There aren't many places willing to spend the money and establish relationships with fisherman in Alaska. Shaw's Crab House and Bob Chinn's in Wheeling come to mind.
But don't forget about Joe's downtown. Even though they are associated with stone crabs from Florida. They're also getting in on the brief Alaskan king crab season.
This time of year, it's all about the crab. And at Joe's Seafood, Prime Steak and Stone Crab in River North, they're getting in hundreds of pounds of King crabs from Alaska.
Gary Baca talks to his crab broker nearly every day, finding out what's available over the next few weeks.
"We rely on his relationship with the fishermen, to get them to commit to come into Dutch Harbor at least once a week to offload, so that we have fresh crab to send down to the States," Baca said.
The crabs are boiled in Alaska, chilled and then shipped overnight to Chicago. Simple accompaniments include a small pitcher of drawn butter and fresh lemon.
At the table, there's a whole cleaning and plating ritual that occurs. First, the legs are broken into manageable pieces, with the aid of protective gloves, since each leg is dotted with tiny, razor-sharp barbs. Then each leg segment is cut up the middle with a scissors, revealing that magical, naturally sweet and meaty crab. Finally, the legs are plated and served, leaving the extras up to you. While lemon and butter are provided, these magnificent crustaceans really don't need much doctoring.
"King crab is one of those magical foods. If you don't over-think it, buy great crab, it's so good. It's succulent, it's sweet, it's got a beautiful visual. And the way we break it down, it makes it so easy to eat. I think it's a bonus with something that's already spectacular," Baca said.
The season is brief for fresh king crabs, maybe through the end of December if we're lucky. It all depends on the fishermen from Alaska.
Joe's Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab
60 E. Grand Ave.
Shaw's Crab House
21 E. Hubbard St.
1900 E. Higgins Rd., Schaumburg
Bob Chinn's Crabhouse
393 S. Milwaukee Ave.