Bibliophile, opening tonight, checks a lot of boxes that would make the bar and restaurant appealing to Hyde Parkers. Centered on alcohol-infused desserts from Fabiana Carter, the baker behind Fabiana’s Bakery — the concept is unique. It’s not a chain coming into Hyde Park trying to shoehorn in a new location. The space is also surrounded by books for sale covering diverse subject matter which is nice for an educated community like Hyde Park where the University of Chicago calls home.
There’s a lot going on at 1644 E. 53rd Street, but Bibliophile’s secret identity could be a wine bar with selections curated by sommelier Derrick C. Westbrook. He’s worked at some of the city’s best fine dining restaurants like Next and Elizabeth. He wants to educate consumers with wine offerings that are more than classical. But it’s not all buttoned-up. Westbrook will work with Carter and bar manager Rachel Smith on pairings for the desserts and the food. There’s a lot of synergy with drinks based on The Color Purple (a purple drink in a rock glass with basil garnish) and Great Gatsby. There’s also drinks like To Kill a Mockingbird, Catcher in the Rye, and Anne of Green Gables.
All the books that surround the dining room are for sale, and co-owner Michael Scott Carter has hired a librarian/bartender to curate the selections. Sonya Smith holds a master’s degree of arts in the humanities from the University of Chicago in University with an emphasis in literature. Not many bars have librarians on staff, but it’s that level of detail the Carters have taken in developing the gastropub.
Bibliophile is a full-service restaurant with dishes including green chili shrimp, short-rib stuffed cabbage, beet hummus, and a kale and mushroom open-faced sandwich. But the stars are the desserts. They’re big into drizzles, and eventually the drizzles may make their way to the cocktails. Some of them may complement the desserts. Other desserts, like a cheesecake that tasted like an old fashioned, are more complex. There’s not a lot of booze in the sweets, but just enough to feel it. Servers are going to be on their toes knowing that customers may be drinking and eating booze at the same time. It’s a bit of a learning curve.
Along with Brennan Nichols, the Carters — who met while in London — hope to open other restaurants. Michael Scott Carter teased a few other locations, but for now, he’s hopeful Hyde Park will embrace their new project. Bibliophile debuts tonight. Take a look at the food and drink below.
Bibliophile, 1644 E. 53rd Street, reservations available via Resy, (872) 244-3704, hours not posted yet.