Medici on 57 used to be a dark, cavernous Hyde Park restaurant that provided great food in a Bohemian atmosphere when it opened in 1962. What a difference 53 years make! Today, the restaurant still provides the best hamburgers and pizza in town along with interesting entrees, deli offerings and a bakery.
A recent trip to the University of Chicago campus stalwart revealed some big changes since I frequented the place 20 years ago, not the least of which is the addition of a deli and bakery right next door with high-top, computer-friendly tables. A new rooftop dining area with a floor-to-ceiling window completely transforms the once-dim restaurant into an eatery that offers a choice of seating at a bright, sunny booth or table, or a secluded low-light area. The booths and walls etched with signatures, drawings and what-not are still preserved in the rustic tables. The Medici says it best:
The Medici Gallery and Coffee House has been a fixture of Hyde Park since 1962. In the beginning, we just sold art and coffee from a tiny shop in the back of the Green Door Bookstore. Eventually, we added pizza and hamburgers and have been growing ever since. Over the years, we’ve been a lot of things to many people. We’ve been a hippie haven, a student hang-out and a late-night urban oasis for generations of south siders. During the sixties, the Medici was a hotbed of anti-war activity (the Conspiracy Seven hung out here)
which made our restaurant unpopular among more conservative neighbors. We’ve changed a lot over the years, but a devoted staff and
commitment to good food and service remains the same. The majority of what we serve is made from scratch by people who care. We
are proud to be locally owned, environmentally friendly and socially responsible.
Hamburgers still hold sway here and my choice of the Garbage Burger ($10.29), an Angus burger with cheddar cheese, bacon, sautéed onions, jalapeños, and a side of barbecue sauce, was a jaw-dislocating affair that I couldn’t finish. Medici is one of the last holdouts that will serve your burger cooked the way you like it. Medium-rare for me (I’m a risk taker) proved to be an excellent choice.
My lunch partners both opted for the Reuben ($10.49), Boar’s Head corned beef, sauerkraut, melted Swiss cheese and thousand island dressing on thick-cut grilled rye bread. The serving of corned beef wasn’t as generous as it could have been, but they were happy.
The pizzas I saw coming out of the kitchen looked just as delicious as I remember them and they seem to be just as popular. But there’s a lot more to be had, including appetizers like baked goat cheese ($7.99), soups like Moroccan ragout ($7.29), fresh salads, main-course salads, grilled sandwiches ($7-$13), deli sandwiches, wraps and subs ($6-$8), burgers ($9-$15), and entrees like fettuccine alfredo and a half-pound hot dog!
After your meal, saunter over to the bakery just east of the restaurant for dessert. Or take home a build-your-own Monsterpiece Sandwich, artisan bread, or pastry. Catering and delivery are available. Parking, as it always is in Hyde Park, is a little tough. But, believe me, you’ll want to make the effort for a nosh at this feel-good place.
Medici on 57
1327 E. 57th Street, Chicago 60637
Restaurant hours: 7 a.m.-10 p.m. Mondays to Thursdays, 7 a.m.-11 p.m. Fridays, 9 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturdays, 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Sundays
Bakery and deli hours: 7 a.m.-10 p.m. Mondays to Thursdays, 7 a.m.-midnight Fridays and Saturdays, 8 a.m.-11 p.m. Sundays: