News about 53rd St. in Hyde Park, Chicago

New pet boutique, Sprocket & Stone, to open on 53rd Street on July 22

Hyde Park resident, artist, and animal lover Sophie Phillips is set to open her new pet boutique, Sprocket & Stone, A Paw Shop! on July 22 at 1013 E. 53rd Street between Ellis and Greenwood Avenues.

The store will carry healthy dog and cat food and treats; all natural shampoos, conditioners, and supplements; designer-made collars and leashes; toys; a small gift section for pet lovers; and custom pet collages created by Ms. Phillips. The store will feature brands such as Orijen, Acana, Pure Vita, Primal, Fromm, Stella & Chewy’s, and more, with an emphasis on small businesses and products made in America.

Ms. Phillips was born and raised in Brussels, Belgium, and pets have always been an important part of her life—at various times she’s had cats, dogs, rabbits, hamsters, and horses. Ms. Phillips, her husband, Brian, and their 11-year-old son, Miles, currently share their home with three cats  (Alley, Arthur, and Cutie) and two dogs (Sprocket and Stone).

We spoke with Ms. Phillips to learn more about her background and plans for Sprocket & Stone:

You’re originally from Belgium – how did Hyde Park become home for you?

I moved to New York in 2001, met my husband, Brian, who is from the South Side of Chicago, and together we moved to Hyde Park from Brooklyn. We wanted to be part of a community that still had a small neighborhood feel, is close to the lake, and most importantly, diverse. We love Hyde Park; it is a beautiful neighborhood with so much to offer, and our 11-year-old son currently attends Ray School.

How did you decide to open a pet boutique?

When we adopted our first dog, Sprocket, we completely fell head over heels for him and invested a lot of time in researching different training methods and nutrition programs. I wanted to share our knowledge and passion with other pet “parents,” so I founded Premier Pet Concierge, offering dog walking and cat sitting services to approximately 30 clients in Hyde Park, Kenwood, Woodlawn, and Bronzeville.

Over the past three years, I’ve built a loyal clientele and really involved myself into the field, helping clients with nutrition advice, vet referrals, and anything related to the wellbeing of their fur kids. One dog led to another, and Stone became the newest addition to our four-legged family – both dogs were my inspiration to start Sprocket & Stone. I’ve worked in the hospitality industry for over 20 years, was brought up by a family of small business owners, and I’ve always been a people person and an entrepreneur at heart – combining these skills with my passion for animals led to the concept of Sprocket & Stone, A Paw Shop!

How did you select Hyde Park as the location for your business?

I visited two locations in Hyde Park, and as soon as I stepped into the second location, I felt it in my heart that that was it—it was the perfect size, the energy felt great, and I was inspired right away. My plan is to do a soft opening first, with a grand opening in September.

Our community is growing and changing. Sprocket & Stone will be more than just another pet store; it will be a destination. I will continue to provide outstanding pet care services, along with healthy dog and cat delicacies, cool gear and accessories, and a small art and gift section in a fun, friendly and welcoming environment – all here in the heart of beautiful Hyde Park.

What can you tell us about your logo?

The goal of the logo was to incorporate my dogs and to use the American and Chicago flag colors and style in the design. I also wanted something that was pet-related but cool enough to really stand out as the image of a retail boutique with a bit of vintage character. The name, “A Paw Shop,” was a play on words from “pawn shop.” The decor will reflect the logo, with an eclectic mix of vintage, wood, metal, and recycled materials.

What can you tell us about your custom pet art?

I create customized, one-of-a-kind pieces available to order, and the process starts with the selection of various clippings and inspiring quotes from magazines according to color, shape, and size, which are then applied to a high-quality gesso board to create totally unique, vibrant, and funky pet artwork. Each collage is then protected by a liquid glass resin that gives it depth and texture.

Business hours are planned to be 10 a.m. – 6:30 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, 11 a.m. - 5 p.m. Saturday, and 12-5 p.m. on Sunday. You can reach Sprocket & Stone at,, and @sprocketandstone on Instagram.

Sophie Phillips with Stone on left and Sprocket on right - Photo by Phil Gates
Sophie Phillips with Stone on left and Sprocket on right - Photo by Phil Gates
Sophie and Brian Phillips with Stone and Sprocket - Photo by Phil Gates
Sophie and Brian Phillips with Stone and Sprocket - Photo by Phil Gates
Sophie Phillips in front of the new store location with Sprocket and Stone - Pho
Sophie Phillips in front of the new store location with Sprocket and Stone - Photo by Phil Gates
Sprocket & Stone logo - courtesy of Sophie Phillips
Sprocket & Stone logo - courtesy of Sophie Phillips
Sophie Phillip's custom pet art - Photo courtesy of Sophie Phillips
Sophie Phillip's custom pet art - Photo courtesy of Sophie Phillips
Sophie Phillip's custom pet art - Photo courtesy of Sophie Phillips
Sophie Phillip's custom pet art - Photo courtesy of Sophie Phillips

Hyde Park Taco Station to open in former Ribs ‘N Bibs Space

If you’ve walked past the former Ribs ‘N Bibs location at 5300 S. Dorchester Avenue since Sunday, you may have noticed construction activity and the “coming soon” signs in the window for the planned new restaurant, Hyde Park Taco Station.

Owned by Chicagoan Edgar Vasquez, the new restaurant is anticipated to open in mid-September.

Vasquez has an extensive hospitality background, having worked for many years with the Chicago Four Seasons Hotel as a personal valet for stars such as Madonna, Rosie O’Donnell, Meg Ryan, and Geena Davis, and bands such as Fleetwood Mac, the Scorpions, and others.

He worked with Slick Design in Chicago, designing and opening the former N9ne Steakhouse and ghostbar in the West Loop as well as several restaurants and bars in Milwaukee. Vasquez was also the managing partner and designer for Moonshine in Wicker Park and the former Forno Diablo in Lincoln Park. In Hyde Park, Vasquez was involved in the design and launch of Harper Court’s Ja’ Grill with Tony Coates.

Hyde Park Taco Station is envisioned as Mexican fast gourmet street food made from farm-fresh ingredients, with superior customer service and attention to detail. The restaurant will launch with BYOB service, and a liquor license is anticipated in summer 2016.

Vasquez chose Hyde Park as the location for his restaurant because he felt it has “…a great sense of energy. People in Hyde Park are friendly, approachable, and excited, and I couldn’t be more happy to be a part of the community.”

Exterior of Hyde Park Taco Station - Now Under Construction
Exterior of Hyde Park Taco Station - Photo by Amy Williams
Hyde Park Taco Station Sign
Hyde Park Taco Station Sign - Photo by Amy Williams
Hyde Park Taco Station Sign
Hyde Park Taco Station Sign - Photo by Amy Williams

Sir & Madame boutique returns to Hyde Park with permanent location

It’s a happy homecoming for Hyde Park natives Brian and Autumn Merritt, opening a permanent location of their clothing and accessories boutique Sir & Madame, at 5225 S. Harper Court on August 17, 2015 – it’s also great news for area shoppers who gravitate to their “classic with a twist” design aesthetic.

Hyde Parkers may remember Sir & Madame’s temporary pop-up location at 1504 E. 53rd Street – the store opened in September 2013 in the space now occupied by Belle Up Boutique. Sir & Madame’s “urban sophisticate” offerings were enthusiastically received by the Hyde Park community, and the Merritts said they hoped to open a permanent location once their Ukrainian Village lease ended.

The couple first met as students at Ray Elementary, attended Kenwood Academy together, and now they’re back in the neighborhood with the opening of Sir & Madame in the Harper Court development, next door to Nancy Krause Floral Design & Garden Antiques. When their pop-up store opened, Ms. Merritt explained, “We're all about Hyde Park. We're back on the block…We grew up walking 53rd Street. When we were teenagers, it was the place to be—where all the cool people were. All of that was sort of lost until now, and we want to be a part of bringing that back…We definitely see Hyde Park as a viable market, and I think everyone here can appreciate well-made clothes and accessories “

“We always knew that Sir & Madame was a great fit for Hyde Park and with the 53rd Street area increasingly becoming known as a vibrant shopping and dining destination, we could not be happier to welcome them back,” said James Hennessy, associate vice president for commercial real estate operations for the University. “It’s a great benefit to the Hyde Park community when a pop-up shop owner experiences the vitality and charm of the neighborhood and decides to make the area a permanent home for his or her business."

Brian and Autumn Merritt from Sir & Madame - Photo by Clayton Hauck, Chicago Mag
Brian and Autumn Merritt from Sir & Madame - Photo by Clayton Hauck, Chicago Magazine

The Promontory starts lunch service on Monday, July 6

Diners in Hyde Park will have a new midday restaurant option when The Promontory starts its new lunch service on Monday, July 6.

In addition to its existing dinner and weekend brunch hours, The Promontory will serve lunch Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Chef de Cuisine Matt Sliwinski has developed a “hearth charred lunch” menu including options such as a fried chicken sandwich with challah bun, house made buttermilk ranch dressing, turmeric pickle relish, and smoked bacon; a vegetarian sandwich with crispy potato masala, creamed spinach, maitake mushroom, cashews, and LaClare chèvre; and even multigrain French toast with strawberry royale, chocolate cremeaux, malted mint whipped cream, and toasted hazelnut for those who want a breakfast-for-lunch treat.

“53rd Street has been established as a true dining destination,” said James Hennessy, associate vice president for commercial real estate operations for the University. “We’re very pleased that The Promontory’s new lunch service will provide residents, visitors, and local employees with even more options for a quality lunch experience in the community."

Since opening in July 2014, The Promontory has an earned a loyal following for the restaurant as well as its innovative cocktail program and music venue, with mentions and awards from Chicago magazine, Chicagoist, Chicago Reader, Chicago Tribune Metromix, Eater Chicago, Imbibe magazine, Thrillist, Timeout Chicago, and more.

The Promontory is located at 5311 S. Lake Park Avenue West. For reservations, call 312-801-2100.

Green Tomato Bisque with Peekytoe Crab - The Promontory
Green Tomato Bisque with Peekytoe Crab - Photo Courtesy of The Promontory
Vegetarian Sandwich - The Promontory
Vegetarian Sandwich - Photo Courtesy of The Promontory

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

Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce Dinner Crawl Graphic
Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce Dinner Crawl Graphic

Hyde Park Farmers Market returns to Harper Court on Thursday, June 4

The Hyde Park Farmers Market will begin its summer season in the courtyard area of Harper Court at 5300 S. Harper Court, on Thursday, June 4, from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m., taking place rain or shine every week through October 29.

Co-sponsored by the South East Chicago Commission and the Special Service Area of Hyde Park with assistance from the Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce, the 2015 season marks the return to the market’s original location in Harper Court from its hiatus at Harold Washington Park from 2010-2014, and includes more than one dozen local and regional farms and Hyde Park vendors selling fruits, vegetables, baked goods, crafts, plants, flowers, and more.

Confirmed vendors include Lyons Fruit Farm, Hardin Farms, Smits Farms, C&D Family Farms, Mudsock Stock Farm, Gunthorp Farms, Parrish Farms, Marilyn’s Bakery, Noffke Family Farm, Katic Breads, Artisan Bread Shoppe, Madsen Farms, Liveland Farms, and Nancy Krause Floral Design & Garden Antiques.

“We’re happy to bring the Hyde Park Farmers Market back to its original location in Harper Court,” said James M. Hennessy, associate vice president for commercial real estate operations for the University. “With 53rd Street increasingly becoming a center for retail and other activity, this location will put the vendors in the heart of Hyde Park’s commercial district while providing the local community with convenient access to a farmer’s market.”

To stay up to date with Farmers Market news, visit their Facebook page as well as Twitter and Instagram at @DHPChicago.

Hyde Park Farmers Market Graphic
Hyde Park Farmers Market Graphic

Harper Court included as venue site in Make Music Chicago 2015

Make Music Chicago is coming to 53rd Street. Harper Court will be one of the venues for the 2015 free music festival on Sunday, June 21.

Both amateur and professional musicians are invited to sign up to perform in the outdoor area at Harper Court, at 5235 South Harper Court. The space near Native Foods restaurant will be available to performers from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and interested musicians may request a time slot via email to An electrical outlet will be available if needed.

Make Music Chicago originated from France’s Fête de la Musique (International Music Day), a musical celebration begun in 1982, and now the largest single-day music event in the world. The festival takes place in more than 700 cities in 110 countries, and this is the fifth year that Chicago will participate, with both scheduled and impromptu musical performances planned at locations throughout the city, including Harper Court. Other Hyde Park-area locations include the Midway Plaisance, the University of Chicago International House,  and 63rd Street Beach.

For more information and a full listing of Make Music Chicago 2015 events, click here. A full listing of Harper Court scheduled performances can be found here.

Participants and spectators are invited to spread the work via social media using the hash tag #makemusicchi.

Make Music Chicago 2015 - Harper Court Graphic
Make Music Chicago 2015 - Harper Court Graphic

Third generation silhouette artist comes to Bellē Up Boutique on 53rd Street

Bellē Up Boutique, at 1504 E. 53rd Street, is welcoming Erik Johnson, a third-generation silhouette artist, to its store on Monday, June 1, from 3-6 p.m.

Erik is a world-renowned artist who travels the country, cutting his keepsake silhouettes by hand in five minutes or less. Bellē Up has hosted him several times over the last few years in its Beverly store, and those events have proven popular with customers. Silhouettes are a unique way to document babies, children, teens, and adults, and they make excellent gifts.

The art of silhouette cutting began in Europe in the early 1700s – at first it was just for the royal class, but by the 1800s silhouette artists had come to America and were capturing the likenesses of everyone from American politicians to local people at county fairs. It is estimated there are as few as 15 remaining silhouette artists in the United States.

To see samples of Erik’s work, visit his Facebook page. Silhouettes will be available for purchase at Bellē Up on June 1.

To sign up for an appointment, click here.

Erik Johnson Silhouettes
Silhouettes Courtesy of Erik Johnson

“Chicago’s Best” food challenge films at 53rd Street’s Rajun Cajun

Elliott Bambrough from WGN-TV will be coming to Hyde Park to film Trushar Patel, owner of Rajun Cajun, for an episode of “Chicago’s Best” food challenge.

The segment will be filmed on Friday, May 15th at 11 a.m. and will air on Sunday, June 14th, at 10 p.m. on WGN.

Bambrough will interview Patel about what makes Rajun Cajun one of “Chicago’s Best” and which of his spicy menu items stand out from the rest. The two will cook a dish together – ideally so hot that Bambrough will not be able to finish it.

If you’re a Rajun Cajun fan and happen to be in the restaurant that day - who knows - you might just end up on television.

Trushar Patel
Trushar Patel - Photo by Anna Knott (Chicago Magazine)

Free Mom & Me yoga class at 53rd Street’s Lively Athletics

Lively Athletics, at 5241 S. Harper Avenue, will be hosting a free “Mom & Me” yoga class on Saturday, May 9th, at 9:15 a.m., in honor of Mother’s Day.

Shalise Nichols, founder of blissfolds yoga, will lead moms and children ages five and up through various yoga poses. Participants are asked to bring yoga mats and to wear comfortable clothing.

The class is free, but donations to the instructor are welcome. Spaces are limited; please reserve by emailing, calling 708-358-0605, or responding at

Shalise Nichols with Yoga Class
Shalise Nichols with Yoga Class - Photo Courtesy of Shalise Nichols