Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A Free Guided Fishing Expidtion to Isaacson and Steins

I felt really intimidated going into Isaacson and Stein for the first time. I didn't want to look like I didn't know what I was doing. I was afraid of asking anyone questions for fear of bothering them, or being seen as an idiot. The piles of whole fish made me feel inept in my inability to clean them. But, it was all in my mind. People here are nice and there's nothing to be intimidated of!

So you can make the most of your first I&S fishing expedition, here's 8 tips for smooth sailing!
  1. Know the hours: They have weird hours. They're never open past 4:15 during the week, although they are open 8-1 on Saturdays.
    1. Try to make it in during the week: its worth it. Saturdays are always busy busy and the selection is picked through. I go on Fridays when its pretty low key. If they're not busy, the staff is way more willing to shoot the shit and help you pick out the right fish for your dish!
    2. Go early. If you go on Saturday, try to make it there as early as possible to get a good selection.

  2. Know the process:
    1. Grab gloves: There's a box of plastic gloves on the table on your right when you come in. You'll want them to handle the fish.
    2. Get your fish weighed: When you've decided on what you want, take your bag of fish to the table to the right of the door. Guys behind the table will weigh your stuff and give you a receipt.
    3. Pay for your fish: take your receipt to the guys at the window on your left and pay, cash or credit.

  3. Check the signs: Signs above the fish tell you more then just the name and price. It will also list where the fish come from, if its farm grown or wild, and if its fresh or previously frozen which guarantees you know what you're getting.

  4. Don't be afraid to ask questions. If you're not sure which fish will work for your recipe, how you want it cleaned, or what's the best stuff at the moment, ask someone. Just don't be offended if they don't give you a long answer. If they're busy, they can be brisk. It is a whole saler after all. I've always found them to be very helpful!

  5. Get Your Fish Cleaned: Once you've paid, get in line at the two cleaning stations to the left of the payment windows. After your fish is cleaned, tipping is suggested. I have to make a confession, I never have (eek!). These guys are so covered in fish juice, with thick rubber gloves on, I don't know where to put the money. Give it to them... put it in their pocket.... I've never seen any one else do it either. If anyone has advice on this, I'll take it!!

  6. Use the Fish Bones in Stock: If your getting your fish cleaned, keep the bones and head. You paid for it, and you can use it for stock! They also usually have fish bones in the back corner you can buy for stock as well. I only use whitefish bones though, bones from salmon and other dark varieties make a really fishy stock which is definitely an acquired taste.

  7. Be Prepared:
    1. Don't get grossed out: This place is stinky and there's dead fish everywhere. There's fish juice all over the floor. Like Cat B says, "Don't wear flip flops".
    2. Fish can rot: Raw fish and seafood are very delicate. Make sure you can go straight home afterward or carry a ice chest with you.

  8. Park your car! They have parking spots out front. How lucky! Well if you have a car.


IBerg said...

Thanks for the insight. BTW I find "hey, where's your tip jar?" works well, and usually gets you a little extra service. I love places with knowledgeable staff that don't look down at you. That is why I always buy my good booze at Sam's, those guys know their stuff as well and are willing to share info with you. Where did you get your goat leg from?

Meena said...

mmm... those mussels were so good!

Ira said...

This kind of "user guide" to Chicago institutions is invaluable. Great work!

Emily said...

I wish we had such an awesome fish market in Flint. :( Next time I'm in Chicago, you're making me mussels!

Andrea said...

Hey, IBerg: I got the goat leg from Halsted Packing House. Its actually right around the corner from Isaacson and Steins on Halsted and Hubbard. -Sorry for the late reply.