The owner of a decades-old neighborhood restaurant passes away, doing what he loved best – working in the kitchen. His family decides to keep the restaurant alive, with the son taking ownership – and his own plans to reinvigorate his father’s labor of love.
If this sounds like the plot of a movie, you wouldn’t be far off, but it’s the true story of Hyde Park’s Cedars, formerly known as Cedars Mediterranean Kitchen. Sudki Abdullah opened the restaurant in 1992, introducing his special recipe for falafel to the South Side. Over its 25+ year history, Cedars became a Hyde Park classic, serving traditional Mediterranean meals to generations of families in the neighborhood. When Sudki Abdullah passed away in 2019, his son Amer Abdullah decided to keep the business going, but with a refresh of the menu and decor. Amer grew up in the south suburbs of Illinois, yet spent much of his free time in Hyde Park as a kid working in the restaurant, and graduated from the University of Chicago with a degree in Economics. After working in New York and Chicago as a trader, and becoming a comedian at various Chicago venues, his father’s death was a catalyst for a new direction in his life.
Amer Abdullah’s vision for the new Cedars was “Mideast meets Midwest,” and to make that happen he recruited Chicago chef Amado Lopez. Lopez’s background is just as movie-worthy as the rebirth of Cedar’s. Charlie Trotter often invited Chicago Public Schools students to his restaurant before the dinner service to experience one of his legendary meals. Lopez was one of those lucky kids, and got up the courage to tell Trotter, “If you ever need anyone to wash your pots and pans, I want to do it.” Trotter was impressed with the teen’s drive and hired him as a dishwasher – later paying his way to attend the Culinary Institute of America. Lopez became a chef de cuisine for Rick Bayless, and now as executive chef at Cedar’s he’s taking creative risks to “…curat[e] a special menu that he and Amer pray would make Sudki proud – and diners smile!”
Lopez’s menu is organized by breads & spreads, small plates, wraps & pita sandwiches, large plates, and desserts. Continuing the tradition as “Chicago’s premier Mediterranean caterer,” Cedars has a full catering menu with options for small and large gatherings, and can also provide event staffing.
Abdullah is planning on making a few renovations to the space, and there will likely be a reopening ribbon-cutting in April or May.
Cedars is located at 1206 E. 53rd Street in Kimbark Plaza, and is open for lunch Tuesday-Friday from 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m., reopening for dinner from 5-10 p.m. On Saturday and Sunday, Cedars is open from 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. The restaurant is closed on Mondays. Make reservations online or call 773-324-6227.