Chicagoland: Seafood And 'Cue at Captain Porky's
Captain Porky's is the sort of singular spot people drive to without complaint and from far away. Attention to detail is why. Produce is locally sourced and, when possible, organic. The operation is run by siblings and Mediterranean ex-pats George, Dino, and Renee Kallianis, who source and press olive oil from their family farm in Greece. And the seafood, well, it's legendary for a reason.
Upon stepping inside this wood-trimmed spot, march up to the counter, or hang back to ogle the fresh catches, which are placed lovingly on beds of ice in the glass case counter. (Do the right thing, and grab some to go.)
Look beyond, and see piles of glistening barbecue, wood-smoked and waiting to be enjoyed by the loyal masses who flood the small space from open until close.
It's hard to put a finger on the draw of this dark, wood-beamed place—there are just too many reasons why you fall immediately, irreversibly, in love. There is no formal board touting the menu, so trust the staff or, quite literally, point and pick.
On this occasion, I opted for the fantastically meaty, undeniably smoky ribs ($10.50 for a half-slab), which arrive all dolled up with tangy signature sauce.
Then there's that seafood. The options are many, from Cajun catfish ($6.99 for a half-pound or $11.99 for a whole) to crab meat-stuffed, jumbo Gulf shrimp ($8.50/$16.99). But go for the plump, crunchily battered fried jumbo Gulf shrimp ($8.50/$15.99), and know you're in good hands. Feeling flush? Choose cold water lobster tail, soft shell crab or smoked wild salmon (market price, and worth every penny). Don't be afraid to ask about what you don't see. There regularly are offerings made on a whim, fashioned from what's been foraged or happens to come into play.
Even the desserts, which number two, are made with loving care. Grandma's baklava ($2.99) is not to be missed.
Really, it's the kind of place that defies categorization, the kind of place where superlatives just don't do. In the end, you have to experience it for yourself.
About the author: Jennifer Olvera is a veteran food and travel writer and author of Food Lovers' Guide to Chicago. Follow her on Twitter @olverajennifer.