Try to imagine what it would feel like if an East Coast clam shack was dropped smack-dab into the middle of Lakeview. That's what Michael Kornick is going for, with Fish Bar, the meatless follow-up to his DMK Burger Bar next door.
Rock shrimp get a dusting and a deep-fry, then the casual placement in a paper boat. Crab cakes also get deep-fried, but here, they turn into "Crabby Pattys," dressed with shredded lettuce, tomatoes and pickled red onions, nestled into butter-griddled buns that have been slathered with Old Bay mayo.
Same goes for the excellent lobster rolls: that signature, butter-griddled bun, split down the middle, then spread with a celery mayo on the interior walls; a pound of tail and claw meat are barely dressed with olive oil, comfortably tucked inside. Kornick says not everything is fried or mayo-laden, however.
"So a tartare, carpaccio, ceviche a la plancha -- is simply grilled, whether it's calamari, jumbo shrimp, whitefish tonight," Kornick said.
Plump shrimp cocktail, with the requisite cocktail sauce, is kept company by a nob of horseradish. Oysters come from both coasts, and are shucked to order. Specials grace the chalkboard overhead. The clam chowder, however, is always on the menu.
Kornick says he wasn't sure how his idea of a fish shack -- with its limited, mostly counter seating -- would do in Chicago but he's been pleased with the initial reaction.
"I was thrilled by how many people identified that there's a little touch of Maine or New England, a little touch of Mary's Fish Camp in Brooklyn, a little touch of New Orleans, and that they've craved those foods but didn't know, outside of some of the really big wonderful seafood restaurants, where to get that," Kornick said.
Another brand new seafood-focused restaurant in River North is GT Fish and Oyster, which serves many of the same items, but in much more comfortable surroundings.
Fish Bar will take a reservation for a party of four, but that's it. The counter is first-come, first-served.
2956 N. Sheffield
GT Fish & Oyster
531 N. Wells St.