Issacson & Stein. A Chicago institution that’s been around for over 80 years. Everyone knows the place, but have you ever been in there? When I worked downtown many moons ago, sales people would leave midday to pick up shrimp and oysters for their family dinners, while I was stuck at my desk creating their ads. Once, I got of work early and stopped in, but it was only a few minutes before they were closing. I could never make it in during the week, and by the weekend I had no desire to trek back downtown. Recently, I was in the neighborhood while Issacson & Stein was open (!) and made a point to stop in. Hopefully they had some Branzino fish so that I could try a new recipe from my Nom Nom Paleo cookbook. The store was much tinier than I remembered. I also didn’t recall it being self-serve before. When you come in, you can grab a basket, some plastic gloves and as many plastic bags as you need. They really give you the option to choose exactly which fish you want, with your gloved hands, instead of telling someone, “no, not that one, the one next to it.”
Everything was so fresh – the place had no fish odor to it. While they didn’t have the Branzino I was looking for, I knew I could substitute rainbow trout in the dish. They had Fresh Farms beaten by 15 cents on their oyster price: they were only 60 cents each, but I wasn’t in the mood for oysters that day.
Once you’re done with your selection, you bring it to a counter where it’s weighed. From there, you get an adding machine receipt which you take up to the counter to pay. Fortunately, my rainbow trout was already cleaned, but if it wasn’t, I’d just have to bring it to the cleaning section after I paid. Issacson & Stein is definitely a self-service, no frills fish place with good prices. It’s also a Chicago institution.
Issacson & Stein Fish Company. 800 West Fulton Market, Chicago, IL 60607. 312-421-2444. Monday 9am-4:15pm, Tuesday-Friday 8am-4:15pm, Saturday 8am-1pm, Closed Sunday.