Thursday, July 12, 2012

Del Prado Looking Good: The Sip Cafe, Southside Shrimp come to HP Boulevard


-posted by chicago pop


It is my prediction - and also a fond desire - that 5 years hence the corner of 53rd and Hyde Park Boulevard will be one of the most pleasant, exciting, and desirable in the neighborhood. The University of Chicago has already figured out that 53rd Street is the axis of Hyde Park's urbanity, and the buzzing activity all along that street from Lake Park to the old Harper Theater is a refreshing sign of the institution's commitment to the vitality of the neighborhood's commercial corridor.

The intersection of 53rd and HPB is the gateway to that corridor, and in terms of urban design one of the only real gateways to the neighborhood - the others being a longish viaduct (47th Street), a bucolic but unremarkable jog in the road (51st Street) a blockade (57th Street), and, uh, the Midway. 

Contrast these to 53rd between Lake Shore Drive and HPB: one of the city's oldest and grandest parks is to the north, one of its grandest old hotels, the Del Prado, is to the south, and one of the neighborhood's most stately thoroughfares, Hyde Park Boulevard, sweeps parallel to the lakefront. 

Fixing up the Del Prado is one of the most important things MAC has done in Hyde Park, and the progress made this summer - after what seemed like years of not much visible happening - is exciting. The building itself looks great, as masonry details are restored and a contemporary, modern foyer is installed on the HPB entrance.


The best surprise of the Hyde Park commercial scene this summer is the leasing of a cafe, "The Sip," for the corner space of the Del Prado, in what used to be a convenience store. This cafe will have the best table views in Hyde Park, without question. This is a real score for MAC. Thursday mornings in the summer of 2013, when shoppers at the farmer's market in Harold Washington Park are able to stop by for coffee, will make the corner a great destination. 

I only hope that the cafe will avoid what seems to be a long-term trend for neighborhood cafes and eateries off of 57th Street - what I call the "Third World Effect" - which is to slowly go to seed and eventually close out. There's the obvious example of Third World Cafe and its predecessors. Something similar came close to happening at Istria on 57th; Istria on Cornell is visibly going to pot (what's up with the tattered bar chairs and disappeared bike rack?), although the new coffee source is an improvement; and who knows what will happen to Z&H on 47th after a recent management shake-up? 

Around the corner is a little local eatery, Southside Shrimp, with a few other locations in the city that have given it name recognition and what seems to be a positive reputation. It's basically fried seafood, but they emphasize freshness of ingredients to distinguish themselves from the legions of popcorn shrimp dives. They've clearly put some money into making the place look nice, and have gone to the trouble of getting a permit for sidewalk seating, which already makes the street more interesting. 


We're still waiting for word of a restaurant in the ballroom of the Del Prado's second floor - I'd like to book my window table as soon as possible.

22 comments:

jamie said...

Management shakeup at Z&H on 47th? I haven't made it up there in the last several weeks. What's the news?

chicago pop said...

Tim Shau, co-owner/founder of Z&H, is leaving the team. No reasons were given.

Mona said...

This is really exciting... I can't wait until the café opens up. Having really good coffee will be the draw (which is why we don't go to Bonjour as often as we might have otherwise). But what's this you say about a Farmers' Market in Harold Washington Park in Summer 2013?? Oh wow! Details, please!

chicago pop said...

Mona, the farmer's market is already running in Harold Washington Park, every Thursday morning. It started last summer. It will be nice next summer when patrons will be able to stop off at the cafe while also enjoying the market.

Lilithcat said...

Didn't realize the shrimp place had opened; I'll have to give it a try. And I'm definitely looking forward to having a café across the street, as long as they have good teas as well as coffee.

@ Mona - as chicago pop said, the farmers market is already at the park. It's been there for a couple of years now, ever since the construction at Harper Court began.

David Farley said...

Let's celebrate with a fireworks show!

Jessica said...

Say it ain't so. After 5 years, I'm leaving a month before a new coffee shop FINALLY opens in Hyde Park?

And a new restaurant? What neighborhood is this?!!!

(Is Southside Shrimp already open?)

chicago pop said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
K said...

This is great news about the Del Prado retail spaces! Can't wait to try the new places. Sad to hear about Tim leaving the Z&H team. Z&H (at both locations) has been a great boon to the neighborhood.

Greg said...

I hope 47th Z&H will still stay open as its my preferred location. I haven't actually seen Tim there lately and missed him, he's a good guy. After they opened 57th I was worried they were overexpanding and diluting their clientele, hopefully that is not the case.

Vicky said...

This is nice to see. I never went to Third World I think mainly because the windows were always steamed up and even streaked and dripping--it looked muggy and sweaty inside. The view should be better indeed at the Sip!

Greg said...

I've lived in the Del Prado for the last nine months; and we're happy to have South Side Shrimp. We're looking forward to The Sip. Now if we could get a really nice restaurant (not a cafe with a drop ceiling and fluorescent lights) in one of the old ballroom spaces.

Chason said...

Tried Julie's for the first time tonight. The shrimp are, indeed delicious. While I am not sure what Chicago-style is specifically, it too is delicious. My dining compatriots enjoyed the catfish and calamari as well. Fries taste frozen, but the macaroni salad and cole slaw were appetizing. So very happy to see all this happening in Hyde Park, and so desperately hoping nothing befalls my beloved Z&H, especially my preferred 57th St. location.

susan said...

Why DOES bonjour have such weak coffee?

Lilithcat said...

@ Chason -

According to the person who took my order, the Chicago-style has garlic in the breading. She didn't need to say anything more, as that clinched the deal for me!

Chason said...

@ Lilithcat -

I agree completely! Thank you for the info!

Helma said...

The coffee is still good at Cafe 57. The bar chairs are strange.

@Greg: oh, for a place like Amelia's or West Town Tavern (relaxed environments with good food) in Hyde Park. Thankfully Amelia's is not far away.

Chason said...

To continue the Z&H mysteries, the 57th Street location is"experimenting with summer hours" and now closing at 4:30. I am not terribly surprised, since it seems most places in Hyde Park take a hit during the summer hours, but with Shau leaving, I cannot help but be nervous. Has there been any additional news?

Sammi said...

Chason, there is nothing to fear in regards to Z&H. The early closures were due, in part to the slow down of business, but mostly to the heat. Our poor A/C cannot keep up on those hot days with the humidity and the door opening all of the time. Not only does it become uncomfortable inside for the customers, but the equipment has difficulty working and compressors start failing. Sorry for any convenience. I added additional A/C units and hopefully they can keep up. Thanks for your support and we will keep those Ducky Salads coming!

Chason said...

@Sammi,

Hallelujah! So great to hear Z&H is still doing well. It has been the sort of place 57th Street and Hyde Park really need.

Also, it is very clear I either a) need to stop tweeting about the Ducky or b) start diversifying my order. :)

Mona said...

Thanks for the info about the Farmers' Market on 53rd/HP Blvd. I'm now a regular. But I can tell you I won't be a regular at South Side Shrimp. Breaded deep-fried shrimp with no more than a hint of garlic isn't my thing. Neither are chicken wings with Red #5 as its main ingredient. I wish them well though and I hope their recipes evolve. The good news is that they're BYO.

Miranda Barrow said...

How do you apply for a job for the Sip?