Living in New England for eight years spoiled me when it came to seafood. It’s hard to complain when you live in a city where finding a lobster roll is almost as easy as spotting a Dunkin Donuts. But as an Ex-Bostonian in Chicago, the seafood scene is another story. While our city is deliciously saturated when it comes to gastropubs, hamburger specialists, and steakhouses, there aren’t nearly enough seafood restaurants for my tastes.
So when I discovered Fish Bar in the Lakeview neighborhood I was long overdue for my fix. Thankfully, this restaurant fits the bill and then some.
The entire menu celebrates great quality, sustainable and responsibly farmed fish and seafood. It’s not about fussy dishes or over the top preparation that takes attention away from the freshness and flavor of the fish. No, Fish Bar is more like an urban, slightly upscale version of a seafood shack. Think ethereally crispy fried frog’s legs, cones of tater tots and briny oysters. The décor continues the theme through with driftwood-overlaid walls and a suspended kayak. The seating is largely communal – counter inside and shared picnic tables outside – but a few booths are available for parties of four. (Anything larger is not accommodated).
I begin every trip by checking out what’s new on the chalkboard since the dishes largely revolve around what’s fresh and in season with the featured carpaccio, ceviche, and tartar changing out regularly. And since they essentially all small plates, it offers up the ability to sample an array of fish types and preparations. But deep down I know that I’ll be sticking to my two loves – oysters and lobster rolls. If you’re an oyster virgin, Fish Bar is the place for you because with a single oyster available for $1, indulging your curiosity is practically risk free. Their introductory price also doubles as entertainment as you watch your fellow diners sling them back for the first time. (I love how eating something so small can make people amusingly animated.) But arguably the dish that won me over to Fish Bar is the lobster roll (market priced, but ranged between $19-$21 on my visits). The roll was lightly buttered and well crisped, but most importantly the lobster filling was spot on. The meaty lobster chunks were plentiful and beautifully cooked, with just enough celery mayo to amplify their richness.
The menu is light on dessert, with only key lime pie on the menu at the time of my visit, so don’t come expecting to end the night with a sugar bomb. But that’s fine by me. It’s just an excuse to eat more oysters.
Fish Bar, 2956 N. Sheffield. For more information please call 773.687.8177 or visit Fish Bar at www.fishbarchicago.com.
Kelly Alesso is a marketing strategist by day and an aspiring home cook and artisan cheese maker by night. When she’s not seeking out ingredients for her latest cooking adventure, she loves discovering Chicago’s many dog parks with her cockapoo, Oliver, enjoying a well-crafted cocktail, and planning day trips. She also has an odd love affair with grocery stores. To read more about her culinary adventures, visit her blog at The Pink Apron.