Southern-style coffee shop opens in Hyde Park with menu from Chicago’s famed Pitmaster

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Betting that Hyde Parkers will be ready to eat Southern breakfasts all day, a bowling alley owner and renowned pitmaster team up to create a new coffee shop near the University of Chicago campus. Roux, the new venture from Steve Soble, former owner of Southport Lanes and current owner of Seven Ten Social, opened its doors last week with a menu from consultant chef Charlie McKenna, best known for his barbecue staple Lillie’s Q.

The menu includes staples from the south of the house, such as pan-fried country ham.
Neil Burger

Soble and McKenna have collaborated before: McKenna designed the Seven Ten Social menu when it opened last fall in the old Seven Ten Lanes. This time, however, they’re exploring the world of Southern brunch. Soble originally envisioned a New Orleans-style coffee and donut cafe, but McKenna wanted to expand the menu to include the kind of local food his grandmother – the inspiration for Lillie’s Q – cooked for him when he grew up in the south. Caroline: oatmeal, hash, chicken and waffles, fried catfish and her favorite country ham, pan-fried in a cast-iron skillet and served with red-eye sauce.

McKenna’s background is in fine dining, which he says has prepared him to cook anything, but he finds breakfasts, particularly eggs, a particular challenge, mainly due to the expectations of clients. “If people are paying,” he says, “they expect it to be better or better than what they can do at home. These are things people eat all the time, and they can tell the difference. Even northerners know what good beans look like now: Stone-ground and cooked for an hour until creamy, which is how they’re cooked in Roux.

A plate of donuts covered in powdered sugar and a cup of coffee

Neil Burger

A waiter holds a plate covered in a giant cinnamon roll dripping with glaze

Neil Burger

A biscuit on a cake stand amidst a display of other pastries

Neil Burger

All pastries are homemade.

All pastries, including donuts, cinnamon rolls, and cookies, are homemade. “If we’re going to do it,” McKenna said, “we’re going to do it.” The cookies are made with Lys Blanc flour, considered essential by southerners because it contains less gluten than other brands, and folded with cold butter, like a croissant, for flaky layers.

The restaurant is intended to be a combination of dining and all-day meeting place. Customers can grab a coffee at the counter – currently from local roaster Sparrow Coffee, but McKenna hopes to add a New Orleans chicory blend – or they can also sit in the 100-seat dining room for a family meal. or with friends or for a day session with a laptop. Soble, a long-time resident of Hyde Park, is confident the neighborhood will embrace a heartwarming all-day dining spot.

A counter with a large coffee urn with several taps in the center, surrounded by tables and chairs, against the backdrop of a wall covered in antique mirrors and trays

Roux is both a café and a restaurant.
Neil Burger

A dining area with tables with chairs and benches and counters surrounded by stools

Neil Burger

As a consulting chef, McKenna will only be around periodically for training and quality control, but he’s happy with what he and Soble have created. “It’s the kind of challenge I love,” he says, “to create exceptional dishes to the best of our abilities, something that people really enjoy and want to eat all the time.”

Red1055 E. 55th Street, open 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.

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