God bless aimlessness. Without it, there may have been no Calumet Fisheries, at least not the current incarnation of the incredible fish shack located in Chicago’s South Deering neighborhood. “My grandfather [Sam Toll] purchased it for my uncle [Len Toll] and my dad [Sid Kotlick],” said second-generation owner Mark Kotlick. “They didn’t have any career path, and my grandfather thought, ‘You need something to take care of your families.’ “ Advertisements
I once ate about 15 pounds of fried shrimp in a single day. It was, as most of my digestive system-threatening binges are, an occupational hazard. I was in search of Chicago’s best fried shrimp, and I found it at The Southside Shrimp House in Bridgeport. But that was before the White Sox had a championship and just a couple of years after the Cubs has squandered a chance at one. In 2007, the Shrimp House folded.
Though it wasn’t exactly Cape Cod, Chicago did alright in the fresh-catch business. Prior to World War II, it was one of the largest seafood shipping points in the country with twenty-two large wholesalers operating on the banks of the Chicago and Calumet Rivers. In the thirties and forties, Lake Michigan trout used to be more abundant than long lines at Apple stores on iPhone launch day. On April 6, 1951, a fishing tug named the Iva T hauled in 2,000 pounds of perch and dropped them off at the Lawrence Schweig’s Fish Company located at 2120 South Canal. Restaurant barges and, during prohibition, speakeasies served thirsty fisherman and lumber and ore haulers on Lake Michigan.
I never missed a Sunday Mass until I went to college, but nowadays, I’ve become an Easter Catholic: lazy enough to miss a whole month of Sundays, but cunning enough to show up early on Christmas and Easter to steal prime pew real estate from regular churchgoers.