Where To Eat In Hyde Park
Our favorite spots in the neighborhood.
Hyde Park has the University of Chicago, 57th Street Beach, and President Obama’s house. It’s also home to some pretty great restaurants, which is good news since Michelle and Barack (probably) aren’t inviting you over for dinner. Whether you’re in the mood for a Southern seafood boil, some handmade pasta, or vegan soul food, the places on this guide have you covered. Here are our 18 favorite spots in the neighborhood.
photo credit: Kim Kovacik
Not only does this New Orleans-inspired spot have the best po’boys we’ve encountered in Chicago, but it’s also a blast. The spacious counter-service restaurant has a full bar, live music, and makes boozy hurricanes that aren’t too sweet. Along with the aforementioned po’boys (like fried shrimp, fried green tomato, and a peacemaker–fried oyster and roast beef) the menu has other classics. There are boudin balls and a rich seafood gumbo that had a great amount of heat, and a little crab claw poking out of it. We'd like to think it's encouraging us to order more food.
This upscale Southern restaurant is one of our favorite date night spots in the neighborhood. The dining room is bright and airy, and there’s a separate, dimly lit bar area that’s great for just grabbing cocktails. The menu has small plates like gizzards with rice, asparagus with pig’s ears, and entrees like creamy shrimp and grits or some very rich short ribs.
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It’s not often we enthusiastically recommend a restaurant for breakfast, lunch, _and_ dinner. But Roux, a counter-service New Orleans-inspired spot is a great choice for all three meals. The restaurant is large, bright, and perfect for getting some work done over coffee and beignets, a Sunday brunch filled with fluffy biscuits and gravy, or a weeknight dinner of shrimp and creamy grits. The entire menu is available all day long, and there’s a pastry case up front full of incredible baked goods, like a gigantic cinnamon roll where each bite somehow tastes like the gooey center—which everyone knows is the best part.
What’s Krackin’ Southern Seafood
You will not find better seafood in Hyde Park than What’s Krackin’. This counter-service seafood boil restaurant has incredible shrimp, crab, and lobster that you can buy by the pound. Your bag comes with your choice of flavorful sauce (our favorite is the Cajun or the very spicy house), seafood, and sides like potatoes and corn. If you want your seafood fried, get one of their baskets (with options like oysters or catfish) or a po’boy. You can eat inside the little storefront, or take your precious bag of shellfish home. Either way, grab some extra napkins and prepare for things to get messy.
Jade Court Chinese Cuisine
The original Jade Court closed in 2019, but this Chinese restaurant has reopened in a new location in Hyde Park. It’s off the main stretch of 53rd (so it isn’t quite as busy as some of the other restaurants in the area) and is built for groups. There are a few lazy susan tables, and large format dishes on the menu, like Peking duck. The long menu has a variety of dishes like orange chicken, salt and pepper shrimp, dry chicken chili, and Szechuan beef, and a lot of cocktails too—including a shockingly good Hurricane.
Truth Be Told
If you’re looking for a nice-but-not-too-fancy spot to eat with your cousin who enrolled at the University of Chicago, this is it. Truth Be Told is a British-inspired restaurant on the ground floor of The Study, a campus hotel. The menu has the usual suspects, like Welsh rarebit atop slices of crusty sourdough, crispy fish and chips, and a rich chicken pot pie. The food isn’t going to wow you, but it’s good enough and the easygoing service is incredibly friendly. So if you just bombed a final, coming here for a pint and a smoked-bacon burger might make you feel a little bit better.
This Italian restaurant is another one of our favorite options for a small group dinner in the neighborhood. Ascione is always busy, the service is friendly, and the menu is filled with handmade pastas and appetizers (like burrata and meatballs) that are ideal for sharing. The restaurant is nice enough where you can get dressed up to celebrate your friend’s successful dissertation defense, but you can also come here with your parents who insist on wearing their Badgers gear whenever they’re in Chicago.
Can't Believe It's Not Meat
It’s not the most subtle name, but it definitely gets the point across. This counter-service spot focuses on plant-based comfort food, meaning you can get things like nachos, a Philly cheesesteak, and fried chicken drumsticks—vegan. Just know that this place is very small with limited seating, so plan on getting your vegan loaded fries to go.
Goree is a Senegalese restaurant on the border of Kenwood and Hyde Park, but the food is so good we’re not letting a technicality prevent us from including it. At lunch you can order one of their fantastic stews (our favorite is the maffe made with lamb, peanut butter, and yucca), and their entrees (like grilled red snapper or dibi chicken) are available all day. Portions are large, so come with a group and plan on sharing everything.
The Soul Shack
The Soul Shack is a casual spot that (as the name suggests) focuses on soul food. They have dishes like smothered fried chicken, lollipop lamb chops, and sides like mac and cheese and cornbread. And while those things are tasty, we come here for the soul rolls. They’re fried egg rolls stuffed with jerk chicken, yams, mac and cheese, and greens. They will send you straight to bed. Luckily, everything here is served in to-go containers, which makes a quick exit pretty easy.
Cedar's Mediterranean Kitchen
Cedar’s has been a neighborhood staple since the early 90s, and this Mediterranean restaurant is great for takeout or a casual weeknight dinner. The space is small and cozy, and the menu has shawarma wraps, lamb kebabs, harissa-glazed wings, and hummus topped with mango and corn. If you’re looking for something light and flavorful on a Tuesday night, well, here you go.
14 Parish is an upscale Caribbean restaurant that used to be in the South Loop, and it’s worth seeking out if you’re in the mood for spicy jerk and some rum cocktails. You’ll find dishes like jerk chicken and catfish, oxtails, and vegetarian curry. The food is really good, and the service is friendly. Just be aware that they host a lot of celebrations here, so the atmosphere can feel pretty scattered if you come during graduation, birthday party, or the Society Of Neuroscience’s casino night.
Uncle Joe’s is a counter-service spot serving Jamaican food. They do lots of Jamaican staples—oxtails, jerk catfish, curry shrimp, and more—really well. If you can’t make a decision, try the $15 jerk chicken wing dinner that comes with two sides, or the $20 combo plate that includes two types of meat, plantains, rice and peas, jerk sauce, and white bread.
If you’ve ever spent time in a coffee shop on a college campus, Cafe 53 will feel familiar. You get the feeling that everyone inside it has imminent plans to ruin family get-togethers by incessantly quoting Nietzsche. The interior feels comfortable and lived in, and they have a menu full of sandwiches and salads, with a whole section devoted to vegan options. Come for a vegan buffalo sandwich, and stay to finally finish reading that used copy of On The Road.
This neighborhood classic has been around for more than 50 years. It’s a casual counter-service operation, known for its gigantic triple decker sandwiches (particularly the corned beef and pastrami), which are perfect pre-nap or post-hangover-inducing-night-out meals.
Nella Pizza e Pasta
This is from the same people who owned Pizzeria Da Nella, a fantastic pizza place formerly in Lincoln Park. Now they’re in Hyde Park, serving the same awesome Neapolitan pies as always. The decor feels modern and even a little cheesy, with cans of tomatoes and a bright yellow Vespa dangling over the bar. But it’s great for groups, or a low-key date night. Especially if you’re on a date with a Vespa enthusiast.
If you didn’t already know about it, you may have heard of Valois because of President Obama - it’s famous for being one of his favorite spots in Hyde Park. There’s even a sign letting you know what he likes to order. But what really makes this place unique is the fact that it’s an old-school cafeteria, complete with old-school cafeteria food (like meatloaf), plastic trays, and people who will yell at you if you move too slowly through the line. Breakfast - like eggs, bacon, sausage, biscuits and gravy, and pancakes - is our favorite thing to eat here. Just remember that it’s cash only.
Plein Air Cafe & Eatery
This cafe feels light and airy, and is located right on campus in a building with a university bookstore. Come here for French-inspired tartines, salads, and kind of healthy grain bowls. The food is fresh and good, and it’s a nice change from hanging out on beanbag chairs surrounded by last night’s pizza boxes.
Medici on 57th
This is a Hyde Park/UChicago staple that will please the college student in everyone. It serves all three meals, and has a menu reminiscent of The Cheesecake Factory’s in terms of length. There’s better food to be had elsewhere, but it’s perfect for large groups, with options ranging from pastries and egg scrambles to pizza, burgers, and quesadillas. In fact, this place serves pretty much everything, even alcohol after years of not - but you can still BYOB.
Temporarily takeout-only with a reduced menu
B’Gabs is a vegan cafe open for breakfast and lunch, and almost everything here is made in-house. The menu has lots of fruits and vegetables along with plenty of gluten-free and raw options. This is where you come for things like smoothie bowls, breakfast scrambles made with chickpeas, and a zucchini noodle pad thai salad. Everything tastes light and fresh, and if you’re a University of Chicago student with parents in town, it’s a great way to show them that living here doesn’t mean a steady diet of pizza, hot dogs, and Italian beef (though balance is important).