When people say they’re going to Hyde Park, they usually mean they’re headed somewhere within a few blocks of the University of Chicago. My reason for recently going to Hyde Park was, of course, a UChicago-related event, an exhibit at the Oriental Institute (1155 East 58th) entitled “In Remembrance of Me: Feasting with the Dead in the Ancient Middle East.”
This exhibit brings together two of our favorite things—food and mortuary rituals—and it focuses on the use of food and drink to care for the dearly departed. At this ancient Turkish ritual, there would have been a stone representation of the deceased, along with directions regarding foods to be set before him. The stone representation, a stele recently discovered in Eastern Turkey, is for a man named Katumuwa. The inscription indicates that Katumuwa expected it to be rather dreary in the afterlife; he thought an annual banquet around his image would make things slightly more tolerable. As part of this exhibit, there are almost sixty artifacts related to comestibles of the ancient Near East.
This exhibit ends January 4, and Christmas break is the perfect time to make the trek to Hyde Park for some culture and some chow at one of the neighborhood’s classic bar/restos.
The Nile (1162 East 55th) complements the “In Remembrance of Me” exhibit. Having been featured on “Check, Please!” The Nile stands apart from just about every other nearby restaurant. Now in a new building, The Nile has served the community for years, with Middle Eastern standards including a much-praised chicken shawarma. The owner is Palestinian, born in the little town of Bethlehem. The food is value-priced: around $15/person.
Woodlawn Tap (1172 East 55th)—or as locals know it, Jimmy’s—remains UChicago’s unofficial watering hole, where once Dylan Thomas and Saul Bellow quenched their thirst for cold beer and good conversation. Though with the advent of Google, many esoteric arguments are now resolved by searching on mobile devices—without reference to the aged encyclopedia kept behind the bar—this is still the place to come and drink and talk and talk and talk. The bar is next door to The Nile, so you could plan a one-two punch dining/drinking event.
Valois (1518 East 53rd) is a cafeteria (or “a counter-service smorgasbord,” as their site explains) that caters to a broad cross-section of the community. This place attracts local eccentrics who like to talk. In the nineties, Spike Lee optioned “Slim’s Table,” a book that chronicles some of the conversation-centric events that take place at Valois (which, incidentally, is pronounced by locals “Vah-loyz”).
Morry’s Deli (5500 South Cornell) has menus for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and for any of those meals you’d do well to go with either the flagship corned beef or pastrami (both under $7). Morry’s has been in the same location since 1960; it’s more than an institution: it’s legendary. Morry’s corned beef is what I’m requesting of my survivors for my yearly post-mortem banquet. Happy holidays! (David Hammond)
Dining and Drinking Editor for Newcity, David also writes a weekly food column for Wednesday Journal in Oak Park and is a frequent contributor of food/drink and travel pieces to the Chicago Tribune, Plate Magazine and other publications. David has also contributed chapters to several books, including Street Food Around the World, Street Food, and The Chicago Food Encyclopedia. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org