A Squared: Recent Chicago Restaurant Visits: North Side Seafood Spots

Monday, October 6, 2014

Recent Chicago Restaurant Visits: North Side Seafood Spots

A very happy Monday to all of you after another whirlwind travel weekend. Alex and I just returned from a long weekend in New York City where we celebrated the wedding of my best friend and managed to sneak in a visit with my sister Megan who is in college out on Long Island. Just two weeks ago I was back in New England for some work and family time in Rhode Island and then of course, a visit to Cape Cod for the wedding of a few other dear friends. We have definitely gotten our fill of the east coast lately and, of course, a few seafood meals in the process.

With the east coast in mind, it seemed only appropriate to revisit some of those Chicago seafood spots that I had told you about here and here. This time, we're heading to the north side of Chicago-- specifically, my new neighborhood of Lakeview where you'll find two very low key, but not to be missed seafood joints. Check them out!

New England Seafood Company
West Lakeview

New England Seafood Company is a restaurant that has been on my radar for a long time. It isn't fancy or trendy, but it has received high marks for its fresh, high quality seafood market and its traditional east coast restaurant offerings for almost as long as it has been open. It's no secret that I miss my good seafood living here in the Midwest and that my husband loves a lobster roll, so when we found out New England Seafood Company was located just a few blocks away from our new condo you can imagine how excited we both were!

We stopped in for lunch one Saturday afternoon and were surprised to find that a brunch menu is also offered on weekends. Although intrigued, we decided to go pretty traditional with our orders and started by sharing a bowl of New England clam chowder. The chowder was thick and creamy with just a slight briny seafood taste-- the kind you want and expect from a good chowder. Served with oyster crackers, this is exactly the kind of chowder that I imagine when I think about the seaside taverns and clam shacks from my east coast life!

For entrees, Alex and I both went with lobster sandwiches, but in two different directions. Alex-- not surprisingly-- went with the classic lobster roll. NESC approaches the lobster roll in the simple more Connecticut-style: large fresh chunks of lobster meat tossed in served in a grilled roll with a swipe of mayo inside and a sprinkle of Old Bay seasoning on top. It was served with drawn butter on the side, which I highly recommend you pour over the top. The result is a simple, delicious, and classically New England sandwich.

I went in a different direction with my order and opted for the Lobster BLT. Fresh chunks of lobster meat accompanied sliced tomatoes, lettuce, and crispy bacon on thick sliced griddled Texas Toast. The sandwich was lightly dressed with a bit of mayonnaise and like the lobster roll, was accompanied by drawn butter and a fresh lemon wedge for a little additional flavor. I loved this rich and flavorful seafood spin on one of my favorite sandwiches. The sandwich was piled high and tough to eat, but the abundance of lobster and the great flavor more than made up for the mess factor.
New England Seafood Company Fish Market on Urbanspoon

Fish Bar

Fun fact: Alex worked in restaurant design for a little bit and was part of the team that designed the charming little Fish Bar space. Around that time we used to eat here pretty frequently, but it's been a few years and now that we live somewhat nearby we decided to stop in again. The food was just as tasty and the atmosphere just as fun as I remembered. Fish Bar's motto for diners is "more than four, go next door." It's a small space with mostly first come, first served counter seating and a few booths so they encourage larger parties to head next door to their sister restaurant DMK Burger Bar, another one of or favorite spots. The menu is diverse with traditional fried items you'd find in a seafood shack to higher end raw bar offerings like oysters and ceviches to fun foods like seasonal fish tacos and salads. Also, everything here is ordered tapas-style, so bring a friend, order a few different things, share, and enjoy!

On this most recent visit, Alex and I made a point of steering away from our old favorites here (lobster rolls, crabby party sandwich, butternut lobster bisque, and clam chowder) in favor of trying some new [to us] items. First up: The veggie fritto misto. Even though there is little redeeming health quality to anything breaded and fried, I knew I wanted some kind of veggie at this meal and these were delicious! Asparagus, yellow squash, carrots, zucchini, and mushrooms were cut into French fry-like sticks, tempura battered, and fried until crispy. Each one had its own unique flavor, but the combination of the fried vegetables with the tangy lemon aioli for dipping was pretty amazing all around.

Alex is not usually a fish taco guy (because they are normally made with shrimp or tilapia and he is allergic to both), so I was surprised when he ordered Fish Bar's taco special. These were made with perfectly seared scallops though and served with freshly made slaw and a spicy pico de gallo along with two different salsas.

I opted for another item on the specials menu. After a trip down to the southeastern US this spring I tried softshelled crab for the first time and loved it. Fish Bar was serving a po' boy sandwich featuring a deep fried softshelled crab instead of the traditional shrimp or oysters, so I decided to give it a try. It was served in a buttered toasted roll with fresh lettuce, tomato, and a zesty remoulade sauce. Although the fact that the crab appeared to be waving to me from inside the bun was a little awkward, the crab was fried perfectly and the sandwich itself was a delicious version of its more traditional counterpart.

We also ordered some hushpuppies to share because who doesn't need more fried food? They were pretty basic and although they tasted fine, I would probably skip them next time in favor of a side of garlic bread or tater tots instead.

We ended the meal with a slice of key lime pie-- definitely a highlight of the meal. Fish Bar's desserts are made by the pastry geniuses over at Hot Chocolate in Bucktown, so we knew it would be good. This pie was super fresh with a creamy tangy center, fresh graham cracker crust, and a thick layer of real whipped cream on top. Even though we had eaten so much already we had no trouble polishing this slice of pie off in a matter of minutes.
Fish Bar on Urbanspoon

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