It all started in 1946 when a Navy cook finished his tour of duty after World War II. He left his destroyer in the South Pacific and set sail for Chicago's South Side. There, he opened a carry-out fried-seafood joint and dubbed it Ship Shape Shrimp Shack, a name that was hard to say but easy to love, thanks to his signature fried-shrimp recipe. For 30 years, he continued delighting customers and living his dream, minus the part where he could fly, until 1976, when health issues forced him to close the restaurant. A few years later, a local truck driver and food-service veteran by the name of Frank took over, renaming the place Frank's Chicago Shrimp House. Under the Navy cook's tutelage, he learned everything there was to know about the shrimp and seafood business, and enjoyed the same success through the golden-fried shrimp and seafood of his predecessor. Today, his daughters are at the helm, keeping tradition alive and well at four locations throughout the Chicagoland area. At those restaurants, they fry up the classics and mix it up with frog legs and New Orleans–style fried shrimp, pairing the crispy morsels with classic sides such as hush puppies, cole slaw, and french fries.
Beyond an ornate blue-and-white exterior, groups of family and friends celebrate any number of occasions over fresh Mexican seafood dishes. As birthday celebrants don sombreros and farmhands feed cogs to the mechanical bull, fork tines prod fresh lobster, fish tacos, and shrimp fajitas. Mariachi bands, DJs, and karaoke crooners also send music notes sailing through the dining room’s archways, as the 60-ounce Margarita Tsunami complements a whole red snapper doused with hot sauce. Meanwhile, live singers, magicians, and colorful cultural acts ensure eyes and ears feast as thoroughly as bellies do, during theme nights and shows that occur every Wednesday though Sunday.
Landry's, Inc. operates more than 40 restaurant brands with only two main goals: good food and good memories. Thankfully, each of their venues has a signature element that's hard to forget, whether the Oceanaire's fresh seafood?flown in daily?or Rainforest Cafe's animatronic wildlife that's almost as realistic as the Amazon's wind-up monkeys. Steak and seafood spots feature prominently on the list of Landry's locations, including Morton's The Steakhouse, Vic & Anthony's Steakhouse, and McCormick & Schmick's Seafood & Steaks. But there are standouts in other genres, too, such as the Italian trattoria known as Grotto.
One of the first things you notice about Tavern on La Grange is how colorful it is: hot pink and indigo lights wash walls in a neon watercolor effect, and the bottles behind the bar are backlit with red and fuchsia. Murals of art deco-style buildings and figures give the room another added pop. Pasta and steak dishes are among the menu's crowning achievements, along with the likes of lobster tail and lamb chops. People fill the restaurant's spacious, kaleidoscopic dining rooms throughout the week to take in bistro-style meals, drinks, or one of the establishment's periodic events. Those evenings are just one part of what the restaurant's owners hope makes Tavern on La Grange "a quality dining experience and community meeting place."
With its lapping waves and watery vistas, Lake Michigan makes for a decent approximation of the much larger Atlantic Ocean, where Jeff Mazza feels most at home. Still, the owner of New England Seafood Company Fish Market could not shake a feeling of homesickness when he relocated to the Midwest. "Sitting on a deck eating some fried clams and some lobster rolls, that's every weekend pretty much. That's the stuff we miss and couldn't really find too much out here," he told ABC7?s Hungry Hound.
Rather than pining away and writing novel-length emails to the family dog, Mazza reflected on what he missed the most about New England and put together a plan. Soon enough, he and his brothers had opened a restaurant and market and were busy importing seafood freshly caught in the Atlantic?s waters. Today, their menu includes baked haddock, pan-seared crab cakes, and the aforementioned fried clams and lobster rolls of Jeff?s youth. The lobster rolls?with their cold lobster meat, buttery seasonings, and buns imported from Boston?seem to have won over the most local fans. Serious Eats recently described them as "the purest, simplest version" of the sandwich found in Boston or Chicago.
The spring rolls at Moher Public House hail from the east, but not as far as Asia—they're an Irish take on the appetizer, boasting corned beef, mashed potatoes, cheddar cheese, and mustard wrapped and steamed inside a cabbage leaf. They aren't the only dish that's reflective of the Emerald Isle, either. Irish nachos pile scallions, tomatoes, bacon, and jalapeños onto fried potatoes, and classic entrees such as Guinness beef stew share the menu with American pub fare. Patrons can even mix and match their meals' country of origin by ordering burgers, crab cakes, or ribs before a bowl of homemade bread pudding, mixed with dried cranberries. The eclectic food offerings go hand-in-hand with a full bar, where shots of Jameson Irish Whiskey can be had for $3 on any day of the week. Daily food and drink specials build up to Friday's all-you-can-eat fish and chips: Atlantic cod in a Smithwick's batter, which, like all of the pub's seafood, has been certified by Safe Harbor. Live music plays on Friday and Saturday nights, and Thursday trivia rounds challenge teams with tougher barroom questions than "do you have a bottle opener?"