Stroll into Teller's restaurant on Hyde Park Square, and you know immediately that something's up. There are those regal stone pillars on either side of the main entrance, for instance. And the oddly constructed front desk, fashioned of a bank safe, combination tumbler locks and all.
And what about the vault in the rear of this lively eatery? A massive bank safe has been converted into a snug dining nook; the imposing stainless steel door still hangs, as if threatening to silently swing shut and lock unwary diners inside a tomb.
Yes, by now it's no surprise that Teller's is named in honor of tellers, as in bank employees. The former financial institution, which is found nestled between Graeter's and The Kiln Pottery along the square, now serves up seared seafood instead of savings bonds. It's just about everything a micropub ought to be, boasting unique surroundings, unique fare and a unique pedigree.
The crowd ranges incredibly on our visit, from Hyde Park blue hairs to Corryville orange hairs. It's impossible to tag the patrons with any particular label — young or old, yuppie or fortysomething, blue collar or white collar — which is part of the place's charm.
Likewise, the menu can't be pinned into a corner. No stereotypical adherence to a certain geographical theme, type of food or cooking style. You can start off with anything from a Buffalo Chicken Egg Roll to Sesame Seared Ahi Tuna, or a Duck Burrito to Mussels Mariniere, Goat Cheese Bruschetta to Rotolo of Prosciutto.
Our waitress flashes a smile and is back in a heartbeat with an Abigail's Amber brew for all. The entrées arrive fast here, as well.
Our party breezes over the menu's Eggplant Cannelloni and Bun Bo Hue (spicy Vietnamese noodles with shrimp or beef) and heads to Grilled Chicken with Mango Salsa (served on a bed of brown rice and spinach), the Hyde Park Chop (a 10-ounce French cut chop with bleu cheese sauce, garlic mashed potatoes and aspargus with sauce bearnaise) and the Pesto Crusted Crispy Chicken. Stellar, all. Entrée prices range $12 to $21 (the Lobster Paella is market price, and we dared not ask).
Fair warning: The place is loud. The buzz of conversations float up from the main bar — which stretches the length of the restaurant — and toward the second floor dining area. The din reverberates off the skylight and bounces back in. Peace and quiet is found only on the patio that juts out over the back roof.
A small price to pay. Teller's is the ultimate urban experience, a sane outpost in a sea of SUVs and cell phones. Call it a brewpub with a soul.