Best Coffee House
Third World Café | 1301 E. 53rd St.; 773-288-3882
When Café Siena closed in 2003, Hyde Park’s coffee culture took a near-fatal hit. A second Starbucks has cropped up since then, but there was little else besides Medici Bakery, which never has any free chairs, and the overly student-y C-Shop in the Reynolds Club. Third World Café stepped into the void a couple of years ago with quality coffee, an intellectual atmosphere, and tasty vegetarian food, like its robust red-pepper hummus served with warm pita.
For years now, the white-on-blue bumper stickers reading “Save the Point” have advertised Hyde Park’s most intractable neighborhood struggle: the community’s objection to plans by the Park District to replace the limestone lakeshore barriers with concrete to prevent erosion at the 55th Street park. As the city began installing revetments at other places—including the stretch just north of the contested area—Hyde Parkers dug in their heels. Since the city honored its pledge not to act without community support, the impasse has now stretched to six years. Not even the intervention of Barack Obama could move the ball forward: his office says the opposing camps are still at “stage one.”
Best Alternative to the Multiplex
Programmed by a 74-year-old student film society at the University of Chicago, DOC Films screens a different movie every night of the academic year at the Max Palevsky Cinema in Ida Noyes Hall (1212 E. 59th St.; 773-702-8575). The schedule (online at docfilms.uchicago.edu) is organized into series that run on the same night for several weeks and have thoughtful, enticing themes like last spring’s “Sex, Sin and Bathtub Booze: Hollywood Before the Code.” It’s also the best bargain in Hyde Park: tickets, some for recently released movies, are just $4.
Best Big Instrument
The carillon at Rockefeller Chapel
Consisting of 72 giant bronze bells controlled by batons that are struck with fists and feet, the carillon is not exactly an everyday musical instrument. And yet, Chicago is the carillon capital of the Western Hemisphere, with five in the metro area. The 207-foot tower of Rockefeller Chapel at the University of Chicago houses the prize local specimen, at 100 tons the second largest in the world (after the 105-ton carillon at Riverside Church in New York City). Hear the Rockefeller carillon, which turns 75 this year, in action every day at noon and 6 p.m. during the school year and in concerts at 6 p.m. on Sundays during the summer.
Best Meat Prices
Hyde Park Co-op
For more than 70 years, Hyde Park’s main grocery store has been the Co-op (1526 E. 55th St., 773-667-1444; 1226 E. 53rd St., 773-363-2175). Although beset by interruptions in supply, competitive disadvantages due to its small size, and near-constant financial struggles (which are always out in the open because the store is publicly owned), the Co-op still manages to offer some of the lowest prices in its meat section. You can regularly find boneless choice round steak for $1.99 a pound and pork tenderloin for $2.39 a pound.
Best Reason to Indulge Your Sweet Tooth
Orzata at Medici
A Hyde Park classic, the Medici (1327 E. 57th St.; 773-667-7394) is justly notorious for its diet-violating casual fare. One item, though, deserves special gustatory attention: the Orzata. Described unassumingly on the menu as “almond soda with chocolate ice cream,” the float’s killer combination of rich dark-chocolate ice cream, not-too-sweet almond syrup, and whipped cream made fresh every morning on site will nestle into a permanent cubbyhole in your taste memory.
Best of Chicago - Table of Contents
Best of Chicago - 01
Best of Chicago - 02
Best of Chicago - 03
Best of Chicago - 04
Best of Chicago - 05
Best of Chicago - 06
Best of Neighborhhoods - Albany Park
Best of Neighborhhoods - Evanston
Best of Neighborhhoods - Highwood
Best of Neighborhhoods - Hyde Park
Best of Neighborhhoods - Ukrainian VIllage and East Village
Best of Chicago - Architecture