Just because we aren’t traveling the world right now doesn’t mean we can’t view our own city through the eyes of a traveler. Chicago has so many amazing places to see and foods to eat that there is plenty to blog about. My “Kim’s Tips” for Chicago started to look more like an e-book than a concise city guide, so for the next few months I’ll be featuring great spots in our home town. Hopefully, I will inspire locals to get out and enjoy their hometown and travelers to stop by Chicago and see what it has to offer!
Isaacson & Stein Fish Company
It’s been a long road, but I have seen the light on seafood. Clark gently introduced me to sea creatures through fried calamari and Captain D’s. Now, I gladly throw back oysters and chow down on a mouthwatering hunk of hamachi sashimi. We moved to the Fulton Market district at the end of April and started wandering around our ‘hood to find the best neighborhood places. We came across a plethora of Italian bakeries, subs shops, and pizzerias (subjects of a future post, don’t worry!). But, the biggest catch was Isaacson & Stein Fish Company.
Three generations have been running this market for over 80 years and it is the oldest fish wholesaler in the city. The current owner, Sherwin Willner, began working at the market at the age of seventeen in 1967. They sell to restaurants as well as every day folk. It’s safe to say that the Crab Cake Crusted Trout at Wildfire last night came straight from the icy tubs of Isaacson’s.
Prepare yourself before walking through the doors. If you have a weak stomach or strong aversion to that overwhelming fishy smell, this is not the place for you! It is, however, Clark’s idea of heaven. It’s full of smelly, slimy, and seemingly smiling seafood. The scene is disturbing enough to bring a nine year old girl to hysterics. It didn’t help that her brother shoved a fish in her face and made it talk. Clark does the same thing to me nearly every visit, so I felt her pain.
In the summer, the gush of freezing cold air is a savoir after the three block walk from our apartment. You’ll hear sounds of fish being scaled, chopped, and tossed into buckets while the very jovial employees chat, laugh, and enjoy their work. If you wear sandals, be prepared for your feet to get icy, slimy, and stinky the minute you walk in the door. Once you taste the amazing freshness of the seafood, you’ll know it was worth it.
Isaacson’s receives daily shipments from Greece, Brazil, Costa Rica, Hawaii, Florida, the Gulf of Mexico, and loads of other countries on the Atlantic. About 10 tons of seafood per week goes through their doors! They also have a nice supply of locally harvested fish from the Great Lakes. Some of the best sushi joints in the city even get their fish from Isaacson & Stein’s. The merry fish guys that work at Isaacson’s will happily clean and gut your fish on the spot.
The market is very crowded on the weekends, but that’s when you realize how good this place really is. You’ll rub shoulders with chef’s from Chicago’s top restaurants and little old Greek ladies planning a family meal. If you’re craving seafood, definitely head to Isaacson & Stein’s and buy enough fish to eat yourself into a mercury-induced coma.