News about 53rd St. in Hyde Park, Chicago

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.

Celebrate Chicago Restaurant Week in Hyde Park

Sponsored by the Choose Chicago tourism organization, the 8th Annual Chicago Restaurant Week takes place from Jan. 30 – Feb. 12, 2015. Diners will enjoy multi-course specialty prix fixe menus at more than 250 Chicago restaurants, priced at $22 for lunch and $33 and/or $44 for dinner (excluding beverages, tax, and gratuity).

This year, two of the participating restaurants are from Hyde Park – Matthias Merges’ A10, located at 1466 E. 53rd Street and Jovanis Bouargoub’s Porkchop, located at 1516 E. Harper Court. Both restaurateurs were recently profiled in the Chicago Tribune for their contributions to the burgeoning dining scene on the South Side. A10 was also listed as one of dining critic Phil Vettel’s top picks for Restaurant Week.

A10 will be offering a $44 three-course dinner menu. Porkchop will be offering a $22 two-course lunch menu and a $33 three-course dinner menu. For reservations, diners can contact A10 at 773-288-1010 and Porkchop at 773-493-9333.

53rd Street and CIE included in Next City profile of UChicago’s civic engagement work

Online urban affairs magazine Next City posted an article this week that profiles the University of Chicago’s Vice President for Civic Engagement Derek Douglas and includes the Chicago Innovation Exchange and other recent developments on 53rd Street as part of the University’s work to help improve the South Side and the city of Chicago.
Read the article at


53rd Street area merchants offer “First Weekend” fun and discounts to UChicago students, Jan. 9 and 10

Hyde Park’s 53rd Street is expected to be bustling with activity this weekend, as more than two dozen merchants in the retail corridor welcome University of Chicago students back from winter break with a First Weekend event on Friday and Saturday, Jan. 9 and 10, from 6 - 11 p.m.

Organized as part of the University’s UChicago Local initiative to support businesses on the mid-South Side, the event includes nine stores, 16 restaurants, and seven other local businesses – each offering special happenings, discounts, samples, or raffles for students who show their valid UChicago ID.

Some of the event highlights for students include the Harper Theater’s (5238 S. Harper Ave.) free midnight showings of Caddyshack, the Promontory’s (5311 S. Lake Park Ave. West) “Polar Bear Party” and raffle for De La Soul concert tickets, and the raffle for three months of free laundry service from Kimbark Coin Laundry (1218 E. 53rd St.). In addition, the Doughnut Vault food truck will be parked in front of Nichols Park (1355 E. 53rd St.) both nights, selling its popular treats. The UChicago Police Field Office (1411 E. 53rd St.) will be giving away water bottles and cinch bags for students registering a bicycle or laptop computer on Friday night until 8 p.m.

Formerly known as “First Friday,” the quarterly event, coordinated by the University’s commercial real estate team and the Office of Campus and Student Life, has been extended to include Saturday night based on positive merchant feedback from previous events. UChicago will offer increased shuttle service between 53rd Street and the main Hyde Park campus both nights.

“Several new businesses, including short-term pop-up shops, have opened on 53rd Street since the beginning of the current academic year,” said James M. Hennessy, associate vice president for commercial real estate operations for the University. “The First Weekend event is an opportunity to introduce or reacquaint UChicago students with the wide array of shopping, dining and entertainment options on the street, while supporting local retailers.”

For the full list of participating businesses and offers, students can visit

Holiday party at Anastasia Thursday night; other holiday offers on 53rd Street

Pop-up clothing boutique Anastasia, at 1500 E. 53rd Street, will host a free holiday party for customers on Thursday, December 11, from 5-9 p.m. Owner and designer Anastasia Chatzka has organized a festive night for customers to celebrate the holidays and personally meet the designers whose pieces are sold in the store in addition to her own clothing line. The store will offer refreshments, discounts of 20-50% on selected items, and a chance to win a pair of handmade mittens.

A variety of other retailers on the street are also offering special holiday deals through the end of December:

  • The Red Balloon - The children’s store located at 1504 53rd Street is offering cozy holiday story times every Tuesday morning at 10:30 a.m. Owner Jennifer Pope has planned complimentary fun activities for children, including making gingerbread houses and decorating "Love You" letters.
  • Meadowlark - Located at 1457 E. 53rd Street, the store carries an artfully curated collection of vintage clothing. Through the holidays, owner Kelly Asaf is offering a 15% discount on all clothing purchases. The store is now carrying Pound jewelry, hand-made with crystals and stones, and through January 1st, shoppers will receive a $10 discount on their Pound jewelry purchase.
  • Kilwins - Santa will make special appearances at Kilwins two weekends – this Saturday and Sunday, December 13 and 14, and next Saturday and Sunday, December 20 and 21 from 3-6 p.m. both weeks.  Kilwins is located at 5226 S. Harper Avenue, and owner Jackie Jackson is also offering free hot chocolate, fudge samples, and coloring books while supplies last. Shoppers purchasing one pound of fudge will receive one half pound free of charge.

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.

Harper Court garage offers free parking for holidays; now accessible to northbound traffic

Shoppers looking for deals along 53rd Street this holiday season can find one even before visiting a store: two hours of free parking at the Harper Court parking garage.

Beginning on Black Friday, Nov. 28, and running through Dec. 31, everyone who parks in the garage will automatically receive the first two hours free. Regular parking rates, which are the same as metered street parking, will apply after two hours.

The University of Chicago is working with operator LAZ Parking to provide the deal as an added convenience for shoppers visiting local retailers. The garage has more than 200 indoor public parking spaces.

“Many local businesses at Harper Court and surrounding locations are preparing to kick off the holiday shopping season this weekend with special promotions for Black Friday and Small Business Saturday,” said James Hennessy, associate vice president for commercial real estate operations for the University. “Free parking will help shoppers take full advantage of local deals.”

The garage entrance is on the west side of Lake Park Avenue, north of 53rd Street, and is now accessible to both northbound and southbound traffic. A construction project to modify the median to enable northbound drivers to turn left into the garage was completed last week ahead of schedule.


A10 Receives Michelin Guide Honor

By Lilian Huang

53rd Street is now home to a Michelin Guide-award-winning restaurant: A10.

Chef Matthias Merges' venture into Italian and French cuisine has received multiple positive reviews since opening in November 2013. Now the Michelin Guide, which annually publishes a popular listing of restaurant recommendations for travelers, has named A10 one of its Bib Gourmand recipients for 2015.

The Bib Gourmand is awarded to restaurants that offer exceptional value, or, in the words of the Michelin Guide, “restaurants that serve two courses and a glass of wine or dessert for $40 or less” while maintaining high quality.

A10, located at 1462 E. 53rd St., is one of 59 Chicago restaurants included on the 2015 Bib Gourmand list. It is also only the second restaurant in Hyde Park to be recognized by Michelin. French restaurant La Petite Folie, at 1504 E. 55th Street, has also been recommended by the guide.

New pop-up shops coming to 53rd Street

Three new pop-up shops are set to open on 53rd Street early next month, becoming the latest addition to Hyde Park’s burgeoning shopping, dining and entertainment district. Home goods purveyor Neighborly, handmade-fashions boutique Anastasia, and vintage retailer Meadowlark are all scheduled to open on November 7 and remain open through the upcoming holiday shopping season.

The temporary stores are part of an ongoing effort for apparel and home goods retailers to test their concepts in Hyde Park while giving local residents new choices and a variety of shopping options. Other recent pop-ups have included apparel boutiques Independence and Sir & Madame, children’s apparel retailer Red Balloon, and women’s apparel store Comfort Me Boutique. Comfort Me, which opened in August 2013, has proven popular among local shoppers and has signed a long-term lease to remain in the neighborhood.

“I love this neighborhood because it is very close-knit and has that feeling that everybody knows everybody,” said Bethany Thomas, who manages the Hyde Park Comfort Me. “I am getting really good feedback about my product and what the shopper here likes.”

If the latest pop-ups are successful, they might stay longer too. The stores are:

  • Anastasia, 1500 E. 53rd St., is a Ukranian Village-based fashion boutique headed by designer Anastasia Chatzka. It is known for offering avant-garde garments on the forefront of fashion. Its pop-up shop in Hyde Park will stock select handmade soft goods.
  • Meadowlark, 1457 E. 53rd Street, is a community-oriented shop with a main branch in Humboldt Park, featuring a carefully edited selection of vintage clothing for men and women, as well as works by local artists and designers. The pop-up store will feature modern-feeling vintage, including wool sweaters, silk shirts, fine wool coats, and scarves for cold days.
  • Neighborly, originally based in Lincoln Square, will go into the space at 1506 E. 53rd St., most recently occupied by Independence. It is a one-stop shop for locally sourced home goods, including furniture, vintage kitchenware, and modern artwork. The Hyde Park pop-up will carry a similar but carefully curated inventory, offering seasonally appropriate goods to South Siders seeking stylish, modern home accessories. The store is currently seeking a retail assistant.

“The pop-up shops are one strategy to bring in the kinds of retail options the local community has told us they want to see, in addition to the restaurants and other amenities we’ve had great success in attracting to the area,” said James Hennessy, associate vice president for commercial real estate operations for the University of Chicago, which has been partnering with the city and local community to revitalize the 53rd Street corridor. “So far, each of these temporary stores has stayed longer than they originally planned because they have been even more successful than they expected.”

The University is working with its leasing agent, McCaffery Interests, to identify both temporary, pop-up retailers for 53rd Street and long-term tenants.

Lake Park Avenue construction project will ease access to Harper Court parking

Construction began this week to modify the median on Lake Park Avenue just north of 53rd Street to allow northbound drivers to turn left into the public parking garage at the Harper Court office and retail building.

Street parking along Lake Park will be restricted during construction. The garage, which has about 225 public parking spaces, remains open and accessible to southbound vehicles. The entrance is on Lake Park Avenue just south of the McDonald’s restaurant. Garage parking rates are the same as city meters for street parking for two hours or less, starting at $2 for 30 minutes.

The project is expected to be complete in late November.

Nancy Krause opens at Harper Court

Flower shop owner Nancy Krause had been “intrigued by” the idea of opening a store in Hyde Park since living in the neighborhood several years ago, but she found no suitable space available at the time. The recent wave of development around 53rd Street renewed her interest.

After reading about the opening of several new restaurants, Krause returned for a visit and eventually secured one of the new spaces for rent in Harper Court. On Oct. 15 Nancy Krause Floral Design became the latest addition to the growing cluster of retailers at Harper Court.

The store offers various services, including hand-tied bouquets for walk-in customers, elaborate floral arrangements for weddings and other events, and weekly accounts with homes and businesses. Krause hopes to establish regular accounts with Hyde Park buildings, and there has already been some interest from a condominium in the neighborhood.

Krause is hopeful about the store’s future in the area. “I love Hyde Park,” said Krause. “I don’t know what it is, but I feel very strongly that I have a connection with it, and I’ve got to be here.”

The Hyde Park location is the second for Nancy Krause, and the store will also continue to operate at its Lincoln Park location at 1101 West Webster Street.

Over the past three and half years in Lincoln Park, Nancy Krause has established a reputation for its distinctive sense of style and attention to detail in color and fragrance. Besides floral arrangements, it offers an array of vintage vases and unusual antiques for garden displays. The store is also known for its elegant interior and its warm and welcoming ambience, which it has carefully recreated in Hyde Park.

Nancy Krause Floral Design is located at 5229 South Harper Court. It is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday.

Chicago Innovation Exchange opens on 53rd Street

A new 17,000-square-foot innovation center is the latest addition to 53rd Street. The University of Chicago today celebrated the grand opening of the Chicago Innovation Exchange, which will provide resources for UChicago faculty and students and local entrepreneurs to turn their discoveries and ideas into business startups.

Federal, state and local elected officials, including Gov. Pat Quinn, Sen. Mark Kirk and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel joined President Robert J. Zimmer and other administrators for a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the main space of the CIE, located on the second floor of the Harper Theater building at 1452 E. 53rd St.

The space will house a business incubator, members working on business ideas and startups, and an array of programming for entrepreneurs, including workshops and speakers.

Read more.

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.


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.