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Something Fishy This Way Comes

By Anonymous in Food on Jun 23, 2005 4:02AM

Red Snapper
We passed by this place a million times while driving on Halsted, but were always worried that stopping at a place in the Fulton Market area is going to get us yelled at if they only sell wholesale. (Seriously, we have visions of being run out of an establishment by an angry manager who is sick of people not wanting to pay retail for anything). Luckily L. Isaacson and Stein Fish Company sells both wholesale and retail, and they were very welcoming even when we showed up at 6:30am while they were still setting up. They had smiles on their faces while shoveling tons of ice onto the counters to keep the fish fresh, which seems like some sort of sick ironic joke for Chicagoans in summer. Isaacson is very clean, but we probably shouldn’t have worn sandals to the market, although the dogs enjoyed sniffing our feet when we got home.

We were hoping for some good tuna, mercury levels be dammed, and we were not disappointed: fresh tuna, 1 ½ inches thick, perfect size steaks laid out, for $13.50/lb. They had Alaskan halibut for $9.50/lb, Red Snapper filets for $7.95/lb, and a nice selection of clams, mussels, oysters, and snails as well as squid. Chilean sea bass, Mediterranean sea bass, and Corvina, a type of sea bass from off the coast of Peru. They also have a container of fish bones and heads…perfect for making fish stock for soup, and a container of those beautiful blue crabs that we enjoy but prefer that other people throw into the boiling pot of water. Isaacson

John Poulos manages Issacson, and said that it’s a pretty even split between retail and wholesale customers, and not just Chicago restaurants buy his fish. Customers from Michigan and Nebraska come to purchase seafood for their restaurants and markets, which is not surprising since Isaacson has been around for 85 years and has an excellent reputation. He showed us where the plastic gloves and bags were, which makes it easy for us to pick out the exact piece of fish we wanted. What is also nice about Isaacson (and any good seafood retailer) is that they will cut the fish the way you like it…removing skin, bones, cutting filets or steaks depending on the fish and how you want it trimmed. Good for Chicagoist, as we do not like fish heads on our fish, this phobia occurred after a delicious yet creepy crab-stuffed whole trout just would not stop staring at us while being eaten! Fish Cleaning

The one bummer about Isaacson is the lack of weekend hours, which they used to have. Apparently the overtime for the employees outweighed the customers purchases (understandable, but dang it!) and now they are only open during the week, from 6am-4:15, retail hours beginning at 8am (but they didn’t throw us out when we showed up early). We did return right before lunch (John recommended coming back when they were completely set up for business and the place looked “more beautiful”) and it was an easy trip from downtown. We took a cab, but as Isaacson is located one block north of the Lake and Halsted intersection, it would be just as easy to take a bus or the green line. Stop by during lunch and pick something up if you have a fridge at work…and if you do ride the buses home after work, hopefully they won’t be 30 minutes later than normal that day (bus #37, we’re looking in your direction!). Seared tuna recipe, coming up next time. Be sure to stop by Isaacson the next time you want fresh seafood. And say hello to John!

L. Isaacson and Stein Fish Co., Inc
800 W. Fulton Market
Chicago, IL 60607