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Chums Shrimp Shack Review – East Dundee, IL


Chums Shrimp Shack Review(This will be the longest intro to a review that you’ve ever encountered!) When I was a sprout growing up on the shores of the Big Kitch-Gumee (Lake Superior), once per year, in late Spring, when the rivers feeding the lakes reached a certain temperature, the waters would be chock-a-block full of a small silvery fish called “Smelt.” The head upriver to spawn.

In the extreme, Smelt will grow to be about 7 inches long and weigh a few ounces. In nature, Smelt are food fish for salmon and lake trout.

The run would last a few days or a week, and one could count on the media for an announcement of “they’re running!”

Men would pile into cars and pickups, boys would hop on their bikes, and all would head to the rivers, with the official tool of the trade, a long handled dip net and containers to place their bounty.

In those days, one could literally dip a net in the water and lift it out teeming with hundreds of fish. Some people would fill actual garbage cans to take home.

While the rivers were shoulder to shoulder with people clad in waders, the shores were dotted with fires – as one didn’t know how long the run would last (it could stop as quickly as it began), hard core enthusiasts would stay out all night. The fish were so thick in the river, playful dogs would jump in and grab them with their teeth. Can’t really say whether they ate them or not, don’t remember that.

Concurrent with the effort, numerous charities would set up massive tents around town, and host “Smelt fries” where you could buy a heaping plate full of the fried beauties for not very much money. Due to their diminutive size, Smelts are fried and consumed whole, heads, guts, and all.

The less adventurous consumer might prefer to take their repast at a local bar, where most likely the fish had the heads removed before frying.

So to recap, in my hometown, you can be served fried smelt once a year. Not so in Chicago, where it’s on the menu year round at most Greek restaurants, as well as any of the dozens of places that specialize in fried shrimp.

Chums Shrimp Shack in new on the scene in East Dundee, IL. They offer fried shrimp, clams, oysters, smelt, cod, tenders as well as daily specials like a walleye sandwich, or catfish strips. Also in their regular offerings are wraps and po-boys.

As I am writing this, they’ve been open about a week, and are in a location that previously served an outstanding burger. Bomba’s Grill. I wrote about it. Sad that it’s gone, but Chums more than makes up for it.

I ordered the Smelt, in case you hadn’t figured out where this piece was going. The seafood offerings come in ½ pound or full pound servings. Some competitors offer ¼ pound servings as well.

The fishies were delicious. A light breading with a mild seasoning (lemon pepper?), very crispy, bite sized pieces. Childhood memories flood back.

Think I’ll be a regular. I didn’t try their fries or slaw today, but I will. Maybe I’ll even be able to talk them into offering onion rings.  Full menu below or online.

Chums Shrimp Shack Review

Smelt on the hoof

Chums Shrimp Shack Review

1/2 pound fried smelt basket


Chums Shrimp Shack Review

Menu – click to enlarge

Chums Shrimp Shack Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Chums Shrimp Shack Review

Chums Shrimp Shack Review


Kiefs Reef Review – McHenry, IL


Kiefs Reef ReviewThere are lots of bars and eateries along the Fox River in Northern Illinois. If you’re a boater, you can navigate the river up to the “Chain of Lakes” where you’ll find even more choices. At nearly each one, there are docks to tie up your craft if you feel like having lunch, dinner, or a few bumps.

In the winter, apparently, they also serve as way stations for snowmobilers going up and down the frozen river.

Such was the case yesterday at Kief’s Reef, and also it happened to be a “wake/memorial” for a local denizen who had recently passed, and was apparently quite a popular person judging from the size of the crowd. It was elbow to elbow.

I might have chosen someplace different had I known about that, but once inside, I was committed, and I had looked at the menu earlier in the day, and had a hankering for their offer of a “School of Lake Perch” platter, served with fries, tots or chips, and a dollop of cole slaw.

Kief’s Reef, I understand, is very popular for their version of the Friday nite fish fry, a big thing in these parts. They also serve up a respectable pizza, a lot of wings, and prime rib on Saturdays.

The perch was everything I was expecting and more. Three large fillets, batter fried, crispy on the outside, tender, steaming fish inside. Tots were deep fried to perfection, as they should be. Ultra-creamy cole slaw had a little twist to it, as their recipe includes ultra fine diced onion. Nice change.

The burger was mammoth, hand pattied, and covered with blue cheese morsels, not some of the icky salad dressing so many people use. The blackened seasoning was just the right amount and there was more than ample bacon. The bun was bakery soft but sturdy enough to hold up as many toppings as you could choose to garnish your meat.

Video gaming, of course, too.

I’ll go back in the summer, sit on the outdoor patio/deck, watch the boats putt by on the lazy river, maybe have a beer, and admire the sunbathers.

Full menu.  Best server ever?  Kelly!

Kiefs Reef Review

Black and Blue and Bacon Burger


Kiefs Reef Review

“A School of Lake Perch” Plate


Kief's Reef Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Da Catch Review – Rockford, IL


Da Catch Review RockfordDa Catch seems to be a franchise, I’ve seen them in other cities, but I couldn’t find any info on that. There are a few locations in Rockford, IL, which is where I bumped into them. Fried fish is the specialty of the house, the full menu is shown below.

They also feature wings, tenders, and Philly cheese steaks, as well as bulk orders on the fish and shrimp, and a few other fried sides choices.

I grabbed a catfish “meal” which comes with 3-4 fillets, french fries, and I got a side of fried okra for an additional charge.

I’m gonna guess the fish is dusted with lemon pepper, seems to be a thing around these parts.

The breading was seasoned corn meal and not overbearing. Fries were good, so was the okra. At under $10, it’s a good value. The restaurants are “simple trappings,” seems like they are more geared to drive thru/pick up service than dine in, but there are tables. There are multiple locations in Rockford.

Da Catch Review, Rockford IL

Catfish, fries and okra

Da Catch Review

Menu 1 Click to enlarge

Da Catch Review

Catch Fish & Chicken Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Da Catch Review

Da Catch Review


The Flying Fish Review – Little Rock, AR


With about a dozen locations, the Flying Fish is a fish and seafood-centric eatery, offering fried, grilled, broiled and steamed fish and seafood, as well as po-boys, gumbo, tacos, and appropriate side dishes. The full menu of the Little Rock location I visited is here. A few salads, chicken strips and a lonely hamburger round out the menu.

The Little Rock location is “counter service” – you order back by the kitchen, await your vibrating beeper to go off and then collect your food from another station. Tables at this location are at the front of the restaurant, facing President Clinton Avenue (which runs to the Clinton Presidential Library, within walking distance. This is also the “marketplace section” of downtown, so there are plenty of other distractions nearby.

I ordered the two filet catfish basket, which comes with fries and two hush puppies ($9.50). I would have liked some slaw, but lately restaurants seem to think coleslaw has some actual monetary value and charge the same price for it as they would for most any slide, and I object to that.

This location has beer, wine, frozen margaritas, and the usual soft drinks, lemonade, iced tea and coffee.

I pronounce the experience a success. I’ve been on a catfish jag lately, and this was great. Crispy, light breading, easy on the corn meal. Pretty ordinary fries, and I can take or leave hush puppies. Something else I’m not sure restaurants should charge for.

If you’re in one of the dozen cities Flying Fish has planted their flag, I recommend it. Arkansas, Tennessee, and Texas only.

Flying Fish Review

Flying Fish Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


The Flying Fish Review

The Flying Fish Review


Gortons Shrimp Bowl Meal Review – With Black Garlic and Wine Risotto


Gortons Shrimp Bowl Meal Review I personally think that the sudden glut of frozen heat and eat meals at the grocery is due to the success of the “meal kit” business.

Those deals where they send you portion cut ingredients and a recipe and it’s supposed to be so easy to create a gourmet meal with no fuss.  ( I tried them when they came out, read about that here. Spendy and no less work, sez I).

So all sorts of frozen food companies have come out with meals, kits, and there are fast food branded ones, and even the big grocery chains and WalMart have their own take on the concept.

My experiment today is from the Gorton’s company, (over 150 years old)  the people you’re used to buying crispy seafood filets and fish sticks that never get crispy.  This is a shrimp bowl, with ‘black garlic and wine” (sauce) rissotto.

I know a dozen people who won’t even try risotto from scratch at home, so this is a surprise.  In smaller print, there’s a reference to ‘parmesan cheese,’ but to me, that was the predominant flavor in the rice.

Here’s the full ingredient list: (Cooked arborio rice, Shrimp (Shrimp, salt, sodium di-, tri-, and polyphosphate [to retain moisture], sodium bisulfite and sodium citrate [preservatives]), water, mushrooms (mushrooms, water, salt), olive oil, cream, Parmesan cheese (pasteurized cow’s milk, cheese culture, salt, enzymes, black garlic and wine seasoning (maltodextrin, dehydrated garlic, vinegar solids, modified corn starch, spices, malic acid, dehydrated parsley, black garlic powder, soy lecithin, lactic acid, jalapeño pepper, white wine solids, natural flavors), onions, corn starch, garlic (garlic, water), butter, white wine (contains sulfites), sea salt, parsley, tara gum).

There were  about 8-9 shrimp in the bowl, which are frozen solid, of course, so when you microwave (three minutes, stir, one minute) a lot of the trapped moisture in the shrimp is going to escape and they are going to shrink.  So I added a half dozen, because I had them on hand, and I could.  There are mushrooms, which retained their texture well. They look like slices of baby bellas.  The box says a “hint of parmesan” but as I said above, I think it’s a pretty dominant flavor.

The risotto was creamy as it should be and the shrimp remained very firm, as they should be too.

Bottom line?  I surprised myself and liked it.  Not sure if it’s supposed to be two servings or not, it wouldn’t have been at my house.  It was a comfortably sized serving for me.

It was $5.99 and a bogo yesterday.  There’s a coupon below you might want to try.  Their Entire product line.   Where you can pick some up.

Gortons Shrimp Bowl Meal Review

Frozen, out of the box

Gortons Shrimp Bowl Meal Review

Plated after microwave

Gortons Shrimp Bowl Meal Review









Gortons Shrimp Bowl Meal Review

Gortons Shrimp Bowl Meal Review


JJs Lakeside Cafe Review, Lake Village AR


JJs Lakeside Cafe ReviewNorthbound on US Highway 65 through Arkansas the other day, was feeling a might peckish and decided I was in the mood for some catfish, a specialty around these parts.

A quick stop and visit with the helpful people at the Lake Village Visitors Center pointed me to JJs Lakeside Cafe.

The kindly old lady advised me to scurry, tho, it was 11:30 and soon the townsfolk would show up and it’d be slammed.  So off I went. The big feature at JJs is a daily lunch buffet, where for under $10 you can embibe on several entrees, side dishes, a salad bar, dessert and tea. Seriously.

But I had somewhere to be, couldn’t linger, so these people fixed me a catfish plate to go, with perfectly fried fillets, crinkle cut fries and tangy slaw. I told them I was a slaw fan and they doubled up on the portion for me. Nice. Also got a monster ice tea (brewed) and forked out less than $9.00.

The fish breading had a slight kick to it, one of the Cajun seasonings or an in-house blend, maybe, very flavorful, enjoyed it bigly. Crinkle cut fries were done and seasoned to perfection.

Wish I had time for the buffet, no doubt would have been some other delights I would have enjoyed.  Someday.

JJs Lakeside Cafe is open Monday thru Saturday, 6A- 9 PM.  Sunday 10:30A – 3PM. Breakfast served all day, everyday.  Menus are below, click to enlarge.

JJs Lakeside Cafe Review

JJs Lakeside Cafe ReviewJJs Lakeside Cafe Review
JJ's Lakeside Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

JJs Lakeside Cafe Review

JJs Lakeside Cafe Review


Soul Fish Review – Little Rock, AR


Soul Fish ReviewIt can sometimes be a challenge to find satisfactory restaurants in Little Rock that are open on Sundays.  Fortunately, there’s Soul Fish, right downtown on Main Street.  Emphasis at this eatery is “bonafide Southern,” with a further emphasis on seafood. (See menu below).

We started with the smoked catfish dip, something I’ve never encountered, and I’m sorry about that, because it was delicious.  Smokey, salty, creamy, accompanied by tortilla chips which I would bet are made in house.  A light fry, crispy without being jaw jarring, light salt. The perfect go-with.

I went for the fried catfish basket, there are three choices for the size of serving, I went for the small one, since I was on the road, didn’t want to have leftovers.

The fry breading on the fish is exceptional. Cornmeal based, with a hint of one of the Creole seasonings (my palate isn’t sophisticated enough to tell them apart – could be Tony Chachere’s, Zatarains, Old Bay, or a concoction dreamed up in-house.  In any case, it’s really tasty.

There’s a wide choice of sides with baskets and plates, I chose natural cut fries, and slaw and hush puppies were included.  The slaw was excellent, rough chopped cabbage with a dressing that is creamy, sweet and tart at the same time.  Other sides?  Cucumber Salad • Black Beans • Corn • Cajun Cabbage • White Beans • Baked Sweet Potato • Fried Okra • Coleslaw • Black Eyed Peas •  Mashed Potatoes • Green Beans • Sweet Potato Fries • Broccoli • Mac N Cheese • Zucchini • Collard Greens • Pickled Green Tomatoes.

My dining companion was my daughter and after a major assist of plowing thru the dip, she opted for the Caesar salad with blackened shrimp added. Also delicious. Very fresh greens and the shrimp were cooked exactly right.

Children’s menu, desserts, beer and wine available.  I’d return.  You should go.  Appetizer, two entrees, two beverages, tip, $40.

Open daily at 11A. Soul Fish has four locations; in addition to Little Rock, find three locations in greater Memphis.

Soul Fish Review

Smoked catfish dip

Soul Fish Review

Fried catfish basket


Soul Fish Review

Menu – click to enlarge




Soul Fish Little Rock Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Soul Fish Review

Soul Fish Review


Panamei Seafood Review – in Grocery Stores Nationwide


Panamei Seafood ReviewPanamei is one of the brands available from Quirch Foods, an importer, exporter, distributor of quality products to groceries and industrial accounts.

They trace their roots back to the early 20th century in Cuba, then after 59, immigrated to Puerto Rico, set up there, and finally to establish a base in the Miami area, where they are today.

The work the entire gamut of food – beef, pork, poultry and seafood – fresh and frozen.

I was attracted to their frozen seafood because of specials one of my local grocers was running, several weeks in a row.  I hadn’t noticed the product line in the past.

First item up was one pound frozen blocks of lobster meat.  Their lobster comes from Central America. The package ingredients say: lobster. Period. You should slow defrost it in the frig for 24-36 hours. It is raw. I chose to steam it, then gave the meat a quick char under the broiler.  Mind you, this isn’t one or two small tails, this is loose meat, from tails and claws.  Good for sandwiches, salads, bisque, bouillabaise, and casseroles.

The reason I broke the speed limit to get to the store the day I noticed the product in the circular, is because it was marked at $7.  A pound. Lobster meat.

And it was delicious.  Yes, there are a few packs in the freezer.  This time around it evolved into tasty lobster rolls, split buttered, toasted bun, slight memo and finely diced celery bits in the salad.

Following week it was shrimp.  Good size (13-15), great value at $6 a pound.  Sourced from Southeast Asia, package ingredients, shrimp, salt, water.  The flesh was very flavorful and firm.  It was great on skewers on the grill. I’m damned picky about my shrimp, having lived in New Orleans for years. This meets the grade. Yes, I stocked up on this, also.

Check the products out if you run across them. Don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Panamei Seafood Review



Store locator.

Panamei Seafood Review

Panamei Seafood Review



Boston Fish Market Review – Des Plaines, IL


Boston Fish Market ReviewA Greek fisherman, the proprietor eventually made his way to the US, working in Greek restaurants, rising to head chef, but all the while aspiring to open his own fish market.

Eventually, it happened, and Boston Fish Market  grew and grew until it became the Midwest’s largest processor of salmon and whitefish, running through 300,000 pounds a week for their wholesale customers.

As a “market” open to the public, they have fish and seafood from around the world which they will happily sell you, provide you with cooking instructions and helpful hints for accompaniments and serving suggestions.  Even exotics.

BUT…..they are also a restaurant, serving just about anything you can think of that swims. Here’s the full menu.

Walk in the front door, and you’ll see the display case of fish and seafood for sale in front of you.  At the left end of the counter sits the cashier, order taker.  He’ll hand you a menu, you’ll make your selection (including drinks), and pay. He’ll provide you with a number table topper so the servers can deliver right to your table.

I had recently been on a tour of the Southeast which had left my affection for grouper unrequited. I kept running into restaurants who had run out. No such problem here in Des Plaines (the birthplace of Ray Kroc’s McDonalds empire, as well).

I had  a delightful plate of crispy, lightly fried grouper, on a toasted French roll, with fries and slaw.  My tablemate went for grilled salmon. Both selections were superb. They have their own secret tartar sauce recipe, it has a little kick and is really nice.

A peek at a custom feast!


Boston Fish is five miles north of O’Hare airport, just off Mannheim Road, the main surface street outside of the airport.  It’s 20 miles from Chicago’s loop. Market and restaurant are open Monday through Saturday, 1030A-8P.  Servings portions are AMPLE!

They are opening a second suburban location in the near future.  Go. Eat. Or take home and cook. Superb.

Boston Fish Market Review

Fried grouper sandwich


Boston Fish Market Review

Grilled wild caught salmon

Boston Fish Market Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Boston Fish Market Review

Boston Fish Market Review


The Sand Bar Review – Twin Lakes, WI


Sand Bar ReviewStop me if you’ve heard this.  So a few weeks ago I was on one of my food tours, back down to the Southeastern U.S., Carolinas, Georgia, Florida, and one thing I was looking forward to was a lot of seafood and fish, of course.

One particular item I was hot for was grouper fish, a quite common offering in Florida, I ate it a lot living there, and it’s also popular in Southeast Asia, so I had my share living there, as well.

So after having my fill at all you can eat catfish buffets, I started a search for grouper. Two places had it on the menu, both were “sorry, we’re out.”  Pretty much gave up after that.

So I spot it on the menu at this boater’s bar on the Illinois/Wisconsin border (literally). WTH?  They bill themselves as a “Tropical Oasis in the Least Likely of Places.”  Apparently the owner spent quite a bit of time on FLA’s west coast, and wanted to transfer a bit of the culture and cuisine to Illinois. I mean Wisconsin.

It’s cutely decorated on a marine theme, with nets and decorative fish and crustaceans, as well as theme “signage,” and a list of exotic sounding tropical drinks.

But I came for the grouper, fingers crossed, please don’t be “out.”  They weren’t.  And chef delivered.

Perfectly grilled, a dusting of blackened The Sand Bar Reviewseasoning (not actually “blackened” as the menu states, and that’s just fine, it’s a delicate fish. It’s plated as a sandwich on a toasted bun (firm enough to cradle the contents, pretzel bun available as upgrade), with a lemon zest mayo, which is an interesting addition.

Lettuce, tomato and red onion slivers.  Fries or slaw are standard accompaniments. I upgraded to get rings.

Rings have medium thickness of breading with a beer based batter. Done correctly.  Nice crisp.  Nice sized onion.

Lots more interesting things on the menu, worth a return visit.  I’m sure curious where they source the grouper around here.

Sandwich is a little spendy at $15.95 plus $1.98 upcharge for the rings, but this place is probably jammed jammed jammed in season and they have a captive audience.  If they can do, they should.  Oh, full bar including large selection of “tropical” cocktails.

Modest amount of indoor seating, outdoor patio for more temperate weather.  Server Cate did a fine job, checking in as necessary, but not too often.

Co-located facility has water toy rentals available by hour or day.  Boat launching facilities and dock.  Saw a sign for live bait, as well.

Finally, a note to women. I am told that the women’s facility is small and narrow.  To the point that the only place to put one’s purse is in the sink basin. Unfortunately, it’s an auto-on sink.  So if you don’t want a complimentary purse wash, have a different solution.  Might be good if a couple hooks were placed somewhere on a wall?  That’s all.

Highly recommended.  Menu is online and also below.



The Sand Bar Review

Grilled Grouper with Rings

The Sand Bar Review

Sand Bar Food Menu – Click to enlarge

Sandbar Bar & Grille Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sand Bar & Island Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
The Sand Bar Review

The Sand Bar Review

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