Sunday, April 6, 2008

On the Pavement: Istria/Cornell and Park 52 Coming Soon

posted by chicago pop

Wow. We needed that little break. So now we're back, and ready to raise a little more ruckus.

So let's start the new quarter with some uplifting news. Word is out that Jerry Kleiner will be opening Park 52 -- for real -- on April 8. That's this Tuesday.

Let's hope that competition from the new arrival gives Chant, with its good-looking decor but still-struggling menu, the kick in the pants it needs to break out of the bland pan-Asian cul-de-sac that left us somewhat disappointed last fall.

The savory irony of Kleiner's arrival, hopefully no less savory than the dishes we soon hope to sample at Park 52, is that while the hoary Hyde Park talking shops have been spinning their wheels about Harper Court, a local entrepreneur walked in and did something about it.

Right next door. In fact, this seems to be a trend with the most interesting things going on in the neighborhood: where there's less talking going on, more things are happening. Did we need a survey to get Park 52? Zaleski & Horvath Market? Hyde Park Produce?

But that's not all. Anyone who walks down Cornell weekday mornings has surely noticed the activity behind the shredded window papering at Istria's north Hyde Park location. The windows have been etched with the offerings soon to be had, and the coffee machines have been spotted against the wall.

Once the hardware's in, there's no going back. I'm already looking forward to my first morning café au lait at a sun-dappled table, beside the broad windows of the new Istria.


terranwannabe said...

You guys know that Chant has a new menu, right? I was in there a couple of weeks ago - they've removed the old Noodles stuff and expanded from two entrees to seven or eight. I had the Chinese Five Spice Duck, which was served over a cherry and duck slaw - delicious and plated quite well. Service seems more attentive too although the maitre'd is still terrible.

chicago pop said...

I see Chant has indeed updated its menu. Thanks for the intel. I also heard that this may have had something to do with a new chef but have not confirmed.

This warrants a new trip to Chant!

Vin said...

Well, Pop, in NIMBY style, I think that it is my duty to point out that not everybody likes café au lait, so we should have had the community groups get together and decide whether to permit this new Istria to be built, and what they will be permitted to have on their menu. And if this is the second Istria, that means that it is a chain, and we can't allow that in Hyde Park.

terranwannabe said...

No problemo. Also, I am sad to report that the lobster rangoon has digressed to Wok 'N Roll-level cream cheese crappiness in whatever the menu transition entailed, but I think the new menu was worth it.

Also, if you decide to get the duck it was an excellent match with their Pinot Noir.

Michael said...

Looks hope the new menu is better than the old. The previous menu was just the same things as Noodles, just half the size for twice the price. As a friend put it, "They should call it Scant, not Chant."

But I've always enjoyed Noodles, so maybe I'll give Chant another try.

nate said...

@ terranwannabe

Did it still leave your mouth with a film on it? That's one flavor sensation I'm not looking to repeat...

terranwannabe said...


Not sure I ever got "filminess" from Lobster Rangoon 1.0, but 2.0 is the same thing you can get from any fake Chinese restaurant in the country. If you like that, good to go - if not, skip it.

Elizabeth Fama said...

Welcome back from a spring break that turned into a GI nightmare for you. Thank goodness you're back; this blog can't survive without no-holds-barred phrases like "hoary Hyde Park talking shops."

Pixel Buffer said...

Well, I am very pleased the restaurant is opening, after, what?, a 3 year wait! Did it take them that long to decide on the name (which is not bad -- better than the Hyde Park Grill for sure -- but not extremely catchy or descriptive)? When I was applying for my business license a person in the Department of Business Affairs and Licensing let slip that they wasted a lot of time applying for a liquor license that they really didn't need, since they could open under the same license as their other locations. But that was nearly 2 1/2 years ago!

Richard Gill said...

"...a local entrepreneur walked in and did something about it."

Yes, he did, and even with all the delays, it happened about a century earlier than it would have if "central planning" advocates had their way.

The Harper Court survey asked if people want to be informed of development plans that are submitted. The "central planners" probably interpret "informed" to imply veto power. Ain't no way. The zoning sets the limits; within those limits, the developer has to be able to make money.

Now, back at the shopping center, summer's coming. Where's the ice cream shop? Where's the post office (no, the Postal Service has not answered my letter, written four weeks ago, asking when the P.O. might move from the TI basement).

chicago pop said...

Richard Gill, you are to be applauded for conducting your experiment in customer communication with the USPS. Please do keep us fully apprised of the results in your valiant efforts to get us a convenient, pleasant, and more spacious post office branch on the ground level of the 55th Street Mall. We may even do a post about it.

Otto said...

I see Chant has indeed updated its menu.

And shortened their hours, no? I thought they were originally open until 2 a.m. weekends.