The sign in Calumet Fisheries in Chicago, IL reads, "This is our one & only store. We have no other stores." I like that. It's something you don't see much anymore. In New York, there's always this regret over gentrification. We want something from a generation ago. We want something like Calumet Fisheries. This store that sits at the end of a bridge and has done so since 1948. They smoke everything on-site. Because what they do is so damn delicious, it's a wonder that not more restaurants copy what they do. The fishery does smoked fish and shrimp. With charm to spare, it's a place that feels like it's from another era and a place that makes you wish someone here in NY would reproduce something so delicious.
Grace and Jonathan were kind enough to drive Steph and I around for a day, and Calumet was the stop we made before Don Pedro Carnitas. The rain was unrelenting and ferocious early that afternoon. The weather Gods were saying, "Oh no, don't go eat brunch and then smoked fish and then tripe stew and then tacos and then italian ice and then a pig fest. I'm going to rain on your parade people." But just like I've done all my life, even when I lived in the Bible Belt, I defy the Gods. And we started our smoked fish fest with some trout. The fish was very smokey with a slight fishy taste compared to the salmon. It was the right touch and the better of the two smoked fish that we tried.
The salmon was studded with black peppercorns and benefited from the touch of spiciness. With a higher fat content, I thought the salmon's fattiness took away from the enjoyment of smokiness. It's still a great thing to eat though. We had some leftovers of this and we took it on the plane and brought it back to New York. It sat in the fridge for a while and I can tell you that it's great while you're watching TV. mmm... smoked salmon with NBA playoffs. Too bad the Lakers won.
As tasty as the fish were, there was something better. You could call it the John Wall of the group. By far the prize at Calumet Fisheries was the smoked shrimp. If you could get just one thing, this has to be it. Sure, it was like upwards of $20/lb but that's what you get for visiting one of the last remaining fisheries in the Chicago area, and eating smoked shrimp. The shrimp were jumbo, with a slight sweet taste. You really couldn't peel em fast enough. They also came with optional dipping sauces, but I'll just say you don't really need any. Eating it straight up is very good. Pretty sure it's not local shrimp so for people who get moral +2 when they eat local food, y'all can just stay away. More delicious shrimp for the rest of us.
There are no seats at Calumet Fisheries, and they were kind enough to just let us stand there to eat our shrimp while the rain poured outside. It really is a nice, old school type of place. The folks behind the counter were super friendly, and we even saw crazy people who walked through the rain just to get this. They're definitely more into their craft than about getting accolades. Supposedly the owner had to google James Beard when they won an award this year. How cool is that? I hope Calumet Fisheries can stay family owned for a while and keep churning out the awesome smoked fish and shrimp.
3259 E 95th St.
Chicago, IL 60617
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