Got Crabs? Chinn's 34th Street Fishery does

March 12, 2010

Hey, nice legs (photo by Steve Dolinsky)

In the city, at least, satisfying a crab fix usually entails a trip to Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab, or cozying up in a giant red pleather booth at Shaw’s. But in the ‘burbs, the experts will funnel you either to the Shaw’s in Schaumburg, or more likely, to Wheeling, site of the legendary Bob Chinn’s Crabhouse. I still don’t understand how they get away with charging what they do, considering each time I’ve been there, I feel like a hereford being shuttled through a holding pen, “parties of more than four to the left of the rope, parties less than four to the right! Parties of two to the left!” Then there’s the interminable waits (probably because there’s no competition within the county); the super-sweet mai tais made with mixer and then of course the pleasure of receiving your fresh catch in wax paper-lined wax baskets. They tried to duplicate Chinn’s in River North several years ago – upgrading to real plates and all – but that didn’t last long, and the space is now a Fulton’s on the River.


Snow crab-topped fettucini from Chinn's (photo by Steve Dolinsky)

Just when I thought I wouldn’t see another Chinn’s for awhile, I asked my colleague, Tracy Butler, about her annual birthday segment. For the past few years, I’ve featured Tracy’s favorite dish – grilled cheese – during the month of March, close to her birthday. Last year, she told me she also eats crab cakes, so we had a few of my favorites on the show. This year, we’ve upgraded: Tracy confided that she’s crazy for snow crab, and I knew Chinn’s would have plenty of these babies flown in – either fresh or frozen. But rather then schlep up to Wheeling, we headed West – to Lisle.

For the past 14 years, Bob Chinn’s nephew – Stanley – has been running Chinn’s 34th Street Fishery on Ogden Avenue in Lisle, serving the same garlic and melted butter-coated rolls and tons of crab. I figured we needed a change of scenery and some new West suburban blood, so off we went to Chinn’s, and the results were very good, indeed. Dungeness, snow and king were all in abundance, and I loved the fresh shards of snow crab they plucked from the legs and deposited directly onto the fettucini. You can see the details at 11 a.m. today, or online here.


A proper Irish breakfast from The Gage (photo by Steve Dolinsky)

This weekend, every bar in the city is tacking an “O” onto the front of their names, trying to capture some of the St. Paddy’s Day magic (and bar business). Even though the big day is Wednesday, there will be no shortage of parties going on this weekend. Tonight, as part of my monthly feature, “My Country, My Cuisine,” I’m asking a friend to suggest a restaurant that reminds her of Dublin. I thought, surely, she’ll pick Mrs. Murphy & Sons Irish Bistro or Chief O’Neill’s, but I’m glad she chose The Gage, because while this restaurant across the street from Millennium Park certainly has its share of tourists, it also exudes the modern cool of today’s Dublin: ambitious food, served with a slight twist (roasted potatoes, with brie, for example) a proper Irish breakfast, lamb stew and a perfectly-poured Guinness. You can take a look at what we ate tonight at 10 p.m., or see it online here. Sláinte!


Fish & chips from The Gage (photo by Steve Dolinsky)