Eat Student Voices

Eat Like a Maroon

The University of Chicago’s unofficial motto is the “Life of the Mind,” but how do students fuel their minds? Even the academic needs to eat! Here’s a list of some of the top places in Hyde Park for a UChicago student to grab a coffee, a bite to eat, or a sweet treat.

By Julia Dillman, The University of Chicago ’23

Caffeine Fix

Harper Cafe

Located on the third floor of the Harper Memorial Library, Harper Cafe is one of UChicago’s four student-run coffee shops. With its prime location next to one of the most popular and beautiful study spots on campus (the Arley D. Cathay Learning Center), Harper Cafe is a student favorite to fuel up for or take a break from long study sessions. The music selection varies from broadway classics to classic rock, depending on the barista on shift at the time. The cafe’s chalkboard menu advertises coffee and a variety of espresso drinks, along with a wide selection of loose-leaf teas for the non-coffee drinkers.

Drinks at Harper Cafe come in three sizes: Large, Small, and Baby. (Credit: Facebook @harpercafe.)

Ex Libris

Ex Libris is another student-run coffee shop in another UChicago library, but with a bigger food menu, including salads and paninis. Located on the first floor of the Regenstein Library, this cafe is popular with students, professors, and the library staff. Large windows facing the Bartlett quad let in tons of natural light, and there’s no music playing in the cafe, creating a bright and peaceful atmosphere to study or relax. Ex Libris—sometimes abbreviated by students to “Ex Lib” or just “Ex”—is a staple, and their donuts (especially the red velvet!) are a must-have.

Breakfast & Brunch


Known as former president Barack Obama’s favorite restaurant in Hyde Park, Valois is also a favorite among UChicago students. This cafeteria-style restaurant serves all of the breakfast and lunch classics, which you can sit and eat while admiring the beautiful murals covering the walls. Valois is cash only and there can be a long line, so make sure to have both your order and your money ready!

Cafe 53

This tiny cafe boasts a big menu: salads, paninis, lattes, and an entire section of vegan sandwiches. The welcoming and relaxed atmosphere keeps patrons at the cafe long after they’ve finished their meals. UChicago students and Hyde Park locals come to Cafe 53 to study, work, and socialize. The location of Cafe 53 is also super easy to remember—it’s on 53rd Street!

The beautiful patio outside of Cafe 53 (Credit: Facebook @cafe53chicago).

Lunch & Dinner

Seoul Taco

If you’re into fusion food, Seoul Taco is the perfect place to try a combination of Korean and Mexican. Get meals such as burritos, tacos, or nachos with your choice of four proteins: bulgogi steak, chicken, spicy pork, or tofu. After ordering your food at the counter, enjoy eating amongst the brightly colored stereos and painted murals that decorate the restaurant.

A spread from Seoul Taco (Credit:

Medici on 57th

Medici is a Hyde Park staple with a rich history. The original owner, Hans Morsbach, bought the Medici Gallery and Coffeehouse in 1962, and he kept the name “Medici” because he couldn’t afford to change the sign. The tiny coffee shop grew steadily into a restaurant and bakery that has served Chicago’s South Side for generations. Serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner, Medici’s broad menu guarantees a satisfying meal for guests with all different tastes. And to answer a question you’ll inevitably have if you dine there—yes, the statue on the second floor is moving, making a full rotation each hour.

Harold’s Chicken

Another eatery with a long history in Chicago is Harold’s Chicken. After opening in 1950 on Chicago’s south side and facing many obstacles as a black-owned business, Harold’s owners have franchised throughout the Chicagoland area, as well as to a few other states. The Hyde Park location may have played a part in this expansion, thanks to its devoted patrons—many of whom are UChicago students. Grab your cash (they don’t accept cards) and head to Harold’s for some delicious chicken with your choice of over ten different sides. 

If Someone Else is Buying

La Petite Folie

La Petite Folie is a white-tablecloth restaurant with an impressive wine list, and it is perfect for celebrating special occasions. Founded by two alums of the university, La Petite Folie is popular with UChicago students. The restaurant maintains its connection with the school by offering “dinner and theatre,” which includes a preset three-course meal you can reserve before seeing a show at the Court Theatre, the professional theatre of the University of Chicago. 

A set table at La Petite Folie, with a fish dish on the left and a steak dish on the right, each paired with a glass of white and red wine, respectively (Credit: Facebook @lpfhydepark).


The Woodlawn Tap (AKA Jimmy’s)

The Woodlawn Tap (known as Jimmy’s by UChicago students) is as Hyde Park as a bar can get. With its lively mix of locals, professors, and students, Jimmy’s has a quirky but cozy atmosphere with plenty of beer and bratwursts to go around. Expect to overhear some heated theological debate, as the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago (LSTC) is less than a block away, making Jimmy’s a popular hangout for LSTC and UChicago students alike. Jimmy’s is the place to go for good beer, great conversation, and even better fries. 



This tasty little frozen yogurt shop is located at 57th Street Beach, right across the street from the Museum of Science and Industry. It’s perfect for frozen yogurt or sorbet on a hot day, and hot chocolate or cider on a cold one. The topping bar is extensive, so load up on your favorites!

Bonjour Cafe Bakery

This charming little French bakery/cafe serves food and drinks, but it’s best known for its pastries. If you ask customers which pastry is their favorite, you’ll get a different answer from each person, which is a testament to just how good everything is. The staff is friendly and accommodating, making a visit to Bonjour Cafe Bakery an all-around great experience.

Bonjour Cafe Bakery serves macaroons and several other pastries, similar to the ones pictured above (Credit: Julia Khalimova, Pexels).