Neighborhood Dining Part One

Backstory Café – Cedars Mediterranean Kitchen

By The Maroon Staff

"Hit or miss" would be a charitable way of describing Hyde Park's dining options. Use this guide to make your meals more of the former.

Backstory Café, 6100 South Blackstone Avenue » Part of the Experimental Station south of the Midway, this quirky coffee shop is worth the hike. Accompany your studying with freshly squeezed lemonade, homemade soups, and slow-drip coffee, plus free wi-fi. The café plays host to events for local artists, free movie screenings, and lectures by community-minded individuals. (773) 324-9987

Bar Louie, 5500 South Shore Drive » Despite the name, Bar Louie isn’t a cute French bistro. Although the wait staff has Parisian aloofness down cold, that’s pretty much the only continental touch you can expect. The menu is a schizophrenic mix of internationally tinged bar food: Think Bavarian pretzel sticks, bruschetta, and potstickers. (773) 363-5300

The Big Easy, 1660 East 55th Street » Once upon a time, there was a mediocre Hyde Park restaurant named Orly’s. One day, its name magically changed to Hyde Park Barbeque & Bakery, yet the menu and staff remained almost exactly the same: mediocre. The burger with guacamole and spicy Belgian fries is decent, but anything more adventurous is hit-or-miss. Menu options range from Texas barbeque to Mexican to traditional Jewish. We don’t understand it either. However, the bakery lays claim to the best bagels in Hyde Park. (773) 643-5500

Bonjour Bakery & Café, 1550 East 55th Street » Bonjour features coffee drinks and solid bakery fare. The baked goods are all made with butter, making the croissants some of the tastiest in Chicago. The gourmet sandwiches are good, but a little on the expensive side (although where else are you going to get a croque-monsieur?). The café provides outdoor seating for warmer weather. (773) 241-5300

Boston Market, 1424 East 53rd Street » What can we say about Boston Market? This one’s just like any other. The cornbread is consistently soggy, but it’s generally decent home-style fare. Please don’t eat your Thanksgiving dinner here. That would just be depressing. (773) 288-2600

Calypso Café, 5211 South Harper Avenue » When February winds are getting you down, the paper umbrella-laden drinks at this Caribbean joint will lighten your mood (and your wallet). The plantain nachos and the pineapple-crusted tilapia are seriously to-die-for. People will tell you this is a healthy dinner option. Don’t believe them, but don’t let that stop you from ordering the key lime pie either. (773) 955-0229

Cedars Mediterranean Kitchen, 1206 East 53rd Street » One falafel, two falafel, three falafel, four. In case you couldn’t guess, the mighty chickpea reigns supreme here. Since time immemorial, students dreaming of hummus-slathered falafel sandwiches have slogged through inches, nay, feet of snow to obtain their Middle-Eastern goodness. So will you. (773) 324-6227