During Lent or anytime of year, fish lovers will delight in a visit to Calumet Fisheries on Chicago's Southeast Side.
Calumet Fisheries has had a starring location for the past six decades on the west end of the 95th Street Bridge, well-known to film fans as the bridge Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi jumped across in the popular 1980 film "The Blues Brothers."
"Everything has really stayed the same since 1948," said Mark Kotlick, co-owner of the eatery, during a recent interview. He said prices have gone up slightly during the last couple of years, but everything else, including the building, menu and friendly neighborhood feel of the South Side institution remains the same.
As the eatery only accepts cash, another new feature, which is humorously a sign of the times, is an ATM machine in the corner of the small restaurant.
The seafood shack, known for its signature smoked and fried fish, including shrimp, salmon and chubs, is a carry-out eatery. The building dates to 1928 but was purchased by the Kotlick and Toll families in 1948.
Kotlick said most of his employees have been with him for years, including smoker Ray Campos, who mans the smokehouses next to the shack three times a week and Carlos Rosas, a manager, who's worked at Calumet Fisheries since 1995.
Just walking into Calumet Fisheries one easily senses the family atmosphere. While there are times when the eatery is filled to the gills with customers, one always gets a friendly hello from Kotlick and his crew.
Back in 2010, the Kotlick and Toll families were given a major honor from The James Beard Foundation when they were awarded the American Classics Award at The James Beard Awards in New York City.
Kotlick said, after receiving the award, he usually gets an invitation to the annual gala event in the Big Apple. But, he's only gone there once when he traveled to New York for the big honor. He said he wouldn't mind going again sometime.
According to the James Beard Foundation, the American Classics award is given to "restaurants with timeless appeal, beloved for quality food that reflects the character of the community."
Kotlick said, while customers frequent his restaurant throughout the year, the Lenten season is one of the most popular at Calumet Fisheries.
"Ninety-five percent of our customers are repeat," Kotlick said.
During a recent visit to Calumet Fisheries, we ordered a smoked salmon filet ($15.59 a pound) and the popular fried shrimp dinner ($10.59). Among some of the most popular selections at CF are the smoked salmon and catfish, fried shrimp and chubs.
The dinner combo included fries, coleslaw, crackers and sauce. CF's shrimp gets a thumbs up for great taste and for the batter not being grease-laden. The salmon's smoky, rich flavor was a winner.
Among other menu items: crab cake dinners ($7.69); scallops dinners ($10.35); chubs ($14.49 a pound; Rainbow Trout ($10.69 a pound); a la carte items — shrimp ($7.99 for half order, $15.49 full order); frog legs ($7.09 half order, $12.99 full order); and more. Sides, salads and beverages are also available.
Note: There are no seats in Calumet Fisheries. But customers often eat in their cars in warmer weather.
Whether you're looking for a Lenten seafood feast or just have a taste for fish, pay a visit to Calumet Fisheries. It's good flavor, a bit of history and some South Side lore all in a one-stop shopping experience.
FYI: Calumet Fisheries is at 3259 E. 95th St., Chicago. Hours are 10 a.m. to 9:45 p.m. Sundays through Wednesdays; 9 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Thursdays and 9 a.m. to 9:45 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Call (773) 933-9855 or visit calumetfisheries.com