News about 53rd St. in Hyde Park, Chicago

Faces of 53rd Street: Trushar Patel of Rajun Cajun

As Rajun Cajun restaurant at 1459 E. 53rd Street prepares to celebrate its 23rd anniversary in December 2016, the 53rd Street Blog is pleased to feature Hyde Park resident and businessman Trushar Patel in this latest edition of “Faces of 53rd Street.”

We recently sat down with Patel, 60, (or more accurately, we sat down and he kept jumping up to personally attend to the constant stream of happy diners) to learn more about the history of this Hyde Park institution and his family’s involvement in the evolution of 53rd Street.

What led you to open Rajun Cajun?

“I was a supervisor at McDonald’s for 16 years. I started as a crewmember, and worked my way up to become a supervisor of four stores – all of them located in Chicago, and all owned by the same person. My goal was always to have my own McDonald’s location. I thought my goal was in sight when my son Nishil was unexpectedly born three months premature in 1991. Nishil was born weighing just 1 lb. 9 oz., and spent three months in the neonatal intensive care unit. Even though I had insurance, it didn’t cover everything, and my life savings went to pay the medical bills. I had to give up my dream of owning a McDonald’s franchise, and I started looking for local businesses that my brother and I could work at together as a family. A local broker found the Rajun Cajun location in 1993, and we were open for business on December 9th that year. The business was originally called Cajun Joe’s Chicken Palace, a sister franchise of Subway that no longer exists, and we decided to change the name to Rajun Cajun to keep some of the name recognition. The original plan was to pronounce ‘Rajun’ as in ‘done’ and meaning ‘king’ in Hindi, but everyone started pronouncing it to rhyme with ‘Cajun’ and the name has stuck ever since. Rajun Cajun now offers a combination of Indian and soul food and our customers love the variety.”

How many people does the restaurant employ? Are any from Hyde Park or the South Side?

“Rajun Cajun has eight employees, including me, my wife, and son. All of us live in Hyde Park.”

What is the best part of being a local business owner and employer in the community?

“I learned a lot from my time with McDonald’s about quality, cleanliness, and service, and I take a lot of pride in my business. We serve excellent quality food – nothing is ready-made or out of a can. Indian recipes are very labor intensive, and we make everything ourselves with lots of peeling and chopping of fresh ingredients. You can come to the restaurant at any time, and it will always be spotless – everything in the restaurant gets cleaned from top to bottom every day. I personally never take a day off, and am at the restaurant from open to close every day without a vacation. It takes a lot of my time, but it’s a sacrifice you have to be willing to make if you want to be a successful business owner. One of my favorite things to see is the generations of families as my customers. Maybe a customer came to us as a pregnant mom, and now I have her 22-year old kid as a customer. We treat our customers like family, and that’s an extension of the way we treat our employees, too. It’s not the typical employer/employee relationship – there’s a lot of trust involved. Our employees cook their own foods for lunch or dinner in the restaurant, and it’s really a ‘home away from home’ for them. Roberta, the woman who makes our samosas, has been with us for 23 years, and Teresa, the woman who bakes our bread, has been with us 20 years. The first Rajun Cajun employees are still here, and we’ve become a true family.”

There’s a large photo mural of postcards sent to Rajun Cajun by loyal customers displayed on the wall of the renovated restaurant. How did this practice get started?

“When we first opened in 1993, no one knew there was an Indian restaurant in Hyde Park, and we had to rely on word of mouth and recommendations to get new customers. Students started coming in, became our friends, they told other friends, and our business grew. When customers went on vacation or back to their home countries they would send postcards to the restaurant. We got so many and used to throw them out, but my nephew told me we should save them, and we started displaying them on the wall. When the restaurant was renovated last summer, we decided to turn the postcards into a mural for everyone to enjoy.”

What are some of your favorite things about 53rd Street?

“The restaurant has been open since 1993, and my family has lived in Hyde Park since about 1996. During that time there’s been an amazing transformation in Hyde Park, and we love it. Things can never stay the same – especially in a city neighborhood – and the Hyatt Hotel, Harper Theater, and the many shops and restaurants have all contributed to the growth of Hyde Park and our local economy. President Obama likes change, and we do, too.”

During more than 20 years here, what have been your impressions of Hyde Park?

“When I worked at McDonald’s I never went past downtown and had no idea about the south side – it was a new thing for me and it was very exciting to see all the different people from different backgrounds here. For example, my wife is from Tanzania, and Sister Rose, the owner of the shop Kilimanjaro International at 1305 E. 53rd Street, also happens to be from Tanzania. It’s a very small world, made even smaller when you live and work in Hyde Park.”

What do you like to do in Hyde Park when you are not working?

“It sounds funny, but after a long day at the restaurant, my wife, Anila, and I like to go out to dinner. Some of our favorite local places include the Litehouse Whole Food Grill, the Sitdown Café and Sushi Bar, Wingers, Chipotle, Maravillas, and Boston Market.”

What are your plans for the future at Rajun Cajun?

“I won’t be retiring any time soon. We’re very proud of the money we’ve been able to collect for an orphanage with 150 children in Chanod, India – more than $2,000 last year – all due to the generosity of our customers who contribute to our collection box near the cash register. The money goes to provide healthy meals, school supplies, and food for Nandani, the ophanage’s calf.

We’re happy to be on 53rd Street, and plan to continue offering quality dining for our customers for a long time to come.”

Trushar Patel, owner of Rajun Cajun
Trushar Patel, owner of Rajun Cajun

Faces of 53rd Street: Juliet Brown

Faces of 53rd Street is a series of blog posts that profile business owners, employees, and shoppers who contribute to the vibrancy of Hyde Park's 53rd Street retail corridor. In the first video in the series, meet Juliet Brown, studio manager for CorePower Yoga at the corner of 53rd Street and Lake Park Avenue.

Calmetta Coleman
calmetta's picture

Jojayden Shoes opens on 53rd Street today

A new shoe store is coming to 53rd Street. On Friday, June 24, Jojayden Shoes will have a soft launch opening at 1457 E. 53rd Street from 5-9 p.m. with drinks and appetizers. The store, owned by Schaumburg resident Wale Nubi, will carry Nubi’s branded Jojayden men’s shoe collection and seven other brands of men’s and women’s shoes and accessories – including leather goods such as handbags and wallets, as well as sunglasses, bracelets and wristwatches, socks, and hand-made bow ties. Regular store hours are 11 a.m. - 8 p.m. Monday till Saturday and 11a.m. - 6 p.m. on Sunday.

We sat down with Nubi to learn more about his business launch in Hyde Park:

Describe your background and how you got interested in fashion, especially shoes and accessories.

“I was born in Nigeria as the fifth of six children and youngest son, and everyone in my family loved fashion. My older brothers lived in London when I was a teenager, and since we all wore the same shoe size, they would send me their designer shoes when they were finished with them. I became known as the ‘shoe guy’ at school because here I was, just a teenager, wearing these expensive, fancy shoes when everyone else was just wearing sneakers. I come from a family of entrepreneurs and business owners. My father owns a hotel, my mother owns a gift store, and all my brothers and sisters have their own businesses, so I caught that same entrepreneurial spirit at a very young age. I was formerly an IT consultant for Fortune 500 companies including Siemens and Anixter, but my heart was always in fashion. I started doing research into shoe construction and went to several different countries to see their manufacturing processes – I even went to the Gucci factory in Italy – I wanted to see how their shoes were made and learn the best techniques. My brand name, ‘Jojayden,’ actually comes from my two sons’ names, Jayden, who is almost four years old; and Josiah, who is almost three. Jojayden was a side business for me in the beginning, but once my kids were born, I began to take it much more seriously, growing it into a full-time career.”

What led you to open your new store in Hyde Park?

“Eric Williams, the owner of The Silver Room at 1506 E. 53rd Street, is my good friend, and I used to sell Jojayden shoes in his Wicker Park store. When he moved his store to Hyde Park, I started selling them there as well, and noticed that I was selling twice the number of shoes in the Hyde Park location as I was previously selling on the north side – so I knew there was a market for my product. I was always hanging out in Hyde Park with Eric, and really fell in love with the neighborhood. Eric mentioned that a shoe store would do well in the area, and I started exploring retail leasing options on 53rd Street. In a way, I feel like Hyde Park chose me, and I’m so excited to have the opportunity to open my first store.”

What types of products will you be selling?

“Jojayden will carry men’s and women’s shoes and accessories, including handbags, sunglasses, jewelry, socks, hand-made bow ties, and more.”

Why do you think your store will be a good fit in the Hyde Park community?

“My test run at The Silver Room in Hyde Park did very well, and I feel positive that my shoes will reach the right fashion-conscious audience here. I love the energy I see, and the people I meet around 53rd Street. There’s a unique family spirit here from what I have noticed – everyone seems to have everyone’s back – they say, ‘hi’ to you even if they don’t know you. My shoes are unique and hand-made – you can’t find these types of shoes at DSW, Nordstrom, or any of the larger retailers.”

What is your favorite part about being a small business owner?

“I love that I now have the ability to follow my passion and create my own destiny. I feel that you get out what you put into a business, and there’s a great sense of satisfaction that comes with seeing people wearing your product and really responding to it in a positive way.”

You offer an option for completely customized shoes – what can you tell us about this process?

“I offer truly customized shoes for my customers. They can come in with a picture and we can make it for them. We also offer a 'build your own shoe' function on our website. Customers can choose the shoe material (calfskin, suede, patent leather, crocodile, or fabric), the toe style, and the type of sole (commando, wedge, rubber, or three types of leather) for a look they won’t find anywhere else. Custom shoes can take six to eight weeks to create, but are often finished sooner.”

Photo courtesty of Wale Nubi
Jojayden Shoes - photo courtesy of Wale Nubi
Jojayden Shoes - photo courtesy of Wale Nubi
Jojayden Shoes - photo courtesy of Wale Nubi

Children’s musician Laura Doherty to perform at the Hyde Park Farmers Market on Thursday, July 7 and Thursday, August 4

If you’re looking for something fun (and free!) to do with your kids, mark your calendar for nationally touring children’s recording artist Laura Doherty – performing two acoustic shows at the Hyde Park Farmers Market - one on Thursday, July 7 and one on Thursday, August 4 - both from 10-11:30 a.m.

Originally from Westchester, N.Y., Doherty started playing the guitar at 16, moved to Chicago following college, and served as a teacher and director of the Old Town School of Folk Music’s early-childhood music program, Wiggleworms. Since then, she has released three Parents’ Choice award-winning albums, Kids in the City (2009), Shining Like a Star (2011), and In A Heartbeat (2014). Time Out Chicago has named her one of the top four kids’ musicians in Chicago.

Doherty and her band, The Heartbeats, have performed at hundreds of shows and festivals across the country, including Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music, Pritzker Pavilion, Lollapalooza, Philly’s World Cafe Live, Boston’s Club Passim, and many more.

Plan a fun morning at the Hyde Park Farmers Market with your little ones – with a wide variety of vendors selling fresh produce, baked goods, jams, flowers, and more, as well as a big bucket of sidewalk chalk for budding artists.

The Hyde Park Farmers Market has live music every week, from 7 a.m.-1 p.m. through October 27, with musicians playing 90-minute sets from 7-8:30 a.m., 8:30-10 a.m., 10-11:30 a.m., and 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.

For more information about the Hyde Park Farmers Market, go to the Downtown Hyde Park website, and follow the group on Facebook.

Photo by Phil Onofrio

Hyde Park Farmers Market free community booth slots filling up

Since the Hyde Park Farmers Market opened on June 2, local community groups are showing great interest in one of its newest amenities—a free community booth for local businesses and non-profit organizations.

Seven organizations and businesses, including the YWCA Metropolitan Chicago, Doulas of Chicago, Perfect Peace Massage Therapy, iMentor, the Hyde Park School of Dance, the Chicago Free School, and the Indie City Writers, have all signed up for the weekly Thursday slots, which are available now through October 27, from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The booth may be used for community outreach, demonstrations, and other  activities, or select fundraising efforts such as bake sales for non-profit groups. The booth allows community groups to reach the farmers market audience without the typical long-term commitment and cost. In addition to the booth, the farmers market also supplies a table and two chairs.

YWCA Metropolitan Chicago is scheduled for the booth on June 16, and Jill O’Donovan, Director of Strategic Initiatives, commented, “We look forward to providing information on our current services including STEM programming for youth, our Economic Empowerment Institute, a number of family and childcare support services as well as our sexual violence and support services.  We are hopeful that our presence at the booth will not only help to increase awareness of our services but also encourage people to follow us on social media to keep up with our news and events. “

The Chicago Free School is scheduled to have representatives at the booth on July 28.  "We are excited to reach out to new families and share more about our school's vision for education and how we seek to empower children," said Lauren Beitler, the school’s founder and one of its teachers.

K.B. Jensen, co-organizer and Founder of Indie City Writers, scheduled for the booth on August 18 added, "The ability to use this space gives us a chance to get the word out about our community of writers, raise funds through book sales, and have fun writing communal poetry with the market-goers. The Hyde Park Farmers' Market is always a vibrant place that draws people together. It's a wonderful opportunity to recruit new members and tell people about our live-lit events and workshops.”

“We are happy to provide additional exposure for community organizations and local businesses to reach the farmers market audience through our new community booth feature,” said Eric Reaves, Program Manager for the South East Chicago Commission, responsible for organizing the market. “It gives these groups the chance to directly connect with area residents and shoppers and share information about important services and programs.”

Interested groups can apply for a date slot by contacting Amy Williams at

For more information about the Hyde Park Farmers Market, visit the Downtown Hyde Park website, and follow the group on Facebook.

Faces of 53rd Street: Erik “Rico” Nance

When you meet Erik Nance, he might just give you a hug instead of a handshake. The owner of Hyde Park’s LiteHouse Whole Food Grill at 1373 E. 53rd Street and Mikkey’s Retro Grill at 5319 S. Hyde Park Boulevard has a warmth and generosity of spirit that are immediately evident when you talk to him. It is also evident in his businesses.

LiteHouse is known for its healthy tacos, pizzas, wraps, and burritos made to order with fresh ingredients, but it is also noteworthy for providing about 20-30 free meals a day to the less fortunate, who order from the regular menu with the rest of the customers. Customers who want to support the LiteHouse mission have the option to “go premium,” and add $2.50 to their bill to pay for others’ free meals. Nance also serves as a mentor to his employees, some of whom were formerly homeless or struggled with addiction issues.

A resident of the South Loop, husband, and father of four children ages 5-12, Nance spent his summers in Hyde Park with his aunt and grew up in the Morgan Park neighborhood. The Apostolic Church of God on Dorchester Avenue named him “Dad of the Year” in 2015.

The 53rd Street Blog recently sat down with Nance to learn what led him to open his two local restaurants and strive to be such a positive force in the neighborhood.

What led you to open LiteHouse Whole Food Grill?

“I was on the lakefront one day near La Rabida in Jackson Park, and I was walking and praying when the vision for the LiteHouse came to me, though I didn’t know where it would be or when it might happen. Later I was at Zberry on 53rd Street when I looked across the street and saw a vacancy sign on the storefront. I thought it would be the perfect location. I saw the space and that was it. I didn’t have any experience in the restaurant industry, but the owner of the building said he would rent it to me anyway. That was three years ago, and in that time we’ve brought fresh, healthy, fast food to the community, while also serving 20,000 meals to the homeless and less fortunate.”

How did the community service aspect of the LiteHouse begin?

“One of our young employees was taking the trash out when he saw a homeless man going through the restaurant’s garbage containers. The man asked our employee if he could have permission to take some food from the trash, and our employee – he was only 18 years old, I think – came in to ask me if he could pay for the man’s meal with his own money. I told him to invite the man inside for a real meal for free. Initially he didn’t want to come in and felt like he wasn’t good enough, but I came out and told him, ‘You’re a human being – we love you – you’re welcome here.’ He had a healthy meal and told us, ‘I feel like a human again.’ That was so moving to me, and I told him to tell his friends that we would provide fresh, healthy, all-natural food for free.  That’s how our mission began. Now I encourage other restaurant owners I know to do the same.”

What led you to open Mikkey’s Retro Grill?

“I try to eat healthy as much as possible, but I started thinking about a place where you could have a ‘cheat day’ with all natural burgers, fries, and wings. I was looking at used restaurant equipment at the now-closed South Side Shrimp location, and the owner, Peter Cassel from Mac Properties, asked if I might want to rent it. I decided to open the restaurant with my older brother, Mikkel, who we always called Mikkey, and named the restaurant after him. Since the space had already been a restaurant it was easy to open it in just a few months. I didn’t have any expectations, but we sold 13,000 meals in the first month alone. We didn’t have enough employees in the beginning to keep up with the demand, but we’re staffed up now and people have been loving the restaurant and the food.”

How many people do the two restaurants employ? Are any from Hyde Park or the South Side?

“I employ about 40 people total – 18 at the LiteHouse and 22 at Mikkey’s, and all are from Hyde Park or the South Side. A lot of my employees are at-risk youth, and for some of them, I’m the first boss they ever had. Everyone deserves a chance, but I also hold them accountable – you’ve got to be on time and do your job well or you can’t stay on.”

What is the best part of being a local business owner and employer in the community?

“I recognize that some of my employees have grown up without a father figure, and I can be really strict with them – I once had a person come to an interview 20 minutes late and I would not give him the job. I told him to come back when he was ready to be responsible, because as a business owner, I can’t have people coming to work whenever they want – other people are counting on them. I want my employees to learn the ‘don’t be late’ model at a young age, to make them successful as they get older. I have a 23-year old employee who is going to be promoted soon to manager of the LiteHouse, and I am really proud of him. He used to be homeless and was stealing food to provide for his younger brother. They both came into the LiteHouse for a meal, and when I saw him in line, there was just something about him, and I asked him if he needed a job. I hired him on the spot, and this changed his path. I know for a fact that since he is now working, he has stopped stealing.”

What is your favorite thing about 53rd Street?

“To me, 53rd Street equals life. It’s a microcosm of the world, with poor, middle class, and wealthy people – white and black together on the street – all with the same chance to influence the world. I love the feeling on the street – people still say ‘hello,’ and there’s no other block like this in the world. People like Louis Farrakhan, Barack Obama, Toni Preckwinkle, and Jesse Jackson have all walked on 53rd Street, and that is an inspiration.”

What are your thoughts about Hyde Park?

“Hyde Park tells two different tales, and there are two sides to living here. You’ve got the political aspect; and the doctors, lawyers, and professors; every aspect of religion from the Nation of Islam to Hinduism; but you’ve also got at-risk kids – some of them poor and abused, with parents on drugs and without food in the house. Some of these kids have no place to go – no jobs, no training, and they don’t know what to do to get into college. They are literally lost. I have a very smart young woman working at Mikkey’s flipping burgers – I could tell right away how intelligent she is, and when I found out she got a 24 on the ACT, I made it my mission to get her to go to college. I’m good at sensing people’s talents and gifts – that’s what I’m called to do – to help them reach their potential in the world. I believe that if you build these lives to some degree, they can go out and build other lives; they just need opportunity. I’m able to touch the lives of my employees and customers, giving them the love they might not have had before and a warm place to sit when they didn’t have anywhere to go.”

Photo courtesy of Erik Nance
Photo courtesy of Erik Nance

Hyde Park Farmers Market offering sign-ups for free community booth for local businesses and non-profits during the 2016 season

The Hyde Park Farmers Market kicks off a second season at Harper Court on Thursday, June 2, from 7 a.m. – 1 p.m., running through October 27, for a total of 22 weeks.

Seventeen vendors will be participating this year, selling a wide variety of seasonal fruits, vegetables, herbs, flowers, and plants, as well as farm-raised meat, eggs, baked goods, coffee, jam, and more.

Sponsored by Downtown Hyde Park (SSA #61), the Farmers Market is offering a new amenity this year – a free community booth for local businesses and non-profit organizations to share during the season. Based on availability, businesses or groups will be able to apply for a date slot, and the booth may be used for community outreach, demonstrations, and other crafts/activities, or select fundraising efforts such as bake sales for non-profit groups. If a group elects to do a bake sale, specific guidelines will be provided. The Hyde Park Farmers Market will supply a tent, table, and chairs.

“Typically booths must be rented for the entire season,” said Eric Reaves, Director of SSA #61, “but this new program enables local groups to reach the large audience of farmers market shoppers without the long-term commitment and cost.”

Interested groups can apply for a date slot by contacting Amy Williams at

For more information about the Hyde Park Farmers Market, visit the Downtown Hyde Park website and on Facebook.

Harper Court Summer Music Series returns for 2016 season, starting with Blues & Steppers on Wednesday, May 25

The University of Chicago, in collaboration with Eric Williams, owner of The Silver Room, will kick off the second year of free, open-air summer concerts, with the Harper Court Summer Music Series, starting May 25. Located in the courtyard area at 5235 S. Harper Court off 53rd Street, the event includes four concerts scheduled for 6 – 9 p.m. on May 25, June 29, July 27, and August 31.

The series begins with Blues & Steppers Night on Wednesday, May 25, with the legendary Chicago Rhythm & Blues Kings and DJ Eric “ET” Taylor, a member of the V103 elite mix team. Dance instructor Swan will help you brush up on your dancing skills, so bring a partner and your dancing shoes!

Jazz Night will be the feature on Wednesday, June 29, with jazz drummer sensation Makaya McCraven and his band, including Junius Paul on bass, Justefan on vibes, Matt Gold on guitar, and Marquis Hill on trumpet. Afterward, DJ Duane Powell will play the rarest grooves of jazz, funk, soul, and house music to get the dance floor moving.

Latin music is the theme for July 27, with DJ El Caobo and DJ Kamani Rashad serving up Salsa, Bachata, Meringue, and Kizomba music for an authentic sound experience. Dance instructors will be available, demonstrating the classic moves of these unique dance styles.

The series closes with an Afro-Beat Night on August 31, featuring Africa Hi-Fi, created by DJ Ron Trent and Sonia Hassan. This musical tribute honors Africa’s influence in world music and culture, fusing music and social consciousness with art and dance for a powerful experience.

Food and beverages will be available for purchase from Harper Court restaurants, and paid parking is available in the Harper Court parking garage, the surface lot on Harper Avenue, as well as on the street.

Harper Court is a mixed-use retail development with businesses including AT&T, Chipotle, Einstein Bros. Bagels, Hyatt Place Hotel, Ja’ Grill, Native Foods, LA Fitness, Nancy Krause Floral Design and Garden Antiques, NoteworthyNotes, Porkchop, Sir & Madame, ULTA Beauty, and VILLA.

For more information about the series, please go to

Harper Theater hosts “Catalyst for Change” presentations to reduce gun violence on May 19, 7-9 p.m.

On May 19 from 7-9 p.m., Hyde Park’s Harper Theater, 5238 S. Harper Avenue, will host “Catalyst for Change,” a group presentation by three local organizations working to reduce the gun violence in Chicago. The organizations—CeaseFire Illinois, UCAN, and Youth Guidance—aim to inspire potential volunteers to share their time, talents, and financial support.

Admission to the presentation is free, with a cash bar and light refreshments provided. All proceeds will benefit the attending organizations. RSVP to the event at

“I’m upset and tired of hearing that over 1,000 Chicagoans have been shot so far this year, and I’m happy to provide the venue for this important event,” said Tony Fox, operator of the Harper Theater. “I hope lots of people attend, and I plan on personally volunteering with one or more of the groups.”

CeaseFire Illinois is the Illinois branch of the Cure Violence Association and utilizes a public health model to address violence, including working to interrupt potentially violent conflicts, prioritizing and treating the highest risk populations, and mobilizing the local community to change current behaviors.

UCAN empowers Chicago youth to create opportunities that ensure safer futures through Peace Hub, which aims to reduce exposure to violence, address trauma, and improve outcomes through access to services. The Peace Hub serves more than 100 local youth, resulting in a substantial decrease in arrest rates and a 47% increase in community engagement.

Youth Guidance creates school-based programs that allow at-risk children to overcome obstacles, focus on their education and, ultimately, succeed in school and in life. Their “Becoming A Man” program touches the lives of more than 2,500 young men in nearly 50 Chicago schools, and has led to a reduction of violent crime arrests by 45% and improved high school graduation rates.


Monthly “First Thursday” Event Will Begin in Hyde Park on April 7

On April 7, the Hyde Park Vitality Committee will launch “First Thursday” – a monthly community event designed to add more fun and extended hours to the shopping and dining experience in Hyde Park. Events will be scheduled for the first Thursday of every month from April-December 2016, from 6-9 p.m.

More than 40 businesses from 53rd, 55th, and 57th Streets and the surrounding commercial streets will participate in First Thursdays, with some offering extended hours and parking vouchers as well as discounts, raffles, refreshments, special menu items, and more. The city’s tourism association, Choose Chicago, will also be involved in the event, and will station local residents as “Insta-Greeters” for impromptu guided tours of Hyde Park at Ancien Cycles & Café, 1558 E. 53rd Street, beginning in May and running through December.

The Hyde Park Vitality Committee says the goal is for First Thursday to become an anticipated night out for Hyde Parkers as well as those who might be new to Hyde Park. The committee is a partnership that includes Downtown Hyde Park, the Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce, the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference, the Nichols Park Advisory Council, the South East Chicago Commission (SECC), and the University of Chicago.

“Hyde Park is a special place, with a variety of shops and restaurants to cater to many tastes,” said James Hennessy, associate vice president for commercial real estate operations for the University. “New businesses are continuously opening, and First Thursday will provide an occasion for people to visit their favorite businesses, learn about new ones, and have a fun night out with their family and friends.”

Some of the more creative offers already planned for First Thursday include free Pumpkin Spiced Lattes for dogs at Sprocket & Stone (1013 E. 53rd Street), a fun run and gong meditation session at New Balance and Chaturanga Holistic Fitness (5500 S. Lake Park Avenue), free “surprise” books at 57th Street Books (1301 E. 57th Street), and much more.

Participating businesses to date include A10 Hyde Park, Akira, Ancien Cycles & Café, Bergstein’s NY Deli, Café 53, Chant, Chaturanga Holistic Fitness, Chipotle, Comfort Me, Elston Ace Hardware, Einstein Bros. Bagels, 57th Street Books, First Aid Comics, H&R Block, Hyde Park Produce, Ja’ Grill, Kilwins, LA Fitness, Kimbark Beverage Shoppe, Leona’s, Litehouse Whole Food Grill, Medici on 57th, Mikkey’s Retro Grill, Modern Cooperative, Native Foods, New Balance, NoteworthyNotes, PACKED: dumplings reimagined, Pearle Vision, Pockets Hyde Park & Kingoberry Frozen Yogurt, Porkchop, Powell's Books, Rajun Cajun, The Revival, The Silver Room, Sir & Madame, The Sit Down Café & Sushi Bar, Sprocket & Stone Pet Boutique, Toys Etcetera, Wesley’s Shoe Corral, Yusho, and ZBerry Frozen Yogurt, with more being added daily.

Hyde Park business owners who would like to participate in First Thursday can contact Amy Williams at

Visit the First Thursday website and Facebook page.


First Thursday Graphic
First Thursday Graphic