We have a tradition when we are returning to Chicago from the East via I-94 – visiting Calumet Fisheries (3259 E 95th St, Chicago, IL)! Calumet Fisheries is an old school fish shack right in the heart of Chicago’s industrial corridor on thr far South side. It is a tiny place, in an almost improbable location. It certainly is a throwback to a different time (family run since 1948), when many of these fish shacks dotted the banks of the Calumet River. However, Calumet Fisheries has not only survived over the years, it has thrived, and received a slew of accolades including a James Beard award in 2010.
What Calumet Fisheries does is smoked fish, though they have fried options as well. A big seller is smoked shrimp, which is our favorite. You order your fish by the pound (smallest order is the half pound), or get a dinner plate with fries and slaw, and pay in cash. Some of the other smoked seafood options available include: Salmon, Sturgeon, Rainbow Trout and Eel. We never feel like we have room for sides, but there are a range of options including macaroni salad, potato salad, mushrooms and fried pickles.
We got a smoked shrimp dinner which came with slaw and fries and a half pound of smoked shrimp. Every order comes with Tartar sauce and a red vinegar sauce (hot or mild). We waited for our order and went to the only option for seating, 1 of 2 outdoor picnic tables. The shrimp still had shells and tails (how we like it) and a delicate smoke flavor. Really good fries, too. It is kind of surreal to eat in a picnic table overlooking the 95th street bridge and a vast (now mostly dormant) industrial landscape on the Calumet River. It is certainly one of the most unique Chicago experiences we have ever had, and one that will transport you straight to the past.