Smoked Shrimp, Smoked Fingers, Smoked Happiness

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I’m originally from the north suburbs of Chicago, and I’ve been living in the Ukrainian Village neighborhood for about a billion (ten) years now. And I think I was probably the last food nerd I know to go to the lonely-looking Calumet Fisheries on the 95th St bridge. Yes, it’s located on an actual bridge, which certainly makes it unique. I kept putting it off since it was a haul, but one day my pal Brett Hickman (of Rock and Roll Ghost and Eater Chicago) and I just trucked it the hell down there on a beautiful day.

It’s kind of an amazing place; they sell a ton of smoked seafood, smoked on-site in a little smokehouse out in the back. Anthony Bourdain visited once with my friend Louisa in a Chicago episode of No Reservations. It’s the kind of place with two little picnic tables outside; if they’re full, then you can either plunk yourself down on the curb and eat away, or move the party to the hood of your car and just relax. There’s not much to see other than the industrial skyline, but even then, there’s something about roughing it, urban style, to make your food taste that much better.

If you’re going to get just one thing — go for the smoked, shell-on shrimp. It’s plump with an interesting tender/soft texture that comes from its trip to the smoke-sauna, and it’s definitely hands on; you’re going to smell like you got to third-base with The Little Mermaid (if she smoked a ton of wood cigarettes), but that’s just part of the fun. The smoke itself is distinct and lives mostly on the shell, but it lends every bite of shrimp an irresistible wood-seasoned flavor that you just can’t get anywhere else. Yes, they aren’t de-veined, but you can either push the vein out with your thumbnail or go all-in. The vein adds a muddy, sea-floor flavor to each bite. They serve Louisiana Hot Sauce on the side for that vinegar-spicy kick if you need it.

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The fried items aren’t nearly as good. The breading is fried hard, creating an armor shell around the precious seafood (in our case, the clams and smelt). A friend told me I missed out on the fried shrimp, so chime in if you feel the same way. In terms of the smoked fish, the pepper-garlic salmon, studded with coarse spicy black peppercorn was actually a little dry that day, but the sturgeon was really something else. Sturgeon, the fish mainly known for its expensive caviar, is fatty, rich and velvety. I didn’t even know you could get it smoked. We downed that motherfucker like there was no tomorrow. The smoke clings firmly to a fish that fatty, and despite how it may sound, smoked gelatinous fatty fish bits are really good to eat, especially with your hands.

Brett and I sat there on the bridge, wind blowing away our napkins, catching up over smoky mouthfuls of fish and hard-fried breaded clams. A young Latino couple sat at the picnic table next to us and asked us what to get. The girl was shy and pretty, and the guy was just happy to be seen with her. They called me “sir.” I laughed. “Everything is good,” I said. “But the shrimp is awesome.”

I ran after some runaway napkins, and we left.

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  6 comments for “Smoked Shrimp, Smoked Fingers, Smoked Happiness

  1. Kevin Freel
    October 25, 2014 at 9:19 PM

    I grew up having this as a kid as what my parents thought was a special treat. Yuck, I’m a kid and it’s fish. My dad was a cop in the area which is the 4th district. He’d stop by on the way home maybe twice a year. When I turned 15 he got me a job there. Boy oh boy how my Taste buds changed. We could eat for free when working. It wasn’t long that no doubt I was eating more than I I made every night. It’s the best fried shrimp and ocean perch I’ve ever had. The hot sauce is phenominal. Your right about the smoked shrimp too, but that’s about I ever tried to taste as a kid. I worked the in ’85 and ’86. I moved to Wisconsin 16 years ago, and when we come into town to visit friends and family, we don’t leave town without some Fish Store ( that’s what the locals call it) Shrimp and Perch with enough hot sauce to dip whatever I want for the next three weeks. Occasionally we stop going into town, and on the way out. I’ll treasure working there for the rest of my life. It’s a landmark. Working there during Lent is the craziest thing you’ll ever see. Out the door lined up. Cash only, no credit cards or checks. Check it out, YOU WILL NOT BE SORRY. But I have to be honest, watch your back if your not familiar with the neighborhood. Lunch Is safest. Best lunch you’ll ever have. Not in a neighborhood, it’s on the bridge and away from the hood. Opens at 8am and even good then. Dont go after dark. Sorry, have to be honest.

  2. Dannis Ree
    October 26, 2014 at 3:52 PM

    Wow, thanks for that, Kevin. I love that you found my first post on this site right away.

  3. Neurozach
    December 31, 2015 at 7:08 PM

    So this is where it all started.

    OK.

    I thought of what I’m going to do for my own Dannis Ree experience. It already has a name: The TriPizzle Meat Combo Fast Food Sandwich. I’m not gonna do it until I have a day of nothing else going on, as I suspect it will result in me spending a lot of time on, or near, a toilet. More to come.

    Happy New Year!

    NZ

    • Dennis Lee
      January 1, 2016 at 7:13 PM

      If you do that I’d be happy to put it up on my blog as a guest post! Just take pictures. That’d be really fun.

      • Neurozach
        January 1, 2016 at 8:17 PM

        That would be incredible! Will do.

  4. mike kotlick
    August 9, 2016 at 11:56 AM

    When you order the fried goods you can ask for it fried hard or soft from the Person frying it. Fried shrimp are def awesome but if you want an opinion from the owners son…. The fried scallops are ridiculously good!

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