Since its establishment in 1936, Schaefer's has acquired a wealth of notoriety for its comprehensive yet complex assortment of complementary flavors. The drinkporium stocks hundreds of bottles of globally acquired wines, and fills aisles with unusual and exotic beers. The spirits department lines up anything from top-shelf whiskey to high-proof elixirs. And the gourmet goods section hosts fine, finger-friendly apps and pairables, such as imported French Saint-André cheese ($14.99 per lb.), Cacciatore artisan salami ($18.99), chocolates, and dips, making customers want to hold back a few shillings in their satchels. Because Schaefer's maintains its commitment to diversity and quality, items such as wine, beer, and liquor bottles range from a few dollars to a few hundred dollars each.
Greg Burhop doesn't hesitate when asked what makes his seafood shops different. "Our stores don't have that fishy fish smell," he says. As soon as fish starts to smell like fish, he explains, it's no longer fresh, a condition Greg and his father, Jeff, studiously avoid by keeping their shop stocked with just-caught, never-frozen goods. They do this by going right to the source—wholesale distributors in Alaska, Hawaii, New England, and as far away as Australia. Their connections with these distributors stretch over the course of Burhop's 85-year history, which started when Greg's great-grandfather, Albert "Pops" Burhop, founded a wholesale-seafood business. When locals started offering him money and moon rocks in exchange for the prized cuts of fish, Pops decided to cut out the middleman.
Today, Greg proudly reports that many of his loyal customers are transplants from the East and West Coasts, where fresh seafood is easier to come by. Ironically, Burhop's gets fresher stuff than many stores on the coasts do, thanks to Chicago's central location, which enables quick shipping from both ends of the country. In the shop, customers can watch as the four or five workers at each store skillfully prepare custom-cut fillets and caviar busts of Admiral Nelson. A series of online video tutorials hosted by Greg himself teach home chefs to prep mouthwatering lobster tails, tuna burgers, and more.