Like some of the best restaurants, Calumet Fisheries is famous for being unassuming. It still sits where it has for the last seven decades, with the 95th Street bridge down the road and the scaffolding of the Chicago Skyway downriver. The surroundings have transformed over the years—the shack currently overlooks twin industrial silos—but the same words are emblazoned under the same red shingle roof, and the same fresh catches lie inside.
In an era of health food, Calumet Fisheries is devoid of pretension—no seating, no bathroom, no credit cards, no nonsense. There’s conventional fare: shrimp, chips, scallops. And then there are the Calumet specialties: the catfish, the smelts, the frog legs. All the fish is freshly fried or smoked on site; it remains one of two places in the city permitted to smoke fish over a wood fire.
Manager Carlos Rosas has been with Calumet Fisheries for twenty-one years—it was his first job. He tells me that business waxed and waned during his first few years. But after an upswing through the mid-2000s and a visit from Anthony Bourdain in 2009, the shack has become a local classic. It’s gotten writeups in Vice and Chicagoist, a James Beard award, and at some point, a Wikipedia article.
Foodie trends might be fickle; news coverage comes and goes. But luckily for us, when it comes to Calumet Fisheries’s breaded fish, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
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