17 November, 2008

Smoked Fish in the Southland

Smoked trout

The Accidental Foodie goes to Calumet Fisheries.

Oh boy, I love smoked fish. It's not that hard to make, get some fish, fire up the smoker (really any type of grilling device set on lo) and wait a few hours, Hey Presto, smoky love from the sea. In fact I think it's so easy, that I would never consider buying it. I suppose I have become jaded, I see those golden smoked beauties in the cold case, and I feel like someone is trying to sell me a $20-dollar-a-pound secret that I already know. Well sometimes I'm told to put down my tongs and take a spin on the merry-go-round. And man what a ride.

Family time at Calumet Fisheries

When someone says "fisheries" in Chicago, the person means a place that serves fried fish of some sort in a bag with fries and hot sauce. Calumet Fisheries is a little bit different in that they also offer fish smoked on the premises. We made the trip up to 95th ST, on a bright Sunday morning. We met Carlos who was working the counter and Ray who was tending to the smoker. They weren't too busy so they happily talked to Bonne Femme and me about what they do and showed us the smoker out back.

At the counter

menu portrait

Brick Smokehouse

If for no other reason you should visit just to see the brick smokehouse. Perched between the store and the river, it is truly a relic of the past, no electric stainless steel chambers, just bricks, smoke and fish. The fish is hot smoked for about five hours with a mixture of hardwoods. Ray split some wood to give me an idea of the different aromas from the different woods.

spliting wood 01

Ray brines the fish before smoking, he said he would be happy to tell me the recipe if had had one, he does it all to taste.

Smoked shrimp sign

Back inside Carlos offers a sample of the smoked shrimp. Yum. We get to talking, he reveals that he went to culinary school at CHIC, Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago. After getting his certificate he went to work at the casino down the road, but he didn't like it and came back to Calumet. All the school talk started making the boys antsy, Carlos asks me what I would like.

"I dunno what's coming out of the smoker?" Little did I know Bonne Femme was one step ahead of me, outside:


Unloading the smoker

Smoked salmon on the rack

She zeroed in on a piece of trout and a piece of salmon with pepper and garlic.

Smoked salmon with pepper and garlic

Shrimp Dinner, Half Order

We got a shrimp dinner for the boys, they ate it all. The smoked fish doesn't come as a meal, you have to take it home and make your own magic. Smoked trout rillets maybe?

When You Visit:

While this part of town is remote, it is by no means intimidating. It is more industrial than anything else, on the other side of the bridge is one of Chicago's largest boat yards, Crowley's, they have a very nice ship's store. The bridge spans the Calumet river, not the Chicago. Calumet is also the name of the geologic region that starts roughly at 95th ST and stretches around the bottom of the Lake all the way to Michigan. There's a great book by Kenneth Schoon called Calumet Beginnings, that has a history of the area.

Calumet Fisheries
3259 E 95TH ST
Chicago, IL 60617



Parking for Calumet Fisheries is on the street, and there are no tables. They are open 7 days 10am-10pm. Check it out.


1 comment:

frank said...

Wow, I haven't been there since I was the boys age, though I can remember my dad bringing home dinner from here one in a while until I was in high school. This is my Dad's "old neighborhood" and he still regales us with stories of riding the bridge up when boats came through and picking up dinner here for this parents. A bit of trivia, it's also the bridge the Blues Brothers jump in the movie.

The other old school Chicago culinary establishment I can recommend in this hood is Mexican Inn not too far from the bridge. While taco joints do seem to be a dime-a-dozen in Chicago, this one is still worth the ocassional stop in.