A bright golden accent wall gives an idea about what will open at 1644 E. 53rd St. next month: 14 Parish Restaurant & Rhum Bar, with plans for Caribbean-inspired cuisine, more than 100 rums and “Havana nights” outdoor seating and music this summer.
Proprietor Racquel Fields, a native South Sider and second-generation Kenwood Academy graduate who lives in North Kenwood, is happy to be opening in East Hyde Park after closing the restaurant's previous South Loop location last year.
"We were doing really well: we were 4.5 stars or more on every online review that we could be in," she said, but the death of her previous landlord precipitated the closing of four-year-old 14 Parish's previous South Loop location last year. But today, she's thrilled to be opening at the storefront formerly occupied by Bibliophile.
'I went to River North, I was looking at other restaurants in South Loop, and it was just something about this location that was like, 'This is it,'" she said. "I think Hyde Park has a very unique clash of culture: people from all walks of life, all types of education. It's great for art. I think people are open to the exposure here."
Fields plans to serve scores of rums from three major categories — molasses-made rum, cane juice "rhum agricole" from Martinique and Spanish Caribbean-style "ron" — and fusion cuisine. Fields said the restaurant tracked local customers returning an average of four times a month at the South Loop location.
14 Parish will open with a new chef in Hyde Park. Fields touted the Chardonnay salmon, lightly jerked and grilled, promising that creamy coconut sauce balances out the heavy white wine. Sweet-and-spicy short ribs are braised for four hours; notoriously tough conch meat is finely chopped before being refined with coconut into chowder. She said their jerk sauce customarily contains fiery Scotch bonnet peppers but declined to discuss what else goes into the proprietary blend.
Additional vegan options are planned, Fields said, due to local demand. And for dessert: fried dough, common from Jamaica to Trinidad to Guyana. Fields said the ones at 14 Parish are "a little less flaky and a lot-more doughy." A kitchen manager specializes in ice cream, and his creations will be on the menu in Hyde Park.
"I think that Hyde Park as a community is interested in what we have to offer, which is an opportunity to educate the public about rum, if they're not familiar with the different types of rum," she said. Rhum goes into a martini with made-in-house bitters and vermouth; fresh guava and passion fruit juices flavor the 14 Parish punch. For sipping, she recommends Diplomático Exclusiva, a "so extremely smooth" dark Venezuelan rum.
"Here, we really want customers to be able to explore so they can find what they love," she said, all in all, estimating that dinner for two with drinks will probably cost around $80 tab. "Rum just makes me think of sitting on the beach and relaxing, sipping a cocktail, and that's the vibe that we want to provide here."
An invitation-only pre-launch is scheduled for March 24, followed by soft launch events until opening day: April 11. Seating capacity will be around 70, with tables and chairs, bar seating and a small lounge-style seating area. A mural of palm leaves will be installed this week.
Fields is aiming for a staff of 12-16 and specifically needs to hire line cooks, dishwashers, bartenders and servers; interested persons can apply with a resume at firstname.lastname@example.org.