Smoking has never been Healthier
For all the smokers who have resorted to this post to scour through health benefits of smoking, let me tell you: QUIT SMOKING!
Well, not the one which I am going to talk about though. Today we are in the heart of Chicago where I take you on a journey to a renowned fishery opened since 1948 and serving the best smoked seafood in the South Side.
Its Calumet Fisheries. As it displays, 95th at the Bridge is where the smokehouse is situated, delivering fresh and delicious seafood throughout the year. Perched rightfully on the banks of Lake Michigan, this place gets its seafood right from its backyard and has a cult following among the locale in Chicago. Well, this place also has a admirer in AB.
Yeah, our very own Anthony Bourdain. He happened to stumble over this place and it started gaining popularity ever since. He had to say
"Calumet Fisheries - Outrageously good stuff!!"
"Many thanks and keep doing what you're doing!"
I only am excited to try the food over here as it is quite famous for its style of preparation and cooking. The seafood is mainly smoked in their smokehouse with barrels of specially cut oak logs everyday.
They are smoked for around 6 hours where the oil from the fish fat is what makes it cook through by seeping all the while. As healthy as it can get. They are lightly salted and for some they add crushed pepper and garlic.
There is a bench up at the bridge, for the fortunate few who want to eat while enjoying the scenery, while mostly it is a strict takeout. You can guess, where I found myself though!
At the bench! Shared it with a group of cyclists who happened to be here for a brunch after a strenuous ride. The bridge is an old fashioned one which allows passage of ships to the Calumet port. I am all set for the order though. Got some plastic gloves on as it can get messy. Get yours as well!
I got the Fried Shrimp. As fresh as it can get, the shrimp was caught in the morning by the dock and tossed in the fryer with a light breadcrumb seasoned batter. Served alongside a choice of hot and mild sauce, this shrimp was not smoked but sure as hell was the best shrimp I have tasted.
Finished the basket in no time and headed over to my smoked delicacies.
This was Smoked Salmon w/Pepper & Garlic. The marvellous creation of this smokehouse which helped achieve its glory is right in front of me, and I could just admire it in a daze. A juicy salmon steak smoked to perfection soaking in all the flavors as it was left to brine overnight (which they do with all the smoked seafood items), and you could see the crushed pepper and garlic seen noticeably on the steak. The skin was soft and had a perfect texture of flakiness on the outside and tender on the inside.
Carved a sizeable chunk of it and savored immediately. To my astonishment, this has been surreal. Something I never knew existed to humankind, which was the taste of smokiness cooked to brilliance. The crushed pepper and garlic were so delicious and the pairing was perfect with the salmon which was really flaky and still moist on the inside. The skin had to be the best part, for the fat stuck to it just made the taste even more memorable. I am in awe of this dish!
Next up was a prized catch.
The Smoked Sturgeon. A thick and juicy fillet seasoned with salt and a tinge of pepper is all it had. No luck for caviar lovers though!
I went ahead and digged into it and I must say, the meat was so tender and creamy which was a stark contrast to the meaty salmon I had earlier. I was scooping the meat off the fillet and there was a larger content of fat attached to the thick skin of the sturgeon which was gamey and full of flavor. I am falling in love with this smoked preparation of seafood and this fillet has just made the case stronger.
Moving on the final smoked delicacy.
The Smoked Shrimp. As stated earlier, the shrimp cannot get more fresher than this. Fresh shrimp caught from the river is hurled right into the smokehouse for 6 hours and brought to my table. The juices protruding out while I break the shells is a sight to behold. I shucked the whole meat out and popped it in with a touch of hot sauce. Heavenly!
I should mention the seafood has been a hit but the sauces were equivalently on par comprising of bold flavors. And, chugging down some ginger ale with the food was all that I needed on a windy overcast Chicago afternoon.
The smokehouse where all the mojo was happening is situated adjacent to the main location.
I was present around half past 3 in the afternoon and hence missed out on the prominent part of witnessing the smoked seafood in all its glory which comes out everyday at 1PM. Nevertheless, I have met a person who has been part of Calumet Fisheries since 20-30 years now, and he has explained me everything they go through to get the right food to the customers and keep them coming back for more.
I was bewildered at the enthusiasm he possesses while explaining me the work he does on repeat for so many years. You gotta love it to be in it for so long and this young man (Sure as hell he was at heart!) has no doubts whatsoever. He explained me how they get the special oak logs in the morning around 4AM which help in enhancing the flavor of the meat.
In order to smoke large quantities of seafood, they have these custom made iron rods where nails are extended at measured intervals so the fishes can be pinned to them and they are cooked in the smoke for 6 hours after staying in the brine overnight.
I was excited to hear all of that and I would most definitely return to this place whenever I happened to be in Chicago.
Finally, I bid my friend goodbye as he was explaining me dejectedly of how he was back in his hometown when his favorite chef Anthony Bourdain happened to visit this place and no one working here knew him and the person who knew was on a vacation. Well, AB, if you are reading this, then sure give this place and this person a visit!
3259 E 95th St Chicago, IL 60617
Value For Money: 8/10