Subs, coffee feed new Hyde Park businesses

By Usman Ahmed

New and returning coffee addicts – or students simply interested in burning a hole in their stomach – have reason to celebrate. Hyde Park, the University’s home for more than 100 years, often described as nice but not particularly exciting, will soon be the home of four new coffee shops. Additionally, new eateries and an assortment of other establishments are slated to open.

Bob Mason, the executive director of South East Chicago Commission (SECC), a community based, non-profit organization that operates services and programs in Hyde Park, called Hyde Park a “hot neighborhood with very few vacancies,” saying that businesses and residents are moving in.

According to Mason, Hyde Park and the surrounding communities have seen an influx of investment as entrepreneurs, small business owners, and national companies have set their eyes on Hyde Park and the surrounding communities.

The SECC reports that four new coffee shops will soon be opening in the neighborhood, one each on 51st, 53rd, 55th, and 57th streets.

Third World Café, the official name of the mysterious space on 53rd and Kimbark Avenue—adorned with a simple sign saying, “Coffee House. Opening Soon”—is scheduled to open by the end of the month. Mason said that the proprietors of the establishment are a local couple and alumni of the university.

Viva Java, another new coffee shop, will be located on the corner of 55th Street and Cornell Avenue. It is scheduled to open soon.

Finally, Istria Café, the name of two new coffee shops, are planned for Lake Park Boulevard—located, respectively, on 51st and Lake Park Boulevard and 57th and Lake Park Boulevard—will be in the newly renovated Metra stations. Mason anticipated that these establishments would not be open soon.

Teresa Cooper, a South Side resident and University employee, while not a coffee drinker, was very receptive to the opening of new businesses, because she felt that new investment and revitalization of the South Side brings the community together.

McDonald’s, the world’s leading food service retailer, with more than 30,000 restaurants worldwide, opened a new location in Hyde Park recently on 52nd Street and Lake Park Boulevard. Mason stressed that this latest establishment has “new and improved management.”

Among other new businesses in Hyde Park is the addition of a Quiznos Sub franchise, one of more than 3500 stores worldwide. The new restaurant, located at 1519 E 55th St., opened on August 31. It is owned and managed by Bynum Gabriel, a Hyde Park resident.

Gabriel said that he was excited to invest in the community for a combination of reasons. “Hyde Park is diverse and supports itself,” he said. “It is a great neighborhood.”

Cooper shared Gabriel’s excitement. “Quiznos is awesome. I plan to go.”

Gabriel’s restaurant may in the future be joined by another Quiznos Sub restaurant on 53rd Street in a spot vacated by AT&T.

Eateries are not the only new establishments students and residents are sure to witness. The Checkerboard Lounge, a revered and historical Chicago institution, which once hosted musical acts such as the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, and Willie Dixon, caused a modest scuffle last year between University officials and community members over charges that the University was stealing the venue from an already economically depressed neighborhood.

The lounge, a jazz and blues club previously located in the Bronzeville neighborhood, was shut down and now plans to reopen for the holiday season at a new space on 5201 S. Harper Ave., in Harper Court.

Additional openings in Hyde Park include a CVS Pharmacy, currently under construction, which will be located at the corner of 53rd Street and Kimbark Avenue in Kimbark Plaza. Also, the Chicago-based Harris Bank plans to open a new location soon at the corner of 55th Street and Cornell Avenue.