I got an IM from my food buddy yesterday telling me they were planning to check out Calumet Fisheries, one of the places Anthony Bourdain visited while he filmed the Chicago episode of No Reservations. So I quickly said, "Sign us up!". Let me start out by saying it's not exactly in Chicago (in my opinion). In fact, you need to take the 90E skyway. Who takes that?? I actually missed the exit and had to do 2 u-turns to get back on. I grumbled to myself, "This better be worth it". After about 10 miles, you exit off of S. Anthony and make a couple turns til you get til 3259 E. 95th Street.
Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore.
We pulled in the gravel parking lot and walked up the street to the small little shack. There's only room enough to order, you definitely don't dine inside!
Our food buddies ordered quite a spread from both the fried and smoked section. While Jared waited in line, he chatted with a local who told him the best deal was the smoked garlic pepper trout which was $8.15/lb. The piece we got was about $5 dollars. He also picked up some smoked shrimp at $20.99/lb.
After we got our orders we all headed back to our cars to eat. We really liked the smoked garlic pepper trout. The meat was flaky, fatty and packed full of flavor. The shrimp were huge and sweet with the right amount of smokiness. Overall we thought it was pretty good, but not particularly mind blowing... but then we were proven wrong.
I asked Jared to pick up another smoked trout for us to bring home while I took photos. I snuck around to check out the smokehouse and started snapping photos.
smokehouse or death chamber?
And then, THEN someone came out the side door while I was taking photos. He smiled and motioned for me to come over. Curious, I walked over there and then he started showing me the inside of the smokehouse and that's when I realized there were still smoked fish hanging in there! I started asking him about the Bourdain visit. He stopped me and went back inside and brought out a framed newspaper article about the No Reservations show. He also told me business has definitely gotten busier after the episode aired. (Great to hear especially in this economy!) He then told us that we should come earlier next time around 9:30 or 10am to watch the smokers in action.
And here's where everything changed. Ray (as we found out his name) grabbed a salmon collar from the smokehouse and asked me to taste it. I exclaimed loudly, "Oh, I love collar!", which I realize now probably would have been strange for a passerby to hear. And then Jared and I both took a piece and it. was. so. amazing. The trout and shrimp we ate earlier was fresh out of the cooler so they were cold when we ate it. Plus it was absolutely freezing outside today which is probably why it didn't taste so spectacular to us. But this piece was still warm and the edges were still crispy. The fat melts in your mouth trickling down your tongue. The saltiness of the flesh and the smokey flavor lingers in your mouth, while signaling to your brain... THIS IS ABSOLUTELY INCREDIBLE! And even better, Ray told us he'd wrap it up for us to take home. Jared and I stared at each other in amazement and said, "We are SO coming back". (well maybe in the summer). Ray came back out with the collar and also instructed us to eat smoked fish at room temperature in the future. The flavors and the fattiness in the fish really come out when it is not fresh out of the cooler.
Ray, we owe this guy a big one!
And here he is holding a rack of chubs which we are definitely going to try next time!
My favorite picture of the day (shot by Jared)
After we got home we slowly picked away at the smoked salmon collar. This collar was so freaking good, I almost cried when we finished it. Seriously. There was so much fat and flavor in this thin piece of fi
sh, I could almost say it is better that my favorite dish, hamamachi kama shioyaki. And that is saying A LOT.
So ladies and gentleman, do yourselves a favor and try the smoked fish out here atleast once this summer! Eat the fish at room temp, and don't forget to try the collar!
3259 E 95th St
And here's a little bonus for you, check out a clip from Bourdain's trip to Calumet Fisheries (starts around 2:06)