Brown Bag Seafood Co — See Food Disappear

Brown Bag Seafood Company

When coming off of the long winters that we experience, it is nice to get outside to see what’s new. When I say that, there is a very strong possibility that some new building has gone up on the landscape in a part of downtown that you may not frequent, some old establishment you may have gone to in the past has closed, and there may be  new businesses opened. While wandering through the new Maggie Daley Park and exiting to East Randolph Street, I noticed a set of new skyscrapers and a certain restaurant marker for a restaurant named Brown Bag Seafood Company. At 340 E. Randolph Street, I had to see what offerings this new restaurant had on the menu.

Spritzers: Ginger with Lemon and Cucumber Mint

Spritzers: Ginger with Lemon and Cucumber Mint

There was the popular Chipotle way of ordering — pick a sandwich, taco, salad, or some other options, and then pick the kind of seafood you want, yada-yada-yada, dabba, dabba, dabba. What caught my eye most was the lobster roll, so I pulled myself out of Chipotle mode and placed my order. After finishing, I sat on the patio and had a refreshing ginger lemon spritzer while I waited for my first order, which was a cup of grilled brussel sprouts and pickled onions. I like brussel sprouts. I love grilled brussel sprouts, especially if they are as appetizing as those at Brown Bag Seafood Company.

Grilled Brussel Sprouts, Pickled Onions

Grilled Brussel Sprouts, Pickled Onions

Going to a seafood company and not ordering a cup or bowl of clam chowder or bisque is a crime. There was clam chowdah — note the misspelling — on the menu and I had to have it. After the first spoonful, it had become apparent that I should have ordered a bowl of it rather than a cup. Or I should have ordered two cups instead. There was no fancy modification to the recipe, rendering the soup unrecognizable to the palate the way I have had it at some restaurant. Loaded with potatoes and clams, this made my Best Clam Chowder in Chicago list.

Clam Chowder

Clam Chowder

Now, clutch your pearls, your pocketbook, your smartphone, your martini. I can’t speak for anyone else, however, I can say definitively that I have now had the best lobster roll ever. The lobster was a chunks, which was a winner from the looks of things. Seasoned well and in a slightly spicy mayonnaise, not just regular mayonnaise with a hint of some herb along with salt and pepper, I declared loudly on the patio, “Oh my God!!!” I had not an iota of shame. Hello, Best Lobster Roll in Chicago. To make matters even more worthy of loud declarations, the tater tots that came with it were accented with truffle parmesan. By now I had a jar of cucumber mint with gin. And there was a remarkable sunset behind the skyscrapers to the West.

Lobster Roll with Tater Tots

Lobster Roll with Tater Tots

The one disappointing thing about Brown Bag Seafood Company is that there is no location in Logan Square. Yes, I know that sounds self-serving, but there needs to be a location along Milwaukee Avenue between the roundabout and Diversey Avenue. The new spot can have booths and tables inside, as well as outdoor seating like the E. Randolph Street restaurant. The menu looks like there are several options for those with a love of seafood and I shall have to return to try some of the other menu items. In the meantime, I think I shall have to see if there are any other new eateries that have popped up in some part of the city where I have not been in the past year. Brown Bag Seafood Company has won me over, for true.

Brown Bag Seafood Co. on Urbanspoon

Seefood Diet at The Fish Guy Market

The Fish Guy Market

Several weeks ago, I was on a hunt for boutique restaurants that sell some of the best lobster rolls that you can find in and around Chicago. Since then, I have seen Instagram photos and Facebook posts showcasing lobster rolls. I have also received email notes inquiring if I would like to sample lobster rolls from various restaurants. I had no idea that these lovely little seafood sandwiches were so popular. Needless to say, I found another seafood restaurant that doubles as a seafood market named The Fish Guy Market at 4423 N. Elston Street in Chicago’s Albany Park.

Gazpcho

Gazpcho

I started with a nice cool bowl of Andaluzian gazpacho. This soup of puréed tomatoes, a dash of vinegar, olive oil, and garlic was well received by my outrageous appetite. With it being warm and humid outside, having something cool was not a bad option. Considering most enjoy their soups at temperatures that require blowing on it to cool it off before sipping, the gazpacho makes for a great summer soup.

Lobster Ceviche

Lobster Ceviche

Next was a lobster ceviche. Anyone who has had ceviche has had it with shrimp and they already know that it is an appetizing start to most Central and South American meals. Well, imagine plump lobster added and the usual bloom of flavours from the citrus spices. Served with crunchy tortilla chips, this ceviche is one menu item to order and devour during any visits to The Fish Guy Market.

Fruit De Mer

Fruit De Mer

While talking to the guy behind the counter about cameras and how long The Fish Guy Market has been in business, I had not noticed that he was chopping up some baby octopus and doctoring it up in olive oil with a few extra ingredients and spices. It wasn’t until he placed it in front of me that I realized I was getting a sampling of some fruit de mer. Even without having been grilled, the octopus was tender, and not tough. The olive oil gave it an Italian influence, but that was just fine. I gobbled it regardless.

Lobster Roll

Lobster Roll

By now I was ready to address my main reason for going to The Fish Guy Market. One of the individuals behind the counter was preparing my lobster roll and instead of it being done out of view in some kitchen or out of sight, I got to see the magic from my seat. There was a hearty amount of lobster added to the rolls, seasoned, and ready for my teeth. Served with potato chips and slaw, the plating was certainly appealing to the appetite. Unlike most lobster rolls that have some doctored mayonnaise, there didn’t seem to be any on the lobster roll at The Fish Guy. Instead, the natural juices of the lobster and the seasoning appeared to be what made the roll. Then again, there may have been some mayonnaise on the sandwich, but very faint. I took my time and completed the task before me.

Skipjack Tuna

Skipjack Tuna

Another small l’amuse that I got to sample was skipjack tuna. Lightly seared on the outside, this was a meaty interlude that made me love tuna even more than I loved it already. I scanned the menu to see if it was one of the items that the restaurant serves and didn’t see it. I must admit that it would be a divine menu item to add because anyone who gets to have a go of it will want more and more of it.

The Fish Guy Maket Collage

The restaurant offerings are outstanding. The fresh seafood selection certainly was an attention grabber. With the restaurant and market area being bright and incredibly clean, I will definitely return to The Fish Guy Market to purchase any seafood that I plan to cook. Being a stickler for good customer service, it’s apparent that the market aces that aspect of business because there was a steady flow of repeat customers coming in and out. I understand fully why they return. They have a seefood diet, no doubt. Yes, I wrote seefood.

Fishguy Market on Urbanspoon

Lobster Roll Craze, Starting in Chicago

At times I go through craving spurts. As of late, seafood has been my constant addiction and I am the last person to say that I tire of it, especially with so many options to please the palate. However, my thoughts have been more focused on lobster rolls. I blame part of that on having read a prior post I had written about Devon Seafood Restaurant and remembering the lobster roll I had there. So, I wondered if there were any small restaurants that had lobster rolls on their menus. Yes, there are and I made entries on my calendars to check out three that were not far from where I live.

Note: If you sample from any of the restaurants I mention in this post or from any seafood restaurants in your area, and you get a lobster roll in your grasp, indeed show the restaurant some love. For those on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, hashtag lobsterrollcraze (#lobsterrollcraze) and give the restaurant’s name.

New England Seafood Company

My first seafood excursion was at New England Seafood Company at 3341 N. Lincoln Avenue. It was late afternoon and before the after-five crowd, and it was even more surprising to see a constant flow of individuals coming in and out. I ordered a bowl of lobster bisque and a bowl of clam chowder for starters. I had fasted for 20 hours for a doctor’s appointment and so I was very close to having a Suarez moment. (Anyone who has been following World Cup will get the reference.) The bisque was a lobster bisque addict’s bowl of heaven. It wasn’t smooth like the usual bisque because it was full of shredded lobster. The clam chowder had chased away my final Suarez craving and left me wanting more, but I had to save room for my main reason for coming to the restaurant.

New England Seafood Company Collage

The lobster roll was so wrong, so very, very wrong because nothing as good as the lobster roll I had should be released to customers. Stuffed to the point where lobster was falling out of the bread, I tell you no lie when I say that I dragged out working on that lobster roll and homemade chips to an epic 45 minutes. I didn’t want it to end. When I was done, I sat looking pensively until the server offered a chocolate chip cannoli and coffee, of which I accepted. After a good report from my doctor, I deserved it.

Da Lobsta

At 12 E. Cedar Street in Chicago’s Gold Coast is Da Lobsta. Several times I have gone to the location in the French Market, which is in the adjacent depot station to Ogilvie Centre. At the French Market location, I had been going so much that the staff working there knows me by face and that means I get rated-10 lobster rolls while everyone else gets rated-8. Okay, that’s not proper and I should be ashamed of myself. (Laugh track) For a blog write-up, I decided to go to the Gold Coast location and I was quite happy I did.

Da Lobsta Collage

The lobster bisque at Da Lobsta is smooth and creamy when initially set in front of you. Don’t be fooled, for after you stir it, you see chunks of lobster swimming around in it. If you are like me, you’ll smile before scooping it up and trying not to dribble it across the front of your shirt. It’s New England lobster bisque, for sure. And the clam chowder, albeit not thick in a creamy way, is definitely worthy ordering a cup. But their lobster roll is where you’ll develop a constant yearning. There is a combination of shredded lobster and chunks. You’ll understand why you get a fork with the sandwich and if you think you’re in a dream while indulging one of the lobster rolls, you will not want to wake up. If you get there when the staff is handing out samples of lobster mac and cheese, do not decline. Take the sample. You’ll probably order some for take-away.

Fish Bar

My third excursion was at Fish Bar. At 2956 N. Sheffield Avenue, this boutique seafood restaurant has the look of a bar, but it’s all about seafood and a good selection of wet bar offerings. The beauty of this restaurant is that the staff is upfront and personal — not as in being in your personal space, but as in being like great friends. They don’t just tell you their names as a courtesy, but they ask for your name and address you accordingly while you’re there. One would have to be anti on a personal level to not fall in love with that kind of service. But you’ll be blown away with the food regardless.

Fish Bar Collage

I had a cup of clam chowder that if I had some bread with it, I would have sopped the remaining chowder without pause or complaint. The gumbo had a roux base that I favour because there was no skimping on the okra. The person responsible for the recipe had to have gone to some restaurant shacks in the eastern parts of New Orleans because they got it correct. Where I had to pause and smile my usual stupid smile when food is good was with the lobster roll. There were chunks of lobster in the lobster roll, although they will cut the lobster up more if requested. But you really know you’re indulging a delicacy when the lobster bursts when your teeth pierce the chunks. And with them adding cumin to the homemade mayonnaise, I sat and pondered ordering another one for take-away. I waited for an hour and had a crabby patty — crab cake slider with a dusting of bread crumbs covering a serious clump of meaty crab — instead. However, I am still thinking about the lobster roll and how I felt some kind of way after it was all gone.

Some may inquire about a ranking and it would be unfair. Each restaurant prepares the lobster rolls differently, which gives each their individual charm. Now that I have put them out there, perhaps you can post back letting it be known how you’d rank them. I gave three boutique seafood restaurants. There are some big box restaurants that prepare some lobster rolls worthy of telling your Facebook and Twitter friends. I bet there are also some walk-ups and small seafood cafes doing the same. Get your lobster rolls craze on.

New England Seafood Company Fish Market on Urbanspoon Da Lobsta on Urbanspoon Fish Bar on Urbanspoon