Classic Takeout: Calumet Fisheries

Pick up phenomenal fish at this 62-year-old smokehouse

Since 1948, Chicagoans have been journeying to a small shack on the far Southeast Side for superior smoked fish.

There are no tables and no chairs here; instead, space is reserved for Alaskan salmon, Canadian trout and Lake Michigan chub–bronzed from a turn in the oak-fired smoker–and breaded whole smelts waiting for a dip in the fryer.

Each of which makes Calumet Fisheries–recently named one of the James Beard Foundation's 2010 "America's Classics" honorees–a required trip for seafood fanatics.

The adjoining smokehouse is fired up Thursdays and on the weekends; stop by Thursday midafternoon for still-warm fish. There are salmon heads with ample cheek meat for fans of stronger flavor, or thick center cuts of salmon ($15 per pound) and trout ($9 per pound), smoked plain or rubbed with black pepper and garlic.

The finest treats are the meaty, smoky peel-and-eat shrimp ($20 per pound) and the shimmering whole chubs, with their buttery, lightly smoky white flesh ($11 per pound).

Anything from the fryer–whole smelt, scallops, oysters or shrimp, dredged in cornmeal coating and fried until golden-brown–should be devoured on the premises. In summer, lean against the railing on the side of the road; but until then, follow the lead of the regulars and snack in the warmth of your car.

Calumet Fisheries, 3258 E. 95th St.; 773-933-9855 or calumetfisheries.com