Hyde Park MarketCafe worthy of Obama

January 16, 2009 10:51:45 AM PST
Over the past few weeks, the national media has been putting Hyde Park under a microscope, taking a closer look at Barack Obama's neighborhood. One of the gems they've overlooked is a small market and cafe along 47th Street, which the Hungry Hound says qualifies as an "affordable Friday" feature.

Much has been made of President-elect Obama's visits to Dixie Kitchen and Calypso Cafe. But next time he's in town, he should really check out Z and H MarketCafe, along 47th Street. It's got everything a foodie president would love, with that low-key, intellectual vibe so typical of Hyde Parkers. It also happens to have delicious food and one of the best cups of coffee in town.

From the deli to the front counter and the racks of stunning, gourmet ingredients, you'd think you were in a high-end suburban cafe or a Lincoln Park market. But the Zaleski and Horvath MarketCafe is neither -- it's in the heart of Hyde Park.

"Living in Hyde Park, and the Hyde Park area, one thing we know is we're hungry for services, and we wanted to emulate the idea of an old neighborhood grocery," said Tim Schau, owner of Z and H MarketCafe.

They not only prepare beautiful sandwich and cheese platters, they assemble them from an impressive list of regional and imported cheeses, cutting them to order.

La Cuerca prosciutto - from Iowa - is sliced thin for "The Godfather" sandwich: it's layered with fresh mozzarella, balsamic vinegar and greens, all on crusty French bread. Paninis, like "The Marty" contain grilled eggplant, tomato and red pepper spread.. served with a fine choice of house-made salads, such as fennel and tomato, or green and white asparagus. Soups rotate daily.. expect to find seasonal ingredients in each of them.

"We try to focus as much as we can locally and regionally," said Schau.

Cookies are baked in-house; the oatmeal chocolate chip has just the right texture, as well as a good ratio of chip-to-dough.

Even coffee is taken much more seriously than the neighborhood cafe. They use a Clover machine - rarely found anywhere but the most serious cafes - which extracts the liquid from the bean, as opposed to forcing water through them, resulting in a cup that is stronger, fruitier and more intense than any cup of coffee you've ever had.

"My background was in a coffeehouse environment, so we do have a premium coffeehouse here," Schau says.

A limited seating area allows for casual eating, as you look out on 47th street.. Schau says a lot of folks have been looking for their famous neighbor.. but as of now, no sightings yet - just his motorcade.

"The President-Elect has not been in."

As long as the Obamas have a home in Hyde Park, the owners say there is still hope that one day soon he will walk in and pick up a sandwich - probably to go.

Zaleski and Horvath Market Cafe
1126 East 47th St.