Calumet Fisheries, since 1928, has perched on the edge of the Calumet River, 95th at the bridge. This small red-roofed white building with the charred old smokehouse in back is open year-round, selling fish like salmon and smelt, smoked and fried. “We don’t offer in-store seating,” says owner Mark Kotlick, “so our customers are prone to come see us during good weather. In the summer, people are more apt to take a road trip, so we get people from Wisconsin going to Michigan; they make a traditional stop at Cal Fish.”
“We’re destination seafood,” says Kotlick, and driving the hour or so to see him, we were reminded of driving the hour or so to visit Le Francais in Wheeling in the seventies and eighties. Jean Banchet wanted his legendary French restaurant to require a drive so that going there would be an adventure; same applies to Cal Fish.
In summer, Kotlick explains, “We put picnic tables by the bridge and encourage people to take their food over to Cal Park, which is just a few minutes east over the bridge where they can picnic and enjoy the beach and Lake Michigan.”
I asked Kotlick what it was like in summers past when he worked at the family fish store with his dad. “I loved working with my dad,” says Kotlick. “He was a good teacher and trained me how to smoke fish. He loved to BS with the customers, as I do, and let them know we appreciate them coming to Cal Fish.” (David Hammond)
Calumet Fisheries, 3259 East 95th Street, calumetfisheries.com
Dining and Drinking Editor for Newcity, David also writes a weekly food column for Wednesday Journal in Oak Park and is a frequent contributor of food/drink and travel pieces to the Chicago Tribune, Plate Magazine and other publications. David has also contributed chapters to several books, including Street Food Around the World, Street Food, and The Chicago Food Encyclopedia. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org