The Run Down

This guide takes us to the heart of Hyde Park where we'll start the day with breakfast at President Obama's favorite diner. We'll then take a short stroll through the neighborhood and stop by a few interesting places nearby.  Finally, we finish the day with a some much needed quiet time in a tranquil Japanese garden that feels like an oasis in the middle of the city.  Here are the highlights.

1. Breakfast @ Valois Restaurant

2. Neighborhood Walkabout @ Hyde Park

3. Meditation @ Osaka Garden

1. Valois Restaurant

We’re starting off with the most important meal of the day at Valois Restaurant right off 53rd and Lakeshore Drive. This diner is most famously known as President Obama’s breakfast diner of choice when he comes to town. In fact, this was a regular spot for Obama back in his heyday as a community organizer where he’d use Valois as a space to hold meetings.   Now onto the food — here are a few tips to get you going.

– Cash only
– Order at the counter. There’s usually a fairly decent line (but it moves quick so have your order ready as you approach the front).
-Apparently, President Obama’s favorite dish is the steak and eggs.  A side of pancakes or french toast are right on the money as well.

2. Neighborhood Walkabout

After breakfast, take some time to stroll through the main corridor on 53rd street. There’s a bunch of cool shops along the strip, and it’s worth your time meandering around to see what gems you can discover. Here are a few interesting stops along the way.

Harper Theater

Right down the street from Valois is Harper Theater which has been part of Hyde Park dating back to the 1920s. It’s been through a number of owners, renovations, and closings over its nearly 100 year old history, but it finally seems to be back after the University of Chicago decided to purchase the vacant building in 2002.

Today they show first-run movies at this local neighborhood theater. For a cheap date, they have $5 movies on Tuesdays — especially good if you’re on the fence whether that Tinder date is worth the investment at all.

Hyde Park Records

Down a few more blocks from Harper Theater is Hype Park Records. This is definitely a good spot to stop in if you’re a fan of jazz soul, funk and R&B. As you get closer to the record shop, you can hear their music being broadcast out into the streets through speakers they have on the sidewalk.  To give you a feel of the vibe, they were rocking Gil Scott Heron as we walked up.

The shop itself isn’t big, but they a huge selection and prices seem to be pretty affordable compared to other record shops in the city. One super big plus about the place is that they have a record player in back that you can use to preview your finds.

3. Osaka Garden

Our last stop is a little further away at Osaka Garden in Jackson Park. This is the park that’s right behind the Museum of Science and Industry. Like the Harper Theater, the Osaka Garden has had several design overhauls in its extensive history that dates back to 1893 when the garden and the park were constructed for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition.

Here’s a fun fact, it’s called Osaka Garden, because in 1973, Chicago and Osaka officially became sister cities. As part of this relationship, the garden went through a major overhaul.