CHICAGO (WLS) --If your morning ritual involves bagels, cream cheese and some smoked salmon, prepare for a jolt.
That's because a new Lakeview neighborhood store is not only curing all of their fish in-house, they're also making some pretty creative spreads to go along with their bagels.
After working for a pair of seafood restaurants, Bill Montagne wanted to get back to his roots, dealing more with the customer, rather than the back of a busy kitchen. So he and his partner struck out on their own recently, opening their version of a New York City fish curing store, where it's mostly about the bagels, the shmears and of course, the thinly-sliced trout and salmon.
The refrigerated case up front reveals more than just an assortment of fish, it shows patience. Because at Snaggletooth - a new Lakeview café where the emphasis is on entire sides of fish that have been gently cured in salt, sugar and spices for days, nothing comes quickly.
"Everything here is made in-house. So we butcher our own fish, hand cure it ourselves, hand-slice it ourselves, and you can see that all done in front of you," said Montagne, the store's co-owner.
Indeed. Ask for a sampler of a few different fish, like trout or salmon or hamachi, and either Montagne or his partner, Jennifer Kim, will hand-slice it before your eyes, garnishing them with pickled mustard seeds, fruit preserves and some crispy, housemade matzo crackers.
One tip is to get one of the bagels - courtesy of New York Bagel and Bialy in suburban Lincolnwood - then hit the Shmear Bar, where you can choose from among a half dozen creative options like kimchi or black lime, then add a few slices of cured trout and some baby radishes for a hearty brunch.
The secret to their cure is spices, of course. But they apply them to fish that's been covered in cheesecloth, which results in a more delicate, gentle cure. After five days on a side of trout, or just two days on hamachi, the cure transforms the fish into a firm-yet-delicate ingredient that elevates anything it covers.
"We use some interesting things like pink peppercorns, fennel seed; we use an Indian spice called ajuwan, which has a really beautiful floral aroma to it," said Montagne.
EXTRA COURSE VIDEO: Snaggletooth
2819 N. Southport Ave., Chicago