Chicago: Calumet Fisheries

I woke up Saturday morning expecting to spend the day reading for Monday's classes and basically finding ways to distract myself from doing what I'm supposed to do. That all changed when my roommate burst into my room to announce that she'd received a text from our friend, asking if we wanted to go to Calumet Fisheries. Uh, yes please? I managed to get some reading done, but it was difficult considering how I was almost bouncing in my chair from excitement.

Calumet Fisheries is located right at the river, next to the bridge. There's no parking lot, so people just park alongside the road (leading to the bridge) and walk up to the front door. Who would think that such a small, unexceptional building can produce the best smoked fish in the Midwest?:

I'd been dying to check out Calumet since I watched the Chicago episode of Anthony Bourdain's "No Reservations". Not gonna lie, I geeked out a bit when I saw the signed poster:

Even more notable is the fact that Calumet Fisheries was one of five winners of the 2010 James Beard Award for American Classics. Calumet has been run by the same family since 1948 and is still pumping out quality seafood. Even if James Beard and Anthony Bourdain mean nothing to you, go for the food.

At the counter, you tell them how much food you want. Prices are listed by the order for fried stuff and by the pound for the smoked goodies. If you're like me and have no idea how much shrimp is in a pound, you can tell them how many pieces you want:

There's no seating inside, so most people (like Bourdain in his episode) eat in their cars. Others, like us, bring a picnic blanket and eat out on the lawn. A nice gentleman came by and told us about a park just over the bridge. We didn't feel like packing up or, more importantly, waiting any longer to eat, so we stayed put.

First take-out box opened revealed the fried oysters:

I usually prefer my oysters raw, but these were freshly fried and amazing. Be careful of the hot oyster juice that squirts into your mouth. You wouldn't want to burn your taste buds before you even get to try anything else.

The second box contained the smoked shrimp:

So plump, so smoky, and so succulent. There are reviews on Yelp that complain about the "shrimp poo" but honestly, the matter of whether or not Calumet should devein their shrimp fades into utter insignificance after one bite. The shrimp were probably my favorite and I say probably because it's a really close call.

The smoked trout was pretty darn good too:

You can choose between two flavors: regular and pepper & garlic. We obviously went with the latter. Luckily for us, the Calumet coupon for the month of October was 10% off smoked trout. Always check the website for coupons!

Last, but not least, were the smoked chubs:

Very fine fish bones, but once you get around that, the flesh is awesomely tasty.

We asked for both mild and hot sauce and while I didn't touch the hot sauce, I really enjoyed the smokiness of the mild one. I would alternate between taking one bite without sauce and one bite with to get the best of both worlds.

After finishing all that food we still weren't satisfied, so we went back for another order of smoked trout and shrimp...and an order of french fries. Even the fries are amazing at Calumet!

Really, nothing beats picnicking on a sunny day, licking smoked fish off your fingers while watching the bridge go up and down, up and down:

The only blemish on our otherwise perfect outing was the fact that they RAN OUT OF SALMON. Guh. There is no way I'm leaving Chicago without trying the smoked salmon, so I'll definitely be back. Hopefully with a salmon coupon.

Calumet Fisheries
3259 E 95th St
Chicago, IL 60617
(773) 933-9855


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