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It's Seafood Time!

By Amelia Levin in Food on Oct 1, 2007 3:10PM


October is National Seafood Month! That's exciting enough on its own, but we're especially pumped because a bunch of restaurants in the city are cooking up some tasty fish specials to kick off the fall season. Who's serving what?

Tavern at the Park (130 E. Randolph): Cooler temps mean time for hot comfort foods. Try the big bowl of steamed mussels at this recently opened hot spot by Keefer’s chef John Hogan. Hogan puts a twist on the classic by adding chunks of yummy pepperoni to the white wine/garlic/tomato sauce accompanying the mussels.

Keefers (20 W. Kinzie): Back at his original restaurant, Hogan’s serving up a new seafood special: roast hake with a peekytoe crab crust and tangy-rich, tomato-butter sauce. Hake is a sweet, flaky Irish saltwater fish similar to cod that’s caught according to sustainable practices from the Gulf of Maine and flown to the restaurant next-day. Hogan’s known for making a point about getting his fish directly from suppliers he knows personally in Maine, Washington State and Hawaii to ensure everything is fresh and caught safely.

Sola (3868 N. Lincoln Ave.): Another place for good seasonal and local fare is this Hawaiian/West Coast-inspired contemporary American restaurant that’s a favorite among neighborhood joints in Lincoln Square/North Center. Try the Hapu Upu U. Look for the seafood specials like Hawaiian sea bass (not to be confused with the endangered Chilean sea bass) with Japanese heirloom squash from Green Acres Farm in Indiana.

Bin 36 (339 N. Dearborn St.): Chef John Caputo just introduced a new seafood-heavy fall menu with an appetizer list of “surf and turf” tartares, smoked fish, and lobster-infused salt cod cakes similar to crab cakes. Seafood entrees include seared ahi tuna, sea scallops, peppercorn-crusted swordfish and slow-roasted Scottish salmon with baby artichokes, spinach and a thyme-garlic butter sauce.

a mano (335 N. Dearborn St.): If you want more Caputo faves, head to his new Italian trattoria opening on Oct. 10 for some crudo (Italian-style sashimi of fluke, tuna and scallop), or the grilled monkfish with borlotti beans (similar to a white bean but bigger and meatier) and fennel sausage.

Prefer more off-the-beaten-path seafood gems?

Las Islas Marias (Various locations throughout the city): Have a hangover? We’re not sure why or how, but the seafood cocktail teeming with all sorts of bounty from the sea is supposed to rid you of all impurities. And it’s delicious.

KS Seafood (2163 S. China Place): This Taiwanese eatery in Chinatown features foods common to that land — simply prepared crab, lobster, clams, squid, and cuttlefish.

Mundial-Cocina Mestiza (1648 W. 18th): This Pilsen neighborhood Mexican spot ranks among the likes of “Nuevo Latino” giants like Cuatro and Adobo but alas, remains a hidden gem. Try the salmon al carbon grilled to order and served on a bed of caramelized green papaya and mango, with an avocado-cilantro aioli and chili oil, served with hot, homemade tortillas.

El Barco (1035 N. Ashland): This East Village gem whose name translates to “The Seafood Boat” has a two-page menu. A popular stand-out is the red snapper, prepared 10 different ways and (if your stomach can handle it) served whole and standing up, not laid flat on your plate. Mahi tacos aren’t bad either, in light of the whole media-driven fish taco revolution that’s been going on, and apparently gaining steam….