Calumet Fisheries

I am pretty open-minded and somewhat adventurous, but last weekend Nate pushed my tolerance's envelope. He wanted to rent a Harley Davidson and drive along Route 12 to Michigan for a night. I really wanted to be a fun wife, impulsive and open-minded, so I pushed aside my fear of dying and agreed to accompany him. I'm a sucker for southwest Michigan.

We went to the Harley dealership, signed all kinds of papers saying that we wouldn't sue in case of an accident, packed our saddlebags, strapped on our D.O.T.-safe helmets, revved up the engine and took off. After a full 30 minutes I relaxed my clenched jaw and my extremely tight grip on the guard rail and started to enjoy the ride.

I stopped relaxing when we got close to the Illinois/Indiana border and Nate told me he wanted to stop at Wendy's for a burger. This is a frequent debate on road trips (he tries the 'it's fast' angle and I go for the 'it's gross' angle) and I sometimes let him have his meal - if you can call it that. But last Saturday, I could not abide with his request. I was already on the back of a motorcycle, I wasn't going to go further out of my proverbial box and go to Wendy's.

We were almost out of the city when I started shouting for him to pull over. I had spied the answer to our fast-food debate in the form a shabby little white building next to the 95th Street bridge that was featured in the The Blue Brothers movie. The building was Calumet Fisheries, a traditional smokehouse that had been on my must-eat list for several years. Recently, even Anthony Bourdain had given it his discerning approval during a Chicago taping of No Reservations.

Nate begrudgingly parked the bike and gave a weary look at the non-impressive little building, the bridge, and the river. I could tell that he was trying to calculate how he could talk me into getting back on the bike for his fast-food burger. But, since I was literally standing on the sidewalk punching my fists in the air and chanting, "Finally! Calumet Fisheries! Smoked shrimp!", he knew there was no way was I backing down.

Once inside, his eyes brightened as he reviewed the menu - smoked salmon, perch, fried shrimp, catfish and more. We ordered smoked salmon and smoked shrimp. There are no tables or stools inside so we took our treats back outside, sat down on the sidewalk, and dug in. His salmon was moist and flaky and I could tell he was no longer thinking of a greasy burger. Calumet Fisheries uses natural wood in their humble-looking smokehouse and my shrimp were infused with the flavor. They were also large and meaty and crunched when I bit into them. After Nate tasted these shrimp he started lobbying for a return visit on our way back from Michigan.

I really enjoyed Calumet Fisheries and think it is absolutely worth the trip down to 3259 East 95th Street - on a motorcycle or in a regular car. I shouldn't have put it off for so many years and I encourage you to learn from my mistake and go get some smoked shrimp for yourself.

As we pulled away on our Harley, I started to wonder about the name. Why is it plural? There is only one location for Calumet Fisheries. I know it is likely not a possibility, but I'm hoping that maybe, just maybe, they are planning on opening an additional smokehouse on the northside. Call me a dreamer.

Satisfied with our smoked snack, we headed out of the state and into Indiana. More on our Route 12 excursion to come....

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