p.m., Graves has created a three-course menu with dessert to go for $45. Offerings include Hearth Grilled Asparagus, Boneless Lamb Loin for two, and Pomegranate-Macadamia Cupcakes guests can take upstairs with them to enjoy during the concert. A package ticket including dinner and the concert is also available for $85 per person.
  • 7:30 p.m. Seating - This expanded five-course tasting menu includes two additional courses, including Capital Oysters on the half shell and salmon and mussels with celery root, mustard, confit potato, and tarragon butter. The dinner costs $65 per person with an optional wine pairing available for an additional $25.  

The Promontory will not offer the regular menu or accept walk-ins on February 14; reservations can be made here. 5311 S. Lake Park Avenue.

Yusho – offering a special “Lover's Meal” for $25 per person, featuring an Octopus Takoyaki Steam Bun, BBQ Brisket Ramen, Miso Chocolate Brownie, and a glass of Cava. A Shrimp Skewer ($5) or Lobster Tail ($10) are available as additional options. The special menu is available from Friday through Tuesday, February 10-14. Visit Yusho for your Valentine's Day meal and receive a complimentary Matcha-dusted chocolate to share with your special someone. 1301 E. 53rd Street.

ACTIVITIES

If you and your sweetie like to work out together, Core Power Yoga is hosting special Couples Yoga classes for Valentine's Day. Come by Friday, February 10 for a 6 p.m. class; Saturday, February 11 for a 10:30 a.m. class; or Wednesday, February 15 at 6 a.m. for an "Old Soul Flow" class. If you're both R&B fans stop in for special classes on Sunday, February 12 at 9:30 a.m. or Wednesday, February 15 at 6 p.m. Drop in rate is $25 per person or $22 for UChicago students, faculty, and staff. 1539 E. 53rd Street, Suite 2N.

Faces of 53rd Street: Matthias Merges

By Calmetta Coleman and Lilian Huang

After opening two new restaurants in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood, Matthias Merges faced a common restaurant industry challenge: securing and keeping high-quality employees.

The award-winning chef could have recruited workers from anywhere in the city for his French-Italian eatery A10 and Japanese-inspired Yusho, including from the original Yusho in the Avondale neighborhood. Instead, he instituted a policy that 70 percent of A10 and Yusho employees must live within walking distance of their workplace or have easy access by bus. While keeping a restaurant employee for 18 months is considered good in the industry, both A10 and Yusho, which opened in 2013 and 2014, respectively, have staff who have been with them since the beginning. Together, the restaurants employ 60 people.

“We could have brought employees from the North Side, but that doesn’t do any good for us or the community,” says Merges, who lives on the North Side. “We’re invested in the community.”

Indeed, while still running three other popular restaurants elsewhere in Chicago and Las Vegas, Merges spends about one-third of his time in Hyde Park and sits on the Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce. Locals might spot him, sporting his signature beard, at museums and other cultural venues in the neighborhood—or even at other restaurants on 53rd Street.

A few months ago, Merges recalls, a customer came into A10, looked over the menu, and made it known that he did not want any of the dishes listed. What he really wanted, he said, was fried fish. Wired to please his customers, Merges headed across the street to Indian restaurant Rajun Cajun and borrowed a raw red snapper. He fried it up and served it with roasted potatoes and tartar sauce. After the meal, the customer told Merges, “That’s the best piece of fish I’ve ever had.”

One of Merges’ favorite things about 53rd Street is the community of restaurants and how they interact with and support one another. There is, naturally, a good deal of overlap between customers of A10, at 1462 E. 53rd Street, and Yusho, at 1301 E. 53rd, with some patrons frequently dining at both in the same day. The restaurants also welcome referrals from the likes of Rajun Cajun and Pizza Capri and return the favor by recommending neighboring restaurants for their customers who decide to go elsewhere. “The more community you create, the more successful everyone is going to be,” Merges says.

Merges’ definition of success goes beyond the profitability of his restaurants. He also has a mission of serving the community through his work. He partners with the Cook County Jail’s nonviolent felon release program to operate a vegetable garden where inmates cultivate and tend produce for Chicago restaurants. Merges and his employees help the inmates to develop these valuable skills and provide them with information on what it is like working in a restaurant. A number of inmates from the program have gone on to work at Merges’ restaurants. Merges describes his approach to this work in simple terms, “You search for people who never had the opportunity to do good, and give them an opportunity, and they do good.”

The 49-year-old is also one of the founders of Pilot Light, a nonprofit that partners with Chicago schools to educate children about food and nutrition and equip them to make healthy lifestyle choices. Its free curriculum is currently implemented in six schools, including Ray Elementary in Hyde Park and Anna R. Langford Community Academy in Englewood.

Even with five restaurants and nonprofit work on his plate, Merges still makes time for hobbies. He enjoys activities like camping, running, climbing and, of course, spending time with his family. His wife, a Chicago architect, had a hand in designing both of his Hyde Park restaurants, and at home, he teaches his three daughters how to cook. Merges also does photography, including promotional photography for his restaurants.

He is excited about the potential for his 53rd Street restaurants and for the neighborhood in general. “There has been an emergence of 53rd Street that has been great, but has not hit its peak,” he says.

At A10 and Yusho, he continually looks for ways to keep the offerings fresh. Both restaurants frequently offer unique menus for holidays and other special occasions, such as A10’s Sunday brunch menu and its “Tour the Garden” dinner series this past summer, which showcased a different item of produce from the Hyde Park farmer’s market every Wednesday. He also recently hired a new chef for A10.

“Creating a culture is very important for us, and it takes time to do that,” he notes. “We’ve made great strides, but I can’t wait to see the five-year mark!”

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Faces of 53rd Street is a twice-monthly series that profiles business owners, employees, and shoppers who contribute to the vibrancy of Hyde Park's 53rd Street retail corridor. If you would like to recommend a familiar face on 53rd Street for a profile, write to us at 53rd@lists.uchicago.edu.

Yusho Hyde Park now open for lunch; new Sunday Noodles menu

The groundhog may have predicted six more weeks of winter, but Yusho Hyde Park, at 1301 E. 53rd Street, gives the neighborhood a new reason to celebrate.

Due to popular demand, Yusho Hyde Park will now be open Monday-Saturday from 11 a.m.-9 p.m., with GrubHub delivery available during these times as well.

Chef and owner Matthias Merges said, “So many of our customers have requested that we offer lunch service, and we’re very happy to make that happen now. Yusho Hyde Park is the perfect place for lunch, dinner, or an afternoon snack.”

Additionally, as of Feb. 1, Yusho Hyde Park is offering a special Sunday Noodles menu from 12-8 p.m. every Sunday. Diners can select a bowl of noodles from four different choices (Logan Poser Ramen, Veggie Ramen, BBQ Chicken Ramen, and Mentaiko Carbonara), a draft cocktail, and soft serve dessert for $20 per person. Additional menu items are available to order.

A10’s Matthias Merges recognized for community work

Award-winning chef Matthias Merges, owner of 53rd Street’s A10 and Yusho restaurants, was recently recognized in Food & Wine magazine for his decade-long involvement with the Cook County Jail “to operate an inmate-run vegetable garden that supplies produce to local homeless shelters, nonprofits and fine-dining restaurants in the Chicago area.”

As part of the Cook County Sheriff’s Pre-Release Center program, which assists inmates in creating productive lives for themselves after prison as well as dealing with substance abuse issues, the garden is “a way for us to give back to the community,” Merges said. Inmates can become certified Master Gardeners, and Merges has even hired several graduates of the program to work in his restaurants.

Read the full article in Food & Wine.

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.

 

Yusho Hyde Park is moving forward

Chef Matthias Merges, owner of the new Hyde Park restaurant A10, said he is moving forward with plans to open a second restaurant in the neighborhood, the Japanese-inspired Yusho Hyde Park, at 1301 E. 53rd Street.

Merges anticipates a summer 2014 opening for Yusho and said future customers can expect “great hospitality and great cuisine” at the restaurant, a Hyde Park version of his successful Yusho concept in the Avondale neighborhood.

A recent court ruling cleared the way for Yusho Hyde Park to serve alcohol at 1301 E. 53rd Street, which had previously been part of a dry precinct. Last month, a lawsuit challenging a petition signed by local residents to un-dry the precinct was dismissed with prejudice, and the Circuit Court of Cook County deemed the petition valid.

"I’m here for the long haul. I believe in Hyde Park and what it has to offer,” Merges said. The chef added that construction of the restaurant needs to be completed and that he has to obtain a permit and a liquor license from the city of Chicago.

James Hennessy, Associate Vice President for Commercial Real Estate at the University of Chicago, said the University is pleased to be able to bring Yusho Hyde Park to the neighborhood.

“The success of A10 so far, as well as local support of plans for Yusho, shows that the community has an appetite for new dining options, and we look forward to seeing Yusho open soon,” Hennessy said. “Having a second restaurant by Matthias Merges, an award-winning chef, will further complement everything 53rd Street and the Hyde Park neighborhood have to offer.

Merges opened A10 in November at 1462 E. 53rd Street—next door to the Harper Theater, which opened in early 2013, and across the street from the Hyatt Place hotel, which opened in September 2013. A10 is open for lunch and dinner.

KAM congregation extends spring gala to 53rd Street

If you’re looking for a way to enjoy a “night on the town” in Hyde Park, you could certainly find it next Saturday, April 27. It is set to be an evening to look back on history and look forward to things to come. 

New and upcoming offerings on 53rd Street will be on display as Harper Theater holds a private showing of 42, the new film detailing Jackie Robinson’s story as the integrator of American baseball, and chef Matthias Merges (of Charlie Trotter’s fame) previews the fare of his new bistro restaurant coming to Hyde Park. Merges is set to open the yet-to-be-named restaurant, along with Yusho Hyde Park, as part of redevelopment on 53rd Street.

Adding to the excitement, Jonathan Eig, the New York Times best-selling author of Opening Day: The Story of Jackie Robinson’s First Season, will discuss baseball in the early 20th century.

The evening’s line-up has been put together as part of KAM Isaiah Israel’s Spring Gala fundraiser. KAM is the oldest Jewish congregation in the Midwest and a longtime presence in Hyde Park. Tickets start at $125 per person and the event starts at 6 p.m. For more information visit the event’s website here.

"Chef of the Year" shares plans for 53rd Street

Chicago restaurateur Matthias Merges, who plans to open two new restaurants in Hyde Park this year, was recently named Chef of the Year at the 2013 Jean Banchet Awards—a high honor in the restaurant industry. Merges, who owns the popular Logan Square eatery Yusho, also told the Eater blog that one of his new spots will be called Yusho Hyde Park and that the other would feature cuisines from Northern Italy, Southern France and the Alps. That restaurant has not yet been named.

Read more about Merges award and his plans for 53rd Street on the Eater blog.