When you think of “Chicago food,” most likely deep dish pizza and hot dogs come to mind; but a ‘native dish’ in Chicago is fried shrimp, and you’ll find local chains competing for the best recipes and reviews. The oldest, and arguably the best, is Frank’s Chicago Shrimp House, with four locations.
I lived in Chicago twice and didn’t know this, and having lived in New Orleans for some time, I’ve become kind of a shrimp snob. There are thousands of shrimp species, varying in size and color, dependent upon their habitat. In recent years, methods of farming shrimp have become more developed, and a great deal of the shrimp you purchase in the grocery or at a restaurant was farm raised (not caught in the wild). Shrimp are sorted by the number per pound, with 10 U (under 10) the largest available in the US. 11-15 would be considered “jumbo” by most any classification system.
I’ve been lucky to have even bigger, in the hospitable warm and food rich waters of Southeast Asia… I’ve also had the pleasure of purchasing shrimp right off the boats in both New Orleans and along the Texas Gulf Coast. Shrimp boats ply most of the Gulf Coast and you can regularly get the freshest shrimp available anywhere at a bargain price…..bring your cooler. In addition to fresh Gulf shrimp, my very favorite is Key West shrimp, known by their bright pink color and sweet meat.
All that to say, you won’t find any pond raised shrimp at Frank’s. Born in 1946 as the Ship Shape Shrimp Shake the business flourished for thirty years until ill health caused the owner to shut it down. A few years later, a local businessman got together with the former owner with a plan to reopen. Frank’s opened with the old recipes, and the founder’s philosophy of selling the freshest seafood as inexpensively as possible, and was an immediate success. These day’s, Frank’s daughters run the four current locations while developing more expansion plans.
The menu is brief. Buy by the plate, pound, or partial pound. Fried shrimp (regular), Chicago style (spiced fried), Catfish, Scallops, Perch, Chicken Strips and Frog Legs. Sides include fries, rings, zucchini, slaw, and a few other items. The top price on the menu is $20 / pound for the shrimp, a fairly reasonable price. Eat in or take out.
I opted for some Chicago style shrimp and some cat, with a few fries on the side. Everything was fried perfectly and the ‘seasoned’ pieces had a slight hint of heat. Shrimp are good sized with just the right firmness, and cooked when you order. A choice of condiments is offered: seafood sauce, bbq, tartar, lemon juice, and one other I forgot already.
This is great stuff.