The Over 21 Club »

Reviews of classic restaurants.

The Over 21 Club: Goose Island Shrimp House

Editor's note: The Over 21 Club series features Chicago restaurants that have been around for over 21 years. They must be doing something right, so we'll visit them and see why.

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[Photographs: Dennis Lee]

Goose Island Shrimp House

1011 West Division Street, Chicago, IL 60642; (map); -312-642-3640;
Open Since: 1973
Cuisine: Fried Seafood
Cost: 1/2 Order Fried Jumbo Shrimp ($6.00); 1/2 Order Fried Frog Legs ($4.50); 1/2 Order Fried Scallops ($4.50); 1/2 Order Fried Oysters ($5.00); Fried Clams ($1.50)

I have always, always, always, wanted to eat at Goose Island Shrimp House. I'll admit, knowing it was just a few blocks away from the infamous Cabrini-Green housing project made me nervous, because I'm sort of a big baby. Just ask my girlfriend. I don't know why I was such a wiener about it; I used to skateboard by myself around there late at night when I was bored. The only thing that ever happened to me was that a homeless guy called me "The Silver Surfer" because I was riding a longboard (which is the kind of skateboard people ride when they can't actually skateboard).

Cabrini-Green was demolished early last year, and all that remains is an empty field and a busted-ass stretch of pavement down Division. And, of course, there's the Goose Island Shrimp House. There aren't any places to sit, no standing countertops, and if you're bored, there's two arcade games and a pinball machine.

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The first thing I tried, out of total curiosity, were the fried frog legs. The last time I saw frog legs was in high school biology class, and I'd never eaten any before. My dad bought some once. My mom wouldn't cook them, and made him throw them away.

As soon as I pulled them out of the bag, there was absolutely no mistaking what they were. That's when my girlfriend ran away, shrieking. I felt a little weird, looked at them, said "fuck it," and then bit into one. And guess what? Frog legs really do taste like chicken. Like...fishy chicken. Goose Island Shrimp House's signature breading is thick, crunchy on the outside, and bready on the inside, giving Kermit's legs a pretty high starch-to-Kermit ratio. Would I order them again? I'm not sure.

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The fried oysters are easily the biggest ones I've ever seen, anywhere. This was only half of the order! I love oysters in any form: raw, cooked, you name it. I just wasn't feeling these. They were fishy, and not in the good way.

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But all is never lost—I loved the rest of the food I ordered. The clam strips were likely frozen and then deep fried, but I used to eat them as a kid and loved them with ketchup. Turns out, that hasn't changed. They're $1.50 and I could have easily eaten three orders.

The fried scallops were crunchy on the outside and tender and moist on the inside, and surprisingly large. And those giant shrimp you see? They were my favorite. They're large, firm, meaty, and with that thick crunchy breading. I will be back for those shrimp, no question whatsoever.

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Goose Island Shrimp House is also known for their interesting orange hot sauce. It looks like buffalo sauce, but that color is deceptive; it's very tangy, but it doesn't taste like buffalo sauce, which is the mystery. Does anybody know what it's made of?

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Since I was eating at home, I figured I'd try to give our cat Cricket a bite. She likes donuts better, but she's also a really weird cat. Like me.

About the author: After a failed attempt at starting a chain of theme restaurants called "Smellen Keller," Dennis Lee traveled the world to discover his true passion. Sadly, midwifery didn't pan out. Now he works in a cubicle, and screws around as much as possible. Follow his shenanigans on Twitter.

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