The Class of 2022’s Guide to the Gems of Hyde Park

We asked graduating students about what some of their favorite Hyde Park businesses have been during their time at UChicago. Here’s what they said.


Obama’s favorite restaurant, Valois.

By Casey Kim

Ascione Bistro

1500 East 55th Street, Chicago, IL 60615

One of fourth-year Elly Choi’s favorite restaurants in Hyde Park is Ascione Bistro, an Italian-focused restaurant. With a full bar and patio, Ascione offers breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner menus.

“I have fond memories of intimate one-on-one catch-ups, birthday parties, brunches with parents, and more,” Choi said. “The food is delicious, the ambiance is welcoming, and the staff is so kind. I will definitely miss Ascione when I graduate.”

Deep Purpl – Acai Bowls

5229 South Harper Court, Chicago IL 60615

Booth School of Business student and College graduate (A.B. ’20) Hayton Oei had his first açaí bowl at Deep Purpl last August, and he has visited every day since. “My go-to order is the 20 ounce, which is the largest size. It’s 660 calories. It has strawberries, kiwi, bananas, blueberries, granola, goji berry, cacao nibs, and honey. Same order every day.”

Located in Harper Court, “Deep Purpl is always crowded with students from the University and Kenwood Academy High School,” Deep Purpl employee Aanicia Sutton said.

Sutton, a student at Chicago State University, has made smoothies and acai bowls at Deep Purpl for about four months. “It’s a really good dish, and I like to take some when I leave after my shift as well,” Sutton said. “We’re almost at a year [since opening]. Deep Purpl is owned by a family from Brazil, which is where açaí comes from. It originates from Brazil. And that’s the aim, to bring it to Chicago and America.”

Noodles Etc.

1333 East 57th Street #1724, Chicago, IL 60637

Emma Van Lieshout (’22) and her friends from her days at International House (I-House) have frequented Noodles Etc. Despite now living separately, they still keep their tradition and convene at Noodles Etc. to catch up.

“When I lived in I-House my first and second year, my friends and I went to Noodles Etc a lot just because we didn’t want to walk all the way to Cathey [Dining Commons] sometimes,” Van Lieshout said. “I always get the Panang Curry.”

Van Lieshout said she will miss Noodles Etc. after graduating as it holds the most memories of her time with her closest friends.

Piccolo Mondo Restaurant & Bakery

1642 East 56th Street #1, Chicago, IL 60637

The Italian restaurant and bakery has been in the same location since 1985. Much of the menu is focused on Argentinian ingredients or dishes—Ben Whittaker (’22) enjoys and recommends the wide selection of Argentinian finger foods and pastries.

“I am Latin American, so I really love Argentinian food, and they have really good empanadas,” Whittaker said. “In fact, they’re the only empanadas I think you can get in Hyde Park. It is part of my heritage, and it was such a pleasant surprise to find that in Hyde Park. I thought coming to Chicago, I’d have to really venture far away…but it’s super close by, and the people are super friendly there.”

Salonica Restaurant

1440 East 57th Street, Chicago, IL 60637

Whittaker has been going to Salonica since his first year at the University. For him and his friends, Salonica is “the spot.” The diner serves American comfort food, such as pancakes and burgers, as well as some Greek dishes like gyro and spanakopita.

“The night before a bunch of us had to leave when the campus was shutting down because of COVID, we had one last hurrah that night before people were flying out and we made sure to have dinner at Salonica,” Whittaker said. “It’s a place that holds a lot of sentimental value, and the vibes are just great.”

Lorenzo Orders (’22) also has a similar tradition with his friends, as they make sure to visit at the end of every school year.

“I’m a big fan,” Orders said. “It’s nice and comforting. You know what you’re getting. It’s very lowkey, which is amazing, especially at the end of the school year.”

Orders and his friends plan to visit Salonica once more before graduating.

Valois Restaurant

1518 East 53rd Street, Chicago, IL 60615

Open from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. and serving American comfort food, Valois has been a popular breakfast and lunch hotspot for many UChicago students. A favorite of President Barack Obama, the signature Hyde Park edifice has been part of the neighborhood since 1921.

“I always take people to Valois when they come to visit me,” Van Lieshout said. “Great pancakes. My mom swears she can’t find any other pancakes that are better than Valois.”

Valois accepts cash only and offers a ten percent student discount to those with student identification.

“I can’t deny the appeal of trying to snag the table with Obama’s face on it,” Van Lieshout said.

Paul Stacek, who will be graduating in fall 2022, appreciates the history preserved inside the beloved Hyde Park institution. As co-founder and president of the UChicago Real Estate Investment Group, Stacek has brought every single new member to Valois for coffee or lunch.

“You sort of come into a place that is sort of frozen in time.… The menu, the prices seem to have stopped in time completely, and that’s really unique,” Stacek said. “You can’t get that experience at other places.”

Valois’s ability to attract an eclectic crowd also adds to its charm, Stacek said.

“We have international students from Hong Kong to locals who have been here for generations, bringing their kids to this restaurant, and college professors or private equity CEOs who stop by to come here and eat,” Stacek said. “It’s just an incredibly unique place where all these different groups of people come together and sort of live and eat in harmony and peace.”

Green Collar Cleaners

1314 East 53rd Street, Chicago, IL 60615

Stacek likes to get his dry-cleaning done at Green Collar Cleaners, where they promote eco-friendliness by avoiding certain chemicals that are harmful to the environment.

“If you bring them the metal wire hangers, like a bag of them, they will let you spin the wheel and win an award,” Stacek said. “It’s funny, but they do it because they want to recycle those and not have those go to waste.”

Hair Design International

1309 East 57th Street, Chicago, IL 60637

Whittaker highly recommends Hair Design International for those looking to be well-groomed—the business offers a variety of hair services, including trims, coloring, perms, waxing, and treatments.

“My friends have always joked with me that I can never seem to get a good haircut except when I go there,” Whittaker said. “I’ve had this barber ever since I was little, and you feel kind of bad when you cheat on your barber, so to speak, by going to someone else. But it wasn’t until I came to UChicago that I had a valid excuse to get my haircut from someone that wasn’t him.”

Powell’s Books

1501 East 57th Street, Chicago, IL 60637

Orders’s favorite Hyde Park business is Powell’s Books, a used-book emporium.

“A real gem that I found my first year was Powell’s,” Orders said. “It was absolutely amazing that I went there with some friends from my House because we did a bookstore crawl—we went to a bunch of them. I was shocked at how cheap the books were.”

Orders has often gotten Christmas gifts from the store for his friends and family.

“It’s just so cool,” Orders said. “You walk around and you’re like, ‘Oh, this looks so cool,’ and you flip it over and you look at the price and it’s like, ‘Oh, even better.’”

Southspace Art Gallery

1109 East 55th Street, Chicago, IL 60615

Located next to Insomnia Cookies and Te’amo Boba Bar, Southspace is an art gallery created and founded by Residential Heads at Campus North, Christian and Clara Clarke.

“[The Clarkes] wanted a place to exhibit student work and local artists, and some of my art is in there right now too,” Oei said.

Christian Clarke said that Southspace was originally meant to be used as an art studio, but due to its large space, their goals expanded. They hope to “turn it into a gallery and also a community learning center for art and technology experiential learning,” he said.

Southspace is currently open for events, but Clarke hopes to have more students and community members become involved and use the space.

“Our goal is to find students and student groups who want to run their own events and art shows, tutoring, and workshops,” Clarke said. “That’s our main goal: to provide more opportunities for students and people in the community to use the space to keep it open more often.”

Tacos El Pastor 53

5319 South Hyde Park Boulevard, Chicago, IL 60615

A favorite of Maroon staff, Tacos El Pastor will distract many a weary editor from the pains of production. Maroon eaters were first introduced to this tasty taquería by former managing editor Adyant Kanakamedala, now known by most as a hero. Vivacious vegans, voracious carnivores, and celiac clowns will all find sanctuary in the sweet, smokey—and don’t forget: spicy—salsa of El Pastor.

Hyde Park is a hotspot of fantastic local businesses. This list is not exhaustive. Go out, explore, and support South Side businesses.