I visited Cafe 53 shortly after it opened, mainly because several of my friends had heard that the cafe would sell vegan baked goods from the Bleeding Heart Bakery. To be fair, Cafe 53 had an impressively large selection of vegan items, especially for Hyde Park. There were brownies, blueberry buckles, gingerbread cookies and several other desserts labeled "vegan" sitting prominently in the display case. However, either the Bleeding Heart Bakery has gone seriously downhill since I moved out of Chicago in 2007 or Cafe 53 is pedaling Bleeding Heart's day-old baked goods. Either way, I was disappointed with the stale, dry, dense items that I wound up leaving with. The peanut butter brownie was sufficiently bad that I threw it out after taking a single bite.
I decided to visit Cafe 53 a few days later to check out the gelato selection, which was also somewhat disappointing. All of the unique-sounding flavors (ex. chai) contained dairy, while the vegan sorbetto flavors were pretty unimaginative (the two options were lemon and "forrest berries"). Worse still, the sorbetto wasn't smooth and creamy as Italian sorbet is supposed to be. Instead, it had the icy texture that is more commonly found in American sorbet.
I'm hoping that Cafe 53 was just working out the kinks of opening a new business. It fills a niche that is sorely needed in Hyde Park, and has the potential to be a wonderful option for the sizable vegan population at the University of Chicago.