Wednesday, January 30, 2008

What is this Sh*t! or Why I Love Jerry Kleiner

posted by chicago pop

"It’s been 50 years since we had anything here with any style or energy."

--Jerry Kleiner on his new Hyde Park Restaurant

Photograph by Sarah Preston

Jerry Kleiner's first words when viewing the property that has since become the home of his Restaurant -- Name Pending: "It's like, what is this shit! What an ugly effing building." (Chicago Reader, April 14 2006)

Not only did he win my heart then and there with his frank appraisal of the ski lodge that never made it to Vail -- around here known as Harper Court (and its nearby clones) -- but the man is the most perfect confounding element in a rather pious neighborhood with 5 theological seminaries (that I know of) and a lot more people who, though maybe not thinking so much about G-d, know that this is where "fun comes to die."

Long story short: here's to more men in pink pants in the vicinity of Harper and 53rd. White guys, actually, who don't mind getting kneed by beautiful black women (well, she's not really "black," she's his Italian-American girlfriend). That's what Hyde Park is all about, right?

As much as I love him, I can't help but ask myself: can Hyde Park survive Jerry Kleiner -- assuming he can ever find a name for his restaurant?

Here's some more, from Chicago Magazine: “I was going to call it Hyde Park Grill but I ... got people saying to me, ‘It’s a shit boring name. All of your places have cool names like Red Light, like Gioco, like Marché. It’s been 50 years since we had anything here with any style or energy.’ And I got to thinking about it, and they’re right."

This can only be good.

While our community leaders set up their committees and subcommittees with preliminary expanded meetings for later preparatory reviews of previous exploratory committees on the future of 53rd Street, some on the 4th floor, some in the basement, Kleiner has got the neighborhood figured out. As he said in a 2006 interview for the Chicago Reader: "Somebody like me needs to set the bar for the community. Somebody needs to take a shot at it." ... "Even Kleiner complains about the retrograde aesthetic sensibilities of Hyde Parkers: "Where they are now, there's no real fashion or design."

This little corner of 53rd might get a whole lot more interesting before you can say the word TIF.

Jerry Kleiner Thinks About What to Call His Hyde Park Restaurant
(Photo courtesy of Jim Newberry

Kleiner is right, of course, though most Hyde Park crunch-sters, grad students, and full-time activists probably don't care what they wear. Or, like me, are probably too busy trying not to freeze most of the year to wear anything interesting. But it's nice to see someone try, and know that, like a PhD in some obscure topic in the humanities, someone (thankfully not me) is out there doing it.

And after all, Kleiner knows that he can't push it too far too fast. He knows, just like we do here at blog headquarters, that Hyde Park will never be the meatpacking district of West Randolph, or the high-rise jungle of South Loop, or alt.Wicker.Park. Of all the nightmares we try to plant in the minds of neighborhood NIMBYs, this isn't one of them. "My feeling is to create something that has a little bit of flair to it, but not too much ... a sophisticated approach to non-sophistication."

Or maybe a non-sophisticated approach to sophistication. Whatever. Just open the damn thing Jerry. Don't leave us with Ein Kleiner Nichtmusik. I need someplace where I can wear my pink pants.


Richard Gill said...

He should call it "Pointe Fixe".

chicago pop said...

"Pointe Fixe" ... that's it!!!

LPB said...

I believe the restaurant has been dubbed "Park 52" and it's set to open the first week of March. Hey, this is an occasion to pull out the tight leather pants in the back of your closet. Just don't wear them with your birkenstocks.

Stephen said...

First week of March? My wife have been peering in the window of the nameless restaurant savior for months on end, and to our eyes nothing has been going on. I hope it opens in March, but am not holding my breath. That's dangerous in HP.

Richard Gill said...

No, no, no, NO. You do not want to see ME in tight leather pants, nor even Speedos, for that matter. At least I don't want to see me in tight leather pants or Speedos. Stacy and Clinton would be horrified.

Speaking of peering in and seeing nothing going on - Tuesday, I peeked into the new Post Office through a rip in the brown window paper and neon-blue tape, and it looked like there's a long way to go. There was still conduit stacked against the wall and nothing that looked like counters or other "buildouts". Let's hope Treasure Island doesn't use the same contractor.

chicago pop said...

The difference between nothing going on at the new Post Office space and nothing going on at the Kleiner Restaurant is that at least the Kleiner Restaurant manages to look cool while nothing is going on.

Elizabeth Fama said...

I can't stop laughing at "Pointe Fixe!" It's way better than Parking Garage 52.

Sten said...

hey, speaking of waiting for stuff to open- Istria was "coming soon" under the 51st street viaduct when I moved into HP in 2003. Anyone hear anything about the HPAC location starting up?

Famac said...

Two potential names spring to my mind:




chicago pop said...

Here's what I've heard on the HPAC Istria branch (it's a CHAIN, people!)

March 2008. Apparently it's all due to backup at the City Buildings Dept. -- you may recall that a good percentage of the building inspectors were fired end 2007 for taking bribes. That's slowed everything down, and Istria is feeling the brunt of it.

At least we know they're honest.

Stephen said...

Istria has abandoned the 51st St. viaduct project. Instead, a new Istria at the HP Art Center has been "coming soon" for over a year (it wasn't open last month when I was there). "Coming soon" in HP means maybe in a year or two.

ssnow said...

"Pointe Fixe -a love affair with tradition" would be appropriate--
but why not just call the joint "Progress"?
And after the restaurant is a success this blog should give Kleiner its first annual Spirit of Columbia Award as person of the year.

chicago pop said...

Yes, a Spirit of Columbia Award in the form of a giant, torch-bearing goddess not much smaller than the one in Jackson Park. Painted pink.

chicago pop said...

I'm sure the Istria guys (if they're reading this) could lay it out better than I, but the scoop as they have told it to me on and off again is that the 51st St. location was nixed because Metra didn't want to pay to connect to the water line, which would have meant digging something like 20ft.

HPAC is a much better location anyway. I don't doubt that they've been through hell with various city inspections. That's the "price" you pay when you don't bribe anyone.

Elizabeth Fama said...

Chicago Pop,
A little sleuthing reveals that the woman with Kleiner is his longtime girlfriend, Marisa Molinaro. I'd say she's Italian, not African American, given that one web site listed relatives named Falconaro and Musacchio. (She has my sister's complexion.)
Your Sicilian Friend,

Stephen said...

And for the sake of clarity, I LOVE Istria.

chicago pop said...

I'd say she's Italian, not African American

You mean Italian-American, if you want to be consistent. But by golly it looks like you're right. She had a hell of a tan in that photo, and you know being racially unidentifiable is pretty hip these days. As for you Sicilians, you have a good bit of Arab lineage, which for many centuries was enough to credit you as "black."

Anyway, I think the point still holds, no?

Check out this video of her in an amateur boxing match. Wow.

Elizabeth Fama said...

Yes, my grandmother's maiden name was Saraceno, which implies we're decended from the Saracens somewhere along the line -- that is, northern African muslims, I believe. Anyway, "Italian-American" is the right term, much as I identify with my lineage. (I know you love correcting the copy-editor.)

LPB said...

Hey, every neighborhood deserves its own Austin Powers. I'm glad to see Jerry Kleiner filling that role in Hyde Park.

Famac said...

I've got the proof right here.

LPB said...

Here's the latest from Kleiner on the name. Too bad Richard Gill didn't get his "Pointe Fixe" suggestion in earlier.

"Name That Restaurant, Part Three
Jerry Kleiner is still going with Park 52 as the name for his upcoming spot at 52nd and Lake Park, but he liked one of your suggestions so much that he’s giving out a Champagne dinner anyway. Dan Kirschner, who proposed Point, come forward and claim your prize. Kirschner’s original e-mail said, “[Point] subtly speaks to the legacy of its Hyde Park home—The Point—while being geographically universal. It begs the question: What is the point? And will answer that question by being both on point and to the point. Leaving off the ‘The’ is necessary to avoid confusion among Hyde Parkers who ask: Wanna go to The Point? Are they speaking of the restaurant or the promontory?”" Chicago Magazine Dish email alert.