--Jerry Kleiner on his new Hyde Park Restaurant
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.
(Photo courtesy of Jim Newberry http://www.newberryphotography.com)
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.