-The Shrimp Shacks of Chi
Chicago is the city of roadfood. When it comes to signature food items that help shape the city and its food culture, the Second City is second to no one. Just like so many other regions, some of these staples and the places that serve them have long gone by and only a handful survive. Like the few fried shrimp shacks that remain as popular a part of Chicago as any pizza or hot dog place out there. In fact over time "Chicago style" wasn't just used for hot dogs and pizza but also for the way you'd find fried shrimp at all the old fish shacks gone by in the city. The Goose Island Shrimp House has been at its current spot in Goose Island since 1973. Its seen a neighborhood (Cabrini Green) go from one of the worst in the country to a rather safe one during its time. Just like any other great eating institution it is a family run place and has had the same employees for as long as I can remember. When I first got my license the Goose was one of my frequent stops for food and I still make my occasional visit there these days. Its got the power to give craves.
a Northside Staple and sick picture of it (Pic by Justin Kern)
Goose Island is what I would describe when asked to give an example of a "no frills Chicago locals type joint". You walk into a little room with a back counter and large storage cooler where they place the cans of pop and packages of macaroni and potato salads and house made hot sauce. There is a tall counter where they take your order, which you can give from the menu placed tall above the cooler. The walls have a few pictures and there are a few shelves to store bags of chips, saltine crackers, bottles of sauce and ketchup and photos and decorations. The menu is fried foods ordered by the pound, half lb etc...It consists of all the Chicago shrimp house regulars like shrimp, perch, catfish, oysters, scallops, smelt, frog legs etc...You place your order and you will get it in a brown bag and have to take it to your car or back home because here are no seats inside. There is however a Pac-Man game for you to play while you wait. Goose Island is not responsible for any quarters lost in the machine. The service is friendly and they have as wide of a clientele as anybody in the city and its hours are late and prices very reasonable. Its easy to see why it has many followers.
Holiday Season at The Goose Island Shrimp House
If your smart enough to figure out that-maybe the item to order is the one that's in the places name (shrimp)-then you might have the skills necessary to become a roadfood explorer. I've had a few different things over time but nowadays I always order the same. That's a pound of jumbo shrimp fried with a couple of hot's. The shrimp at GI is served "Chicago style" which means it has a well seasoned heavily breaded coating. I actually prefer a lightly coated batter but also enjoy this Chicago style version of fried shrimp from time to time. I think that of the places serving the heavily breaded Chicago style fried shrimp-Goose Island might be my favorite. Since it does have alot of breading its important to get the jumbo shrimp so that the ratio of shrimp to bread is better than the regular sized shrimp. A pound of regular will set you back eight and change. The jumbo is also quite the bargain at $12 a pound.
Brown bag fried shrimp is big in Chicago
What sets the Goose apart from the rest for me is their hot sauce. Also a part of every shrimp shack around town is whether you want cocktail or hot sauce with your fried food. At GI they use a housemade blend that is as good as I've had. I love the stuff. When you use it on the shrimp its an addicting combination. One thing you cant have if you eat here is a loose tooth. The breading is very crunchy and they are fried hard but the shrimp remains moist and juicy inside. Goose Island has served generations of people and all the stuff they used to do-like serve cans only of pop and sell saltine crackers by the package and hot sauce and ketchup by the bottle, they still do. Next time you find yourself up and hungry after midnight and wanting something other than tacos-shoot over to the Goose. Its right off the Kennedy expressway on Division. They are open until 5a Monday thru Saturday.
Goose Island Jumbo Shrimp with their signature hot sauce
Goose Island Shrimp House
1011 West Division Street
Chicago, IL 60642