Buying Guide: Isaacson & Stein Fish Co.

By Caitlin Klein in Food on Nov 16, 2010 5:00PM

We’ve heard it time and time again: “It is impossible to find good seafood in the Midwest.” We may not watch the sun rise over an ocean teeming with fish, but the statement just doesn’t hold true. With more and more cooks focused on using quality ingredients in the home kitchen, the search for good seafood in Chicago is on -- and retailers and specialty stores are meeting the demand.

One of the best we’ve found is Isaacson & Stein Fish Company. Isaacson’s is at the top of our list for three reasons: first, the prices are extremely reasonable. Second, the quality is great. Third, going to Isaacson’s is a unique experience. Using gloves, you pick your own dinner and heft it across the store yourself to be cleaned or weighed by the friendly, if not very outgoing, staff. Feels pretty fresh to us. To be honest, after walking around and poking at the piles of slippery octopi and giant grouper heads, we were relieved to get out of there with some pretty commonplace salmon and trout filets.

The downside? Isaacson’s can be intimidating if you aren’t familiar with seafood. Catfish or perch? Baby octopus or regular? Copper River or Atlantic salmon? A newcomer to the fish-buying world may have some trouble navigating Isaacson’s multitude of choices, and may feel more comfortable taking a break from the fish guts and gore to sail through the polished rows of filleted fish at Whole Foods instead.

Isaacson’s is rumored to be where many of the city’s restaurants buy their fish, and it’s open to the public every day except Sunday. With whole fish displayed on ice, and selections such as giant shrimp, mussels, fresh-caught salmon, and Ahi tuna steaks, Isaacson’s is our go-to for great seafood in Chicago.

If you're too scared, you could just grab a pole and try for some Asian carp in the river. Otherwise, try Isaacson's. Go out, Chicago, and try making your own seafood dinner this week. Just be sure to invite us.

Isaacson & Stein Fish Company is at 800 W. Fulton Market, and is open to the public on Mondays 9am-4:15pm, Tuesday through Friday 8am-4:15pm, and Saturday from 8am-1pm. Closed Sundays. (312) 421-2444.