I would like to take a moment to thank the parties from many centuries ago responsible for smoked fish. I’d also like to extend a hearty congratulations to those establishments who are able to prepare battered and fried fish that taste like something other than dough. I might as well also thank Anthony Bourdain for his recommendation to drive to a shack on a bridge just a few miles from the Indiana border. And a final hoorah to my whimsical and adventurous equal who agreed to hop in my car at noon on a Monday to investigate Calumet Fisheries, one of the last standing smokehouses in Illinois.
It may not be a whole lot to look at, but there’s actually something very appealing about making the trip down here. My mother called the landscape a hybrid of Chicago’s industrial past and a scene from Mad Max. As you can see from the sign, it’s located at “95th at the bridge.” The fact that they listed their address as such tickled us. You’ll all be relieved to know that this brand of humor was not lost on my Canadian counterpart for this adventure.
Anyway, they have all sorts of smoked fish to sample and a friendly staff. The guy who helped us out used one breath to poke fun at my driving (yeah I may have backed up at a somewhat rapid speed to snag a parking spot on the bridge… hey, they’re hot commodities!!) and then in the next breath told us all about the different fish, allowing us to sample a few things to make sure we got exactly what we wanted!
As it turns out we wanted smoked sturgeon, smoked peppered salmon and fried perch. He let us try the famous smoked shrimp, and they were fantastic, but we went another direction. Of the three things we got, we were the most impressed with the salmon. In fact, though we inexplicably had four plastic forks between the two of us, we deep sixed the forks entirely and started ripping into the smoked fish with our teeth. It got kinda feral… think last piece of fish in the Lord of the Flies.
The (deep) fried perch was great. When batter is involved, you run the risk of getting a mouth full of greasy dough instead of fish, but they nailed it here. My companion, being from Port Dover and thus from an area where perch practically jump out of the waters onto your plate, knows his perch. Even he had to admit it was some mighty tasty perch.
Note, in the photo to the left, that this was apparently before we “misplaced” all of our forks and reverted to animal instinct.
The smoked fish really was delicious!
We both agreed that the smokiness of the salmon was not matched by that of the sturgeon which was quite a bit cooler having come out of a day’s worth of refrigeration. I sent the leftovers back with the man who clearly should investigate a career in hand modeling based on his masterful pose (left) showcasing the smoked salmon.
He’ll have to fill me in on how the smoked sturgeon tastes room temp! It sure looked like it should taste AT LEAST as good as the salmon, don’t you think?!
Oh, and for the record, yes I am crediting this in the travel section. We traveled well outside the comfort zone of most Chicagoans (totally worth the 17 mile trip) AND we took local streets most of the way home to check out South Chicago. I’m not saying I’m Magellan or anything, but damn if I’m not claiming this as travel!