Calumet Fisheries

By Catherine Lambrecht

Fisheries once dotted Chicago’s riverbanks, guaranteeing a fresh local catch or the finest fish from afar delivered as quickly as possible. Calumet Fisheries, a red-roofed, whitewashed, James Beard Award–winning fish shack from 1948, endures as the best of the few still standing. Delicately breaded fried smelts are so crisp and satisfying they might be called the French Fries of the Great Lakes. Dip them in sauce or do as locals do: pour some light barbecue sauce, along with a splash of Louisiana hot, straight into the bag, shake with the fish, and devour quickly. Calumet’s finest offerings are smoked on-premises. The chilled, shell-on shrimp might look like they’re destined for a mild-mannered cocktail glass, but one bite reveals an unforgettably smoky, briny depth with sweetness from the sea. For smoked local fish, try the lake trout rolled in peppercorns by flaking hearty chunks onto simple crisp crackers. And, after 15 years off the menu, smoked sable and sturgeon are back by popular demand. Savor the legendary seafood in a landscape of rusting smokestacks. Lucky for us, some things never change.

sweet seats

It’s take-out only, so regulars eat in their cars parked out front or lean up against the bridge to watch passing barges on the Calumet River.

chew on this

Smokemaster Mundo Campos has been smoking Calumet’s seafood for more than 40 years, since he was 14. Fish and shrimp are brined overnight, then strung up—or in the case of the elusive chubs, “pinned,” or nailed by the tail to long, narrow wood planks. Campos tends the smoke shack out back, using real oak logs. If you want to see him unloading the smokehouse of fish and shrimp, stop by any Saturday around 1 to 2 PM. Anthony Bourdain planned his entire visit around this very moment.


Sun.–Wed. 10 AM–9:45 PM; Thurs. 9 AM–9:30 PM;
Fri.–Sat. 9 AM–9:45 PM

price range for menu items

$1.99 (breaded pickle spears) to $26.99 (smoked sturgeon by the pound)


Sun.–Wed. 10 AM–9:45 PM
Thurs. 9 AM–9:30 PM
Fri.–Sat. 9 AM–9:45 PM

price range

Cash only.

$1.99 (breaded pickle spears) to $14 (scallops)

Smoked fish by the pound: $8.35 (lake trout) to $26.99 (sturgeon)