If anything was going to make me nostalgic for my childhood summers spent driving through beach towns on the white-sand coasts of Alabama, I didn’t expect to find it in South Shore. But Surf’s Up South Shore encapsulates everything I remember about the restaurants in Southern beach towns: the colorful painted interiors, the pithy “Life’s a Beach” wall art, a diagram explaining the difference between “you,” “y’all,” and “all y’all,” and of course the menu offerings: deep-fried (or grilled!), richly seasoned, and generously portioned seafood platters that already had me ready to bring out the flip-flops and sunglasses for a beautiful summer day at the Point.
Owned by Vanetta D. Roy, a Chicago Public Schools special education teacher, Surf’s Up South Shore has already made itself a culinary and community centerpiece of South Shore. The day I went, dozens of customers came and went holding their orders, which ranged from Hennessy-marinated chicken wings and catfish po-boys to something like what I got: the fried tilapia dinner ($8.99), which comes with a side and sauce of your choice, a lemon wedge, a dinner roll, and coleslaw. I chose the ground turkey dirty rice as my side ($3.99), which was flavorful and generously spiced, and for my sauce I got the creamy, mayonnaise-based Surf Sauce remoulade ($0.50). The breading on the tilapia was the perfect crispy exterior to the softness of the fish, and the combination of flavors was elevated even further with a squeeze of lemon. My friend ordered the fried catfish dinner ($10.99), which was equally as flaky and flavorful, and paired it with garlic fries that were, as she said, the perfect amount of garlickiness (too often garlic fries at other establishments just aren’t garlicky enough). Next time I go, it’s going to be even more difficult to choose which side I want: onion rings, cheese grits, collard greens, or fried green tomatoes—all of my guilty Southern pleasures. In the coming summer months, grab yourself a plate of your favorite seafood from Surf’s Up South Shore, pick up some desserts from Give Me Some Sugah next door, and enjoy the fare with friends at the nearest Lake Michigan beach that you call home. (Rachel Kim)
2236 E. 71st St. Tuesday–Thursday, 11am–8pm; Friday–Saturday, 11am–9pm; Sunday, 1pm–6pm. $2.99–$39.99. (773) 891-5544. surfsupsouthshore.com
Rachel Kim is the Weekly’s education editor. She last wrote about a mayoral forum organized by Kenwood Academy students.