Hyde Park is one of Chicago's most famous neighborhoods, most certainly so on the South Side, located along the south lakefront. Having played host to the White City, the University of Chicago, President Obama, the setting for Richard Wright's Native Son, and a host of eccentric residents from Saul Bellow to Clarence Darrow to Muhammad Ali, this part of town has more than its fair share of Chicago history.
There is more than enough for a visitor to see here, and devoting a full day to exploring Hyde Park can make for a fine itinerary. Architecture buffs will have their hands occupied by the many Victorian mansions and Prairie School houses; anyone with an intellectual bent should be delighted by Hyde Park's independent bookstores, overawed by the University of Chicago's terrifying intensity, and intrigued by the Oriental Institute; and just about everyone will enjoy a trip to the stimulating Museum of Science and Industry or taking a stroll and a swim along the Point and the beach.
The White City
Aside from Rockefeller's decision to locate the university here, the neighborhood's biggest event was without a doubt The Chicago World's Fair in 1893, celebrating the 400-year anniversary of Columbus' first arrival in the New World. The event was designed largely by Frederick Law Olmstead and Daniel Burnham, and brought visitors (and exhibitions) from all over the world. The magnificently landscaped parks were all Olmstead's creation, which sparked a wave of "municipal beautification," to which Chicago owes the creation of many of its fantastic parks. Olmstead initially planned to dredge a canal along the Midway, topped by arched bridges, but costs and technical difficulties scrapped the plan (the plan was tried again in the 1920s, but was again canceled after the 1929 stock market crash).
Kenwood developed into one of Chicago's most upscale suburbs after the Civil War, and its Kenwood Historic District between Cottage Grove & Blackstone and 47th & 51st is a treasure trove of mansions representing virtually all the fashionable architectural styles of the late 19th century (including an excellent collection of early houses by Frank Lloyd Wright). The mansion owners are of interest too — their ranks include Nation of Islam leader, Minister Louis Farrakhan, the Obama family, and the city's oldest Jewish community. Former residents range from the infamous Leopold and Loeb, Muhammad Ali, the fictional Dalton family from Native Son, and the founder of the Nation of Islam, Elijah Muhammad.
The central Hyde Park neighborhood is the biggest draw, dominated by the rather awesome presence of the University of Chicago. During the 1950s, desegregation fueled extensive "white flight" from this area, transforming the racial make up of nearly the entire South Side from all white to all black. Here, however, the University of Chicago leveraged its financial power, political clout, and social engineering brainpower to muscle through the city's first "urban renewal" project. This project, unflatteringly referred to by many neighborhood residents as "urban removal," used eminent domain powers to demolish urban housing developments, to remove nightclubs and bars, and to make the neighborhood more suburban in character (and to decimate the commercial strip on 55th St west of the railroad).
The project was paternalist, classist, and evicted many if not the majority of the neighborhood's low-income residents, but the end result of the University-driven "renewal" project is that Hyde Park is to this day one of the nation's most durable mixed-income, mixed-race neighborhoods, and is home to one of the only significant white communities for miles on the South Side. Hyde Park maintains its unique characteristics in its unique isolation from the rest of the city: no convenient L service, giant Washington Park to the west, frigid-in-the-winter Midway Plaisance to the south, and persistent redevelopment projects pushing to the north through Kenwood and to the south through Woodlawn.
Today, Hyde Park is full of amazing bookstores, leafy streets, the siren song of cheap greasy food, and great museums.
Woodlawn, to the south of the Midway, south of the University, is characterized by urban blight. With high levels of violent crime (especially by the 63rd St Green Line stops), blocks worth of vacant lots, and lacking in commercial activity, Woodlawn is well off the beaten tourist path. But Jackson Park (as well as the areas of Woodlawn close to the park) is perfectly safe, and a beautiful place for a walk. 63rd St still has a few remaining businesses from its salad days, but is not a great place to hang out after dark.
You can get to Hyde Park by taking several CTA buses from downtown Chicago. Routes #6 (Hyde Park Express) and #4 (Cottage Grove) are common choices. The 55/Garfield bus is a very cheap and efficient way to travel between Midway Airport and Hyde Park. It passes by the University of Chicago and terminates at the Museum of Science and Industry. To get from place to place within the area, CTA offers several useful neighborhood routes between the University and other points in the district, the #171 between the University and the Museum of Science and Industry being the most useful.
The Metra Main Electric Line is the most efficient public transport between the Loop and Hyde Park. It is a quick, comfortable 15-20 minute ride and costs $3 for a one way trip. Be sure to check the train schedules ahead of time, however, because it runs infrequently during off-peak times. Key stops are at Kenwood/47th St, Hyde Park 53rd St, 55th-56th-57th St, and Univ. of Chicago/59th St.
Alternatively, the CTA Red Line and Green Line link the Loop with Garfield Avenue in Washington Park. Although more convenient — they run more frequently, and operate 24 hours a day — the two stops are too far from Hyde Park to walk and located in rough neighborthoods. But the very frequent 55/Garfield bus will take you straight from either of them to anywhere along 55th St.
Coming south on Lake Shore Drive, it is most convenient to take the southbound exit at 51st St/Hyde Park Blvd for a drive, or the 57th St exit for the Museum of Science and Industry and the University. Coming from the southeast on the Chicago Skyway, get off early at the Stony Island Ave exit and follow it north. From the Dan Ryan Expressway, you'll definitely want to take the 55th St/Garfield Blvd east exit, which will take you into the heart of Hyde Park through Washington Park.
A car is not a bad way to see Hyde Park, especially if you plan to cover a lot of territory. Free on-street parking is generally easy to find. The most difficult area to park is without question the area around the University of Chicago, where the street parking during the day is limited and policed with an iron fist by the University Police. Even in this area, however, it is usually possible (if a bit frustrating) to find metered parking, or to just pay at one of the big university or hospital lots. Try looking on the Midway, or on a less safe street to the south of the university. It can also be difficult to find free parking right by the Museum of Science and Industry during tourist season, but there is always room in the museum's pay lots.
Hyde Park is a fairly easy 7-mile ride (11 km) from the Loop using the Chicago Lakefront Path. You may cross under Lake Shore Dr at either the 51st St pedestrian bridge or the 55th or 57th St underpasses. The 57th St underpass will take you to the Museum of Science and Industry, of which the main body of the University of Chicago campus is 3 blocks west.
Hyde Park is quite accommodating to cyclists; many students and faculty at the University ride around the neighborhood, making bikes fairly visible entities.
Kenwood Historic District
These impressive structures are all privately owned and unfortunately closed to the public. The only exception is the Nation of Islam mosque, but you should be sensitive to the fact it is a place of worship and is not accustomed to tourists.
- 4944 S Woodlawn, 4944 S Woodlawn Ave. A gargantuan 8,000 square foot Tudor revival mansion once owned by Muhammad Ali.
- 1 Drexel Fountain, at Hyde Park Blvd & Drexel Ave. This ornate fountain that stands in the tiny Drexel Square Park is the oldest in Chicago — one of the first monuments erected in the Chicago area. Commissioned by a wealthy stockbroker by the name of Francis Drexel, who managed to get the avenue, square, and fountain all named after himself without ever setting foot in Chicago.
- Elijah Muhammad House (The National House), 4855 S Woodlawn Ave. Built by Elijah Muhammad, the founder of the Nation of Islam, it now serves as a 'National' House for the Nation of Islam. Designed by an Egyptian Architect, Dr. Mostafa Momen of Momen Architects & Consulting Engineers, it shares the same features of the four houses he designed for Elijah Muhammad's family located to the north, directly across the street.
- 2 Isidore Heller House, 5132 S Woodlawn. One of Frank Lloyd Wright's earliest distinctive buildings (1897), often credited as the turning point in his early career when he shifted towards the Prairie School.
- 3 KAMII (KAM Isaiah Israel), 5039 S Greenwood Ave, ☏ . It looks like a Byzantine style mosque, but that minaret is actually a smokestack for this synagogue. The building was built in 1924 for the reform Isaiah Israel congregation, which later merged with Chicago's oldest Jewish congregation, Kehilath Anshe Ma'ariv (KAM), which in turn moved out of its massive temple on Drexel Avenue. The interior is marvelously elaborate. There are stained-glass depictions of humans, which is very unusual for a synagogue, and the walls appears to be made out of ancient stone -- but they're actually just plaster!
- Masjid Al-Faatir, 1200 E 47th St (Corner of 47th & Woodlawn), ☏ . Masjid Al-Faatir is the largest of Chicago's Mosques. Founded by Boxing World Heavyweight Champion Muhammad Ali and his manager Jabir Herbert Muhammad (son of Elijah Muhammad) in 1987. It was later renovated with the help of the Late President of the UAE, Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al-Nahayan.
- McGill Mansion, 4938 S Drexel Ave. Easily mistaken for a French Castle, this mansion was built in 1893 for the Scottish McGill family, which founded the famous Montreal University of the same name. The mansion was converted into 34 condos in 2000.
- Operation Push HQ, 930 E 50th St, ☏ . The enormous classical revival building at 50th & Drexel is the national headquarters of the Reverend Jesse Jackson's Rainbow PUSH organization. The building's façade might lead you to expect a Lincoln-sized statue of the reverend inside, but this was actually a Jewish synagogue founded in 1932 by the aforementioned KAM.
- The Obama House, 5046 Greenwood Ave (right across the street from KAMII). This beautiful house is home to the family of former U.S. President Barack Obama. The vacant lot to the left was the source of minor controversy in Chicago, when it came out that the Obama family had purchased it at sub-market rates from friend and criminal real estate broker Tony Rezko. Good luck getting on the 5000 block of Greenwood — it's still the family house, and the block is closed off even to pedestrians, and crawling with police and Secret Service. You should be able to get a look up from the 51st St sidewalk, but lingering around taking photographs might draw unwelcome attention from security.
University of Chicago
- 4 Main Campus, 5801 S Ellis Ave (Centered around the main quad between Ellis and University Aves, 57th St and the Midway), ☏ . Tours: Mar–Nov M-F 10:30AM,2:30PM; Dec–Feb M-F 10:30AM. One of the world's great universities, the University of Chicago's Gothic campus exudes academic rigor and intellectual intensity, known to students as "the place where fun goes to die." Its imposing gray buildings make it a must-see for architecture fans. Even if you are not a prospective student, you can take advantage of its free campus tours.
- 5 Smart Museum of Art, 5550 S Greenwood Ave, ☏ . Fall–Spring Tu-W,F 10AM-4:30PM, Th 10AM-8PM, Sa-Su 10AM-5PM; summer Tu-Su 10AM-5PM. The Smart museum is small, but has an excellent collection, thoughtfully exhibited. Staff is very friendly. Free.
The Citadel of Science and Research
If practical, try to approach the University from the south or the Midway when visiting for the first time, so that you are confronted by the imposing stone walls of the main campus — it's an impressive sight.
- 6 Regenstein Library, 1100 E 57th St, ☏ . If you are not a student and are not on a tour, you can't enter the gigantic collection of over 4.5 million volumes, but you can marvel at the exterior architecture. The building is one of the world's best examples of the Brutalist movement, which emphasized the structural materials (rough concrete in this case), as well as striking repetitions and irregularities of angular forms.
- 7 Nuclear Energy Statue, 5700 S Ellis Ave. This Henry Moore statue marks the area where Enrico Fermi and his team of scientists successfully produced the first controlled nuclear chain reaction. Although possibly unintended, visitors often see a resemblance to a human skull or mushroom cloud.
- 8 Oriental Institute Museum, 1155 E 58th St, ☏ . Tu,Th-Sa 10AM-6PM, W 10AM-8:30PM, Su noon-6PM. The University of Chicago Oriental Institute has one of the best collections of ancient Egyptian and Near Eastern archeology in the world, which is moreover free, small, very well exhibited, and basically started by Indiana Jones. Some highlights include: much of the Assyrian "Fortress of Sargon," a colossal statue of King Tutankhamun, and the Mummy and Coffin of Meresamun. Visitors with a strong interest may want to devote several hours to pore over the dense exhibits, but the small museum can be quickly skimmed in 15 minutes. Free, suggested donation $7, $4 child.
- 9 The Renaissance Society, 5811 S Ellis Ave, Cobb Hall 418, ☏ . Tu-F 10AM-5PM, Sa Su noon-5PM. A small non-collecting contemporary art gallery that is over 100 years old and very highly respected. It will appeal greatly to art aficionados, less so to casual visitors. Free.
- 10 Rockefeller Memorial Chapel, 5850 S Woodlawn Ave, ☏ . 8AM-4PM, tours of the carillon: M-F 11:30AM and 5:30PM. Irregular hours for tours during summer. This giant Gothic church is named for the University founder, John D. Rockefeller, who intended it to be the "central and dominant feature" of the University. It may not be that, but it is impressive, with a huge organ and the second largest carillon in the world. A great way to view the chapel and experience its acoustics is by showing up for one of the Wednesday lunchtime organ concerts. Free.
- 11 Hyde Park Art Center (HPAC), 5020 S Cornell Ave, ☏ . M-Th 10AM-8PM, F Sa 10AM-5PM, Su noon-5PM. The oldest alternative art venue in the city is dedicated to the visual arts, usually has several contemporary exhibits running at any given time, and frequent events like artist talks, poetry readings, and music performances.
- 12 Jackson Park, 6401 S Stony Island Ave, ☏ . 7AM-11PM daily. Named for President Andrew Jackson and the site of the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893. The most prominent monument remaining from the event is the fully gilded "Statue of the Republic." Other sites include the Osaka Garden on the Wooded Island, a series of lagoons designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, and several well-hidden bird watching trails along the water.
- Osaka Garden (Japanese Garden) (On the NE side of Jackson Park's Wooded Island). Sunrise-sunset, daily. The Osaka Garden grew out of the Pavilion for the Japanese Government at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition and was planned by Olmsted as well. During WWII, the gardens suffered from repeated anti-Japanese vandalism and arson, culminating in the site's abandonment to those unsavory types who inhabit abandoned urban parkland. Chicago's sister city, Osaka, donated the money in the 1980s to restore the gardens, prompting a name change from the Japanese Garden to the Osaka Garden. Today, the gardens are one of Chicago's finest secret places and a wonderful escape from harrowing tourist adventures. Free.
- 13 Midway Park, 1130 Midway Plaisance N (Btwn 59th and 60th Sts). A large, long grassy park, intended for the World's Fair, with grandiose plans of arched bridges over a canal connecting the lagoons of Washington and Jackson Parks, but which today mostly serves to give visitors a good view of the University of Chicago. The Winter/Summer reading gardens just south of the University's main quad are quite beautiful and a nice place to relax from touring. Also during the winter there is free ice skating.
- 14 Museum of Science and Industry, 5700 S Lake Shore Dr & E 57th St (Take CTA buses 2, 6, 10, 28, 55, or the Metra Electric Line), ☏ . 9:30AM-4PM daily; some days until 5:30PM, including most of summer; closed 25 Dec. No tour of Chicago's museums is complete without a visit to this one. Spend hours upon hours looking at really cool stuff you never even knew you didn't know about. So much to do, so little time. You can return for free the following day if you take your ticket to "Will Call" on the way out on your first day. Great for kids, with many hands-on exhibits and the famous Coal Mine; adults will enjoy the display of the German U-boat 'U-505'. The immense, beautiful building was itself built as part of the White City in 1893, and is the last of the grand buildings left in Hyde Park. $11, $5 child.
- 15 Robie House, 5757 S Woodlawn Ave, ☏ . Tours Th-M 11AM-3PM every 30 minutes. This fabulously impractical house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright is one of the world's most famous examples of the Midwestern "Prairie School" of architecture, which aimed to create buildings with prominent horizontal lines evocative of the prairie landscape. The interior is bizarre, intended to remind its inhabitants of a ship, and is surrounded by stained art glass windows. You must take an official tour to see the interior, which lasts about an hour. Tours of the surrounding historic neighborhood are offered as well — it is best to make reservations online beforehand. Be sure to take a gander at the University of Chicago's Business School across the street, which was designed to emulate the style of the Robie House in a more modern fashion. One of eight buildings by Wright to be listed as a world heritage site. $17, $14 seniors/students/military, children under 4 free.
The University of Chicago hosts some truly world class performing arts. The U of C Presents' classical music performances are particularly excellent. If you are looking to relax, head to the huge area parks for 18 holes of golf, a sunset at Promontory Point, or ice skating on the Midway. Or if you are into film, the University's nightly Doc Films screenings and regular director visits are a treasure.
- 1 Court Theatre, 5535 S Ellis Ave, ☏ . 16 Sep–12 Jun 2011 performances: usually W-Th 7:30PM, F 8PM, Sa 3PM & 8PM, Su 2:30PM & 7:30PM. Excellent dramatic theater on the University campus. Student $8-20, general $25-50, half-price tickets available one hour before the show.
- Doc Films, 1212 E 59th St (Inside Ida Noyes Hall), ☏ (office), (hotline). Check the website's calendar for screenings, nightly during the school year and W-Sa during the summer. Those zoning laws are again to "blame" for the total absence of any movie theaters in this section of Chicago. But their absence clearly benefits the longest-running student film society in the country, which puts on an impressive number of independent documentaries, art-house films, and other socially relevant movies throughout the year, all in a state-of-the-art cinema. Doc Films attracts a very knowledgeable crowd (perhaps because the students and neighborhood residents have no other movie options!) and it is a good place to eavesdrop on some intense, intellectual conversations. $5.
- Jackson Park Golf Course, 6300 S Hayes Dr, ☏ (RSVP). Sunrise-sunset. 18 holes of golf and a driving range, all in the middle of Jackson Park. Golf carts $15. M-F $22.75, Sa Su $25.75.
- Jackson Park Beaches (along the lake south of Promontory Point). Memorial Day-Labor Day 9AM-9:30PM daily. There are better beaches further north and further south, but if you're here and want to get a swim in, Jackson Park's two beaches are fine — 57th St Beach is less than a ten minute walk from the Museum of Science and Industry.
- Midway Plaisance Ice Skating, 1130 Midway Plaisance N (E 59th St at Woodlawn Ave), ☏ . Su-Th noon-7PM, F noon-4:30PM & 5PM-7PM, Sa 1PM-9PM. Free.
- 2 Promontory Point Park (The Point), 5491 S Lake Shore Dr, ☏ . Promontory Point is a beautiful spot to take in the great skyline view, gaze off into the blue, watch summer fireworks, or take a (technically illegal, but everybody does it) swim in its submerged beach (north side of the point). The Point was constructed under the depression era Works Progress Administration in the style of the Prairie School of park design.
- Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts (Logan Center), 915 E 60th St, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. M-Sa 8AM-10PM, Su 11AM-9PM. Performance hours vary. This stunning new building brings professional, student, and community performing arts activities, creative arts studios, digital media production and gallery space under a single roof. The Logan Cafe offers a small plates menu, plus coffee, wine, and beer. Ticket prices vary by show.
- University of Chicago Presents, Mandel Hall, 1131 E 57th St, ☏ . Performances usually on F 8PM or Su 3PM. The University of Chicago Presents hosts numerous classical music performances in Hyde Park, usually featuring big-name national and international performers for relatively low prices. Student $10, general $30-35.
In the past, the University has had a big hand in zoning regulations designed to keep chain stores, and really any stores, out of the district. Until Akira opened up shop in the fall of 2012 in a university-owned building, Hyde Park actually lacked a single clothing store. Book lovers and collectors, on the other hand, will be thrilled with the multiple independent and used bookstores along 57th Street and the awe-inspiring Seminary Co-op. Aside from books, Hyde Park is now likely the world's number one destination for Barack Obama merchandise, who is becoming somewhat of a local hero figure. The convenience stores are full of dancing Obama dolls, t-shirts, etc., and other stores and restaurants are all touting "Obama eats here!" "Obama shops here!" Don't let the hype shape your choices though, it's a small neighborhood, and the Obamas have probably tried out all the restaurants by now.
- 57th St Books, 1301 E 57th St, ☏ . 10AM-8PM daily. A branch of the University's Seminary Co-op that has frequent literary events, including poetry readings, author talks, and writing workshops.
- Hyde Park Records, 1377 E 53rd St, ☏ . 11AM-8PM daily. A huge selection of vinyl and a smaller selection of CDs.
- Powell's Books, 1501 E 57th St, ☏ . 9AM-11PM daily. Used books overflowing the shelves, all over the place.
- Seminary Co-op Bookstore, 5751 S Woodlawn Ave, ☏ . M-F 8:30AM-8PM, Sa 10AM-6PM, Su noon-6PM. The world's largest academic bookstore has a collection covering every topic. In October 2012, the Seminary Co-op moved into a space which was freshly remodeled and designed for them with funding from the University of Chicago. The former home of the Seminary Co-op is now home to the Becker-Friedman Institute, the university's Economics department as well as classroom and event space.
The center of dining in the Hyde Park neighborhood is along 53rd St and Harper Ct, although there are also several popular restaurants along 57th St. There is a significant difference in atmosphere between the two dining centers, with the latter being more collegiate. Almost anyone would agree that you can have a fine meal in Hyde Park in any price category, but the neighborhood is infamous for not having any truly great, standout or "destination" restaurants, as it suffers from a captive audience — it is quite difficult to get to any other dining hot spots in the city without a car (the nearest being Chinatown or soul food and BBQ in Chatham). Despite this the Hyde Park culinary scene is slowly transforming itself with the openings of a handful of trendy, upscale spots on 53rd and in Harper Court, of which Park 52 (now closed) and the Sitdown Cafe have arguably received the highest accolades from food critics.
The odd "Thai Row" on 55th St deserves a mention. These are definitely not the best Thai restaurants in Chicago, but they serve tasty, greasy food in large portions on the cheap. No one seems to know why these Thai restaurants congregated in this one spot.
- Daley's Restaurant, 809 E 63rd St, ☏ . 6AM-7PM daily. Huh? Daley worship in Woodlawn? No, that couldn't be and it isn't. Built by one John Daley, Chicago's oldest eatery has served as Woodlawn's neighborhood restaurant for about 120 years! As the Irish fled to the suburbs, the menu shifted towards offering nothing but the soulest soul food around (the breakfast is a particular draw — wonderful French toast). Owing to the housing projects just north, the area around this Green Line stop is on the rough side, but Daley's will treat you to a strong dose of delicious food and friendly service with nice atmosphere. $4-12.
- Five Guys Burgers and Fries, 1456 E 53rd St, ☏ . 11AM-10PM daily. The Hyde Park outpost of this popular burger chain includes the usual features of a Five Guys experience: delicious cheeseburgers with way too many toppings, an excessive serving of fries, a Coca-Cola Freestyle machine, and free peanuts. $8-12.
- Harold's Chicken Shack. 11AM-10PM daily. The great South Side fried chicken chain is cheap, usually a little dirty, and always delicious. Crowded at meal times. $2-5.
- #14, 1208 E 53rd St, ☏ . 10AM-11:30PM daily. The Hyde Park location is easy to visit, with a parking lot and rare dine-in seating, but the quality vacillates.
- #2, 6419 S Cottage Grove Ave, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Su–W 11AM-midnight, Th 11AM–3AM, F Sa 11AM–4AM. Another hit-or-miss unreliable Harold's location, just under the Green Line stop, in a considerably less welcoming environment than the Hyde Park location!
- Café 57, 1520 E 57th St, ☏ . M-Su 8AM-5PM. Premium coffee and an assortment of well-prepared sandwiches and pastries served right under the Metra stop. $3-9.
- The Nile, 1611 E 55th St, ☏ . M-Sa 11AM-9PM, Su noon-8PM. Though the décor is somewhat dated, the warm pita is plentiful (and best enjoyed with the homemade hummus) and the schwarma wraps are cheap, delicious, and filling. The red lentil soup is another yummy (and budget-friendly) option. Very popular with students. $5-12.
- Original Pancake House, 1358 E 47th St, ☏ . M-F 7AM-3PM, Sa Su 7AM-5PM. Often called the best pancake house in Chicago, vindicated by the ostentatiously long line on weekends. An exhaustive pancake menu and delightful service. As you would expect, though, it is extremely crowded, and on weekends you will be packed in with strangers like sardines. $5-10.
- Rajun Cajun, 1459 E 53rd St, ☏ . M-Sa 11AM-9PM, Su 11AM-7:30PM. A hole-in-the-wall that, interestingly enough, serves a combination of Indian and soul food. Probably the only place around where you can sip a mango lassi while eating collard greens and fried chicken. While the seating area is a little neglected, the atmosphere benefits from the waiting-in-line dancing to the Hindi club/rock music. $5-10.
- Ribs 'N' Bibs, 5300 S Dorchester Ave, ☏ . Su-Th 11AM-10PM, F Sa 11AM-1AM (sometimes closes early without warning). A true Hyde Park institution serving BBQ sauce over everything, from the $2 Bronco Burger to more expensive rib plates. Food is smoked in a traditional wood-burning stove, which gives the neighborhood its salivatory smell. The BBQ here is actually pretty mediocre (at best), and there is far better cue to be had in Bronzeville and Chatham, but this one is awful convenient. Limited seating. $2-20.
- Siam Thai Restaurant, 1639 E 55th St, ☏ . 11AM-9PM daily. Choose this one over the others if you are in the mood for pad thai. $5-12.
- Snail Thai Cuisine, 1649 E 55th St, ☏ . Tu-Su 11AM-10PM. Weird name, but this is the most popular and brightly lit of the three Thai places on Thai Row. Try the cashew chicken, the yellow curry tofu, and the eggrolls. $5-12.
- Thai 55, 1607 E 55th St, ☏ . 11AM-10PM daily. Probably the least popular of the three Thai Row locations, but the best bet for pad see ew and bubble tea. $5-12.
- Valois, 1518 E 53rd St, ☏ . 5:30AM-10PM daily, breakfast until 4PM. Cash only diner/cafeteria institution for about 80 years that serves as the heart of the Hyde Park community — a favorite with lifelong Hyde Parkers, bleary-eyed graduate students, police officers, tweed-jacket sporting professors, and a certain U.S. President. $5-8.
- Edwardo's Natural Pizza Restaurant, 1321 E 57th St, ☏ . Su-Th 11AM-9PM, F Sa 11AM-10PM. Come here specifically for its famous stuffed spinach pizza and you won't regret it — well, you may regret the weight-gaining aftermath, but you won't regret the immediate experience. $8-15.
- Giordano's, 5309 S Blackstone Ave, ☏ . Su-Th 11AM-11PM, F Sa 11AM-midnight. Not all Giordano's are created equal, but this is the original location and one of the better places in the city to try Chicago stuffed pizza. If some in your party are afraid to face the behemoth, there are plenty of non-pizza options on the menu. $10-23.
- Kikuya, 1601 E 55th St, ☏ . M 4PM-9:30PM, Tu-Su 11:30AM-9:30PM. Fresh, high quality, traditional Japanese food. $10-15.
- Medici, 1327 E 57th St, ☏ . M-Th 7AM-10PM, F 7AM-11PM, Sa 9AM-11PM, Su 9AM-10PM. An Italian place very popular with the students, that can lay claim to above average baked goods, fine thin-crust pizza, Italian dishes, and a fun ambiance in their downstairs seating area (a separate door to the west of the street-level bakery, which is open only earlier in the day). Also serves excellent floats with flavors like almond and grenadine. If you ask the admissions office to recommend a nice place nearby to take your kid, they'll point you in this direction. $8-18.
- Pizza Capri, 1501 E 53rd St, ☏ . 10AM-10PM daily. Good upscale Italian cuisine and stuffed pizza at a reliable Chicagoland chain. Try the gourmet ingredients like feta cheese and fine sausage on a stuffed pizza for a deliciously fattening night. Great bread. $11-20.
- Salonica, 1440 E 57th St, ☏ . 7AM-10PM daily. Adequate, but overpriced, diner fare with some Greek and Mexican entries, and a constant flow of coffee. The nice atmosphere and comfy booths are the real reason to come and lounge about. $7-14.
- Sitdown Cafe, 1312 E 53rd St, ☏ . Su-Th 11AM-9:30PM, F Sa 11AM-10:30PM. Italian cafe/sushi bar serving up eclectic menu of fresh sushi, sandwiches, soups, and salads. Standout dishes include, oddly enough, their thin crust pizzas ($7 plain!), edamame (boiled peas on the pod done right), and a few favorite rolls like Chicago Fire and crunchy crab. Loft-casual decor with outdoor seating and full bar. $8-25.
- 1 Nella Pizza e Pasta, 1125 E 55th St, ☏ . M–Th 10:30AM–10PM; Fri 10:30AM–11PM; Sat 9:30AM–11PM; Sun 9:30AM–10PM. If you're looking for something unusual and fun, try the "Bombe" stuffed pizza. The toppings are stuffed between the two crusts, and the result puffs up like a volcano that's about to explode. Brunch on the weekends. $12–$25.
- Cedar's Mediterranean Kitchen, 1206 E 53rd St, ☏ . Su-Th 11:30AM-10PM, F Sa 11:30AM-11PM. Cedar's is the most stylish choice of restaurants in Hyde Park, and the Lebanese cuisine should not disappoint. $13-19.
- La Petite Folie, 1504 E 55th St, ☏ . lunch: Tu-F 11:30AM-2PM, dinner seating: Tu-Su 5PM-8PM, pre-theater menu 5PM-6:30PM. A very good, unpretentious French restaurant on the south end of the Lake Shore shopping center. The U of C alumnae who own the place apparently tired of scientific research and moved to France for a while to graduate with honors from the prestigious Cordon Bleu Paris school of gastronomy. And Hyde Park rejoices. $20-40, pre-theater: $32.
- Shinju Sushi, 1375 E 53rd St, ☏ . 11AM-10PM. A good Japanese restaurant known for its all-you-can-eat sushi. $14.99 for the lunch buffet, $20.99 for the dinner buffet.
One of the University's many powerful Hyde Park legacies is the general lack of nightclubs and bars, which once covered the now desolate stretch of 55th St west of the Metra tracks. Ask any student, Jimmy's (a.k.a. Woodlawn Tap) is really the place to go for a beer. Live music in the past was just about absent in the neighborhood, but there are a couple good options nowadays. The most obvious is the newly relocated, legendary blues club, the Checkerboard Lounge. But you can also catch some good smooth jazz F-Sa nights (usually) at CHANT or the restaurant Mellow Yellow, 1508 E 53rd St, ☏ . Or you could listen to some of the student jazz combos at Jimmy's, Su afternoon-evening.
- Bar Louie, 5550 S South Shore Dr, ☏ . 11AM-2AM daily. A chain bar & grill, with unexciting food, and very slow service, but... stiff mojitos, outdoor seating, and location right by the beach makes for a great time in the summer. That the clientele is very diverse is another plus.
- CHANT, 1509 E 53rd St, ☏ . M noon-10PM, Tu-Th 11:30AM-midnight, F-Sa 11:30AM-1AM, Su 11AM-10PM. CHANT is a restaurant and bar, but skip the food and go straight to the bar. (The food is fine, but the service is not.) The decor is extraordinarily chic for Hyde Park, and there's live entertainment (often jazz) F Sa starting at 9:30PM.
- Cove Lounge (The Cove), 1750 E 55th St, ☏ . M-F 10AM-2AM, Sa 11AM-3AM, Su 11AM-2AM. A loud, upbeat dive bar that's way more eclectic than whatever bars you've been to in the past. Its got a weird 70's nautical theme, interesting music on the jukebox, and cheap drinks. Unfortunately, it's also a tiny space and can get overcrowded.
- Falcon Inn, 1601 E 53rd St. M-F 10:30AM-2AM, Sa 11AM-3AM, Su noon-2AM. The sleeper dive bar in Hyde Park, largely unknown to the student crowd. It's tucked away on a quiet section of 53rd Street, and serves an eclectic crowd of friendly locals, who come to relax, enjoy the very cheap beer, and the pizza through the window to Cholie's next door. (Cholie's pizza is a Chicago travesty, but hey, you're drinking $1.50 beer.)
- Seven Ten Lanes, 1055 E 55th St, ☏ . Su-Tu 11:30AM-midnight, W Th 11:30AM-1AM, F Sa 11:30AM-2AM. Beer, bowling, shuffleboard, and an art deco ambiance. Its proximity to the University allows it to be overpriced, but it's the only place around to satisfy bowling urges, or to have a good beer outside. They also happen to have some very good foreign beers on tap.
- Woodlawn Tap (Jimmy's), 1172 E 55th St, ☏ . M-F 10:30AM-2AM, Sa 11AM-3AM, Su 11AM-2AM. From the University perspective, this is the one and only real bar in Hyde Park (and accordingly, the only establishment that was saved from the University-driven "urban removal"). A good place to be served beer by PhDs and to listen in on the intense intellectual debates about topics you didn't know existed. Some famous writers used to frequent the bar, including Saul Bellow and Dylan Thomas. Live jazz on Sunday nights and you might catch a University improv comedy group during the week. But above all, the dark cavernous atmosphere, the low-key vibe, and the greasy burgers make this one of the best dives in the city. While it's a university favorite, don't expect a rowdy singles scene here — it's the U of C, folks. Cover $3-20.
Considering the hordes of university-affiliated visitors Hyde Park is oddly devoid of hotels. Most visitors stay downtown; the Loop along Michigan Avenue is the best bet, since the southbound Metra stops are just outside the hotels. There are some nice quiet options, though, if you know where to look.
- 1 Hyatt Place Chicago-South/University Medical Center, 5225 S Harper Ave, ☏ . Hyatt Place Chicago-South/University Medical Center is a new hotel (opened in September 2013) that is located in the heart of Hyde Park's new Harper Court development. The hotel provides a complimentary shuttle to the University of Chicago.
- Hyde Park Arms Hotel, 5316 S Harper Ave, ☏ . If Kerouac and the Blues Brothers have interested you in checking into a transient hotel, the Hyde Park Arms is the place for you, as it is far cleaner and safer than its peers elsewhere. Hotel rooms leased weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly. The 70 rooms include standard hotel furnishings and a fridge, but no stove or microwave; all utilities are paid by the building, unless you want cable. Per week $145-155.
- International House, 1414 E 59th St, ☏ , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: noon. A student dormitory, which provides budget short-term accommodations to those "affiliated with either the University of Chicago or another cultural, educational or professional institution" (and their guests). They do their reservations (and information requests) by email. The rooms are mostly dorm rooms, but there are a couple nicer ones with private baths available (at significantly higher rates). Discounted weekly rates ares also available. $60-128.
- Chicago Lake Shore Hotel, 4900 S Lake Shore Dr, ☏ . Check-in: noon, check-out: 3PM. This hotel is unfortunately far from anything in the area of interest, but its rates are low and it has plenty of free parking and a downtown shuttle. $125-140.
The following public libraries offer free public internet access:
- 1 Blackstone Branch Library, 4904 S Lake Park Ave, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. M,W noon-8PM, Tu,Th 10AM-6PM, F Sa 9AM-5PM. This particular library is not just a free internet joint, it's a beautiful work of art, filled with marble and murals. It was created as a charitable work by Timothy Blackstone, a 19th century railroad baron who also founded the Union Stockyards on the Southwest Side.
- 2 Bessie Coleman Branch Library, 731 E 63rd St, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. M,W noon-8PM, Tu,Th 10AM-6PM, F Sa 9AM-5PM.
Hyde Park and Kenwood are some of the safest neighborhoods in the mid-south side of Chicago, with relatively low violent crime rates. Nevertheless, the two neighborhoods are surrounded by tough neighborhoods with reputations for crime and poverty. It's not recommended to go west of Hyde Park/Woodlawn on foot into the Washington Park/Englewood neighborhoods, which is where most of the danger lies. Gang activity has decreased substantially in the early 2000s, however. Robberies and theft are more common. Criminals know that where there's a university, there's a student walking around with a fancy smartphone and an expensive laptop in their backpack. As of October 2013, the University of Chicago Police recommend that people in the area "avoid using cell phones or other electronics while on the street." The University of Chicago publishes violent crime statistics on its website.
The University has taken pains to protect the area in recent years by installing plenty of lights along the Midway and increasing its police presence. The University famously fields the second largest private police force in the world (the first being the Pope's), with full police powers. That means there are twice as many police in Hyde Park than any other neighborhood around.
- The famous Museum Campus and McCormick Center are just north in Chicago's Near South.
- Chicago's Bronzeville, the historic Black Metropolis, is just a stone's throw away from Hyde Park, and well worth a visit for its huge role in African-American history. In particular the DuSable Museum of African-American History (which is just across the street from the University of Chicago Hospital) is very easy to visit when in the University area and should not be missed.
- Oak Woods Cemetery, outstanding Memphis-style barbecue, and some of the best blues in the city are located a few miles south on Cottage Grove in Chatham and Greater Grand.
- If you are up for a little drive, head south to the historic planned industrial community of Pullman, on the Far Southeast Side, and afterward grab some incredible smoked shrimp at the 95th St bridge.
|Routes through Hyde Park|
|The Loop ← Bronzeville ←||N S||→ END|