High-End Dining in Hyde Park

Park 52 by Lisa Bang

Jerry Kleiner’s new restaurant Park 52 opened in Harper Court just over a week ago, and it is poised to establish itself as Hyde Park’s one fashionable destination restaurant.

The restaurant is arguably the most expensive in the neighborhood, with the bulk of its entrees over $20, comparable only with La Petite Folie. Its design is just as uniquely high-end. Chant, another recent Hyde Park opening, also broke ground for high-end Hyde Park dining, but Kleiner’s team went leaps and bounds further with their design.

The restaurant shares a chicly cerulean tile-and-wood-panel-clad building with the storied Checkerboard Lounge. It is hard not to look up as you enter. The ceiling is very high–there is a small loft in one corner–and it is adorned with lamps encased in what appear to be enormous and vividly colored, yet minimalist, hoop skirts.

Looking down, the marble-topped bar stands out with its back wall’s spartan display of bottles far above the bartenders’ heads and a plasma TV that feels like an odd transplant out of a very different kind of establishment. In the center of the restaurant, a false wall of columns and curtains rises above a row of diner-style bench seats facing free-standing tables. The wall opposite the bar is cluttered with an arrangement of framed pictures, mostly magazine-style fashion photographs.

All of this makes the cavernous space feel like a big, cozy living room–albeit perhaps the big, cozy living room of someone with an unlimited furniture budget.

On a heavily booked night on their opening weekend (reservations are recommended), I lingered just long enough to finish a plate of curly fries ($6). The fries were simple–the menu is modern but straightforward American–spiced with only a bit of salt and parsley, plentiful, elegantly presented, and quite good.

Staying for dinner, one could order a “1/2lb. Burger” ($12), a mushroom pasta ($18), or one of plenty of salads and starters ($7-15). The restaurant’s focus is on meat. They offer the oddly named “Duet of Beef” (five-ounce filet and stroganoff, $28), a full-pound rib-eye with Fat Tire onion rings ($36), and the barbecue braised beef short rib with “fennel slaw and garlic mash” ($24), which comes with a recommendation. They also keep a cellar with about seventy-five bottles of wine.

The opening evening clientele was a wide mix of ages and races, all well-, if not formally-, dressed. Two valet attendants were waiting patiently by the restaurant’s private 52nd Street driveway. While the restaurant’s name hints at Hyde Park, and Kleiner saw “tremendous neighborhood interest” in his project, its target demographic presumably extends–in Kleiner’s style–well across the city.