Deep Fried Chicago: Joey's Shrimp House
Joey's Shrimp House on Western is what you might call a revisionist fried shrimp stand. The no-frills, get-it-and-go look of its elder brethren has been reimagined as a warm, inviting, and nautical-themed spot that's just as comfortable for those ducking in for a bag to-go as it is for the sit-down diner. And behind the counter is a sight for these sore eyes: four double wide deep fryers in a row, each giving off the faint scent of fry oil.
Let's start with the namesake Fried Jumbo Shrimp ($9.50 for a half pound). Fresh shrimpy flavor and even corn-meal coverage were much appreciated, but an extended stay in the deep fryer rendered the shrimp unfortunately tough. Fried shrimp are temperamental—it's easy to cross the delicate line from toothsome buoyancy to dense rubber. The fry cook may have had one too many things on his mind when I stopped in, but just to be safe, I'd stick to the ethereal (and cost-effective!) specimens at nearby Redhot Ranch for your fried shrimp cravings.
Fortunately, shrimp avoidance means you have more room for the Fish Chips & Fries ($4.25 for a half pound). The irregularly sized portions of pollock are delicious, with a cornmeal crisp exterior that gives way to a moist and flaky interior. They're so good that I'm more than willing to overlook the humdrum fries. Cooked at the same time and in the same basket as the fish, the un-fluffy insides contributed to a mealy texture reminiscent of Wendy's fries.
Fixing the fry dilemma is as simple as ordering a side of Hush Puppies ($2.00) to devote your attention to instead. Even golden brown coverage, strong corn flavor, and the perfect crisp/tender ratio—problem solved.
Having never tried them before, I couldn't resist the urge to try Frog Legs ($5.50) for the first time. My experience was not unlike the one Dennis had last year at Goose Island Shrimp House. The taste is best described as fish sticks with a hint of chicken, and unless you have a particular affinity for the dish, I'd probably avoid it.
Regardless of what you choose to dip in them, the Housemade Sauces deserve special mention. From left to right, the Cocktail is classic, though tangier; the Hot is light on the vinegar with a strong kick; the Mango Habanero is spicy-sweet without being cloying; and the Spicy Mayo is a spot on interpretation that I'll begrudgingly accept as a substitute for the not-offered tartar sauce. If four options are too much, pair the fish chips with the mayo and the hush puppies with the mango habanero.
So after the dust settles, we're left with an exceptional fried seafood option, a worthy side, and sauces that complement. A spot that does one or two things so well that it's worth seeking out? Maybe Joey's Shrimp House isn't so different from its predecessors after all.