Monday, March 25, 2013

Lake Perch Special

Eating like a local:
Regional food specialties
-Searching for Perch around Northwest Indiana 

I'm a big fan of lake perch (get outta here with that ocean crap) but never grew up eating it. I would assume I had it at some point in my teens and enjoyed it as I do all other fish and seafood especially that which is fried. But I don't think I really grew a love for it until I started to learn of others love for it over at LTH and how over time its appearing on less menus. I would imagine it was the stories and the lure which triggered my itch for it. So I decided to seek out some places in an area where it was once abundant and has always been a popular eat. Come along across the border into Northwest Indiana and beyond and enjoy the tour. You know how we roll.

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Somewhere along US-41

I learned the fishing laws of Great Lake states as I sought out some spots. You cant commercially fish for lake perch in Lake Michigan. You can get a license and are limited to catch X amount each day but other than that fisherman have to stay away from it in Lake Michigan. So this means most of the lake perch at these places is coming from either Lake Eerie or Lake Superior.

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Signs of Perch are still around...though some spots are long gone
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Up For Grabs

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Whiting IN

This might be your best bet for a great plate that's not too far away. About 15 minutes from downtown Chicago, Whiting is home to the popular Pierogi Fest each summer. Coming from the city it's right before Hammond which was once the home to the popular now defunct Phil Smidt's. This place might of been my favorite from this list. What you see in the pic is only half of a plate as me and a buddy split one. The ladies working here were super friendly and the inside decor is very old school with the feeling like you're eating at someones home. Make sure to get their signature red boiled potatoes as your side. They pack some real flavor.

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Half of a Lake Perch Lunch
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Friday Night Fish Fry at Knights of Columbus

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East Chicago IN

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Some sights from inside

Every Friday during Lent the Knight's of Columbus in East Chicago host a Fish Fry dinner. This is just one of many Lenten fish fry's you'll find around this way but not too many of them have lake perch anymore. They offer an assortment of fishes and frog legs too at theirs. I think it was $12 that got us in as we beat the rush just as doors opened. Old people were soon to follow. After you pay and get your ticket they had a long line of side options for you to choose from. It looked like it was pot-luck style and all I really wanted was the perch so I passed on them and the deserts but enjoyed my fish fry featuring lake perch. I also scooped up some really great homemade butter cake the young scouts were selling.

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Lake Perch Fish Fry
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Chuck and Irene's Hotel and Bar

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Hammond IN

Since lake perch is kind of becoming an old school dish around the Midwest Great Lakes States you'll notice most of the places in this report have been around for a while. The original Chuck and Irene's started in 1947 in East Chicago. They moved to Hammond in 1959 and not much has changed except maybe the flat screens. This is a great stop on the perch trail. It's nestled in among the factories and they open at 6am and close at 3a. I've been here quite a few times and have talked to guys who were there before work and said they'd be back the next morning as soon as they were off. Indiana passed a state wide smoking ban but they're exempt from these rules. It can get cloudy inside.

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a peak inside

Friday is fish and seafood day and they do up some great plates. For those of you looking for your lake perch served bone-in this is your spot. They offer a "side" of melted butter (more like a melted stick) for you to dip your fish flesh in after you rip it off the bones. It comes served with a little relish plate and a bread basket before the good stuff. Maybe it was the butter? Maybe it's that like steak, fish tastes better off the bone? Maybe they're just experts at frying fish as the batter was perfectly light while extra crispy? I cant pinpoint the exact reason this $14 plate was so so great but it was.

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Lake Perch with Bones (Served Friday's when available)
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Town Club

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Highland IN

This place is always mentioned when "who has the best perch in Northwest Indiana" is discussed. It's reminiscent of many steak and seafood spots from around here that are now long gone. Though a few of them like town Club are still around. Their perch is delivered fresh on ice from Lake Superior and worth the ride from the city if you enjoy this dish. Also good are the handmade onion rings and their famous fried zucchini. Good atmosphere and good eats.

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Lake Perch Lunch
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Tradition's

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Highland IN

Around 1910 a couple opened a saloon and boarding house called Grimmer's for folks traveling thru these parts. That place is what Tradition's is today. It's gone thru a few name changes as time has gone by with it's most recent fit a popular place for locals to eat and drink and catch all Chicago sports teams on TV. I had a tasty lake perch sandwich for lunch. It was more like some lightly dusted pieces of lake eerie perch served on some locally sourced rye but I liked. They say they also offer blue gill daily but didn't have it on either of my visits. No food on Sundays.

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Lake Perch Sandwich
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Tiebel's

When Phil Smidt's went away I imagine this is the place most patrons who loved it and their atmosphere went to instead. Some folks must of preferred it since they've been around since 1929. It's a popular spot with a huge banquet hall. They're known for their fried perch and chicken. I like the perch more than the chicken but this place is probably the priciest of those on here. Some of the unhealthiest too as they give you cups of melted butter to dip it in. I think Friday is AYCE day. If you can eat enough, it might be worth the close to $40 it cost. They get really busy on weekend nights and also do take-out during lunch. More on them HERE.

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Lake Perch Lunch from Tiebel's in Schererville IN
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Dick's Restaurant

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St. John IN

I dont really remember how I found each and every one of these places but most of them were thru google searches and a few like Dick's came thru rec's of people I talked too. This is another one of those old school  steak and seafood places around the area. When we stopped in for the lake perch lunch around 3p there were a good amount of seniors eating dinner. Middle of the road as far as the fish goes but the difference in the best spots and the lesser favorites on this list isn't all that much. I do remember that Asian inspired slaw in the picture being some of the tastiest I ever ate.

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Lake Perch Lunch
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Boundary Waters Lodge

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Demotte IN

This place came recommended by some bikers one day me and a friend decided to try a few of the spots on this list out. It's a taste of the Northwoods of Wisconsin in a strip mall in Indiana. The owners spend some time there each year and wanted to open up a place in Indiana with the dark lighting and wooden stalls with animals heads on the walls tavern type vibe. The lake perch was one of the better batches with a perfect lightly dusted coat of batter before frying. One thing worth noting is that the fries included on most all these plates were average at best. I don't think I encountered a fresh cut batch but it's all about the lake perch.

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Lake Perch lunch
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Marti's Place

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Hebron IN

This place takes the prize for best vibe. Located in the middle of nowhere you would never find this place unless you happened to already be lost and drove by or knew where you were going. It's a really cool spot popular with bikers and who knows who else as there's not many other signs of life around. It sits on the Kankakee River between DeMotte and Hebron Indiana.

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Indoor and outdoor seating

Inside there's a really nice old school bar which on our visit had a bunch of regulars seated there. We sat outside and it was a great vibe on a summer day with boaters coming thru and the entertainment of feeding big fish with a big beer in hand. They offer feed for a quarter in a machine on the deck. The wings were pretty good as was the homemade beef noodle soup. The perch was as well. I think the mashed potatoes I opted for were from a box so maybe go with something else as your side if ever stopping in.

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Lake Perch Lunch
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New Country Lounge

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Hobart IN

Yet another old school place for locals to go on weekends for seafood and steak and on weekdays when the sun is still up for drinks. I remember stopping here on the way up to Michigan City one weekend having been tempted when I saw they offer a Perch De Jonghe. Shrimp De Jonghe is an old Chicago favorite that I learned to love thru my uncle who makes a mean one. Unfortunately theirs wasn't up to par with his. I should of just tried the regular standard of lightly fried filets. Though the lady working the bar here was great and it was a really friendly place. I'll go back sometime as I doubt they're going anywhere.

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Perch and Shrimp De Jonghe
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Lincoln Carry Out

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Hobart IN

For a little background history on these NW Indiana sandwich shops click HERE. There's a few and they don't have any relations with each other though if I'm not mistaken this one in Hobart is from one of the siblings of the LTHforum GNR original in Highland. I don't know if the original has a lake perch sandwich on the menu but I tried one at Lincoln in Hobart. Two pieces came beer battered on a bun with the usual suspects for toppings. I believe the fish was pre-breaded from the freezer to the fryer but still not a bad bite for $5.

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Lake Perch Sandwich
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Johnson's Fish and Shrimp

I've been stopping here a couple times each summer since my first visit a while back. They have a sister location in Lombard though I'm not sure whether or not they regularly have lake perch on the menu. This is still some of the best in my book. I look forward to some this summer when passing thru Lake Station en route to Michigan City/Long Beach and beyond. Great example of the family run fisheries and shrimp shacks that used to be more abundant around these parts.

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Some of the best I've ate in the state (Lake Station, IN)
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Old Style Inn

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Valparaiso IN

A while back I met up with the Grub Seeker around me for some brews and before we knew it we were off to NW Indiana. As me made the rounds around town we stopped in at this cool old school bar and restaurant in the downtown part of Valpo. Inside is a nice well kept bar that had plenty of old nostalgic beer memorabilia still up and a very respectable lake perch sandwich should you feel the need. I always do.

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Lake Perch Sandwich
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Islamorada Fish Company at Bass Pro Shops

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Portage IN

On the same trip me and a buddy took to try a few of the spots on here we stopped thru Bass Pro Shops for something and I ended up with a card for the restaurant connected to the place upon entering. The card mentioned they had fresh lake perch on special so despite being stuffed I convinced my buddy to stop into the chain restaurant to try it and a beer.

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View at the Bar - Venison Stuffed Mushrooms

They have a pretty fantastic fish tank. It's Las Vegas/NBA player lifestyle size for you to gaze at while at the bar. Ended up trying their signature mushrooms and they were good for what they were. The lake perch was the most uniquely battered of all the places on here and I enjoyed that. Even though it was a heavier batter it was the same stuff they use for their famous mahi mahi sandwich which has some coconut in it. Much better than I thought it would be, this was expected though because it was a $15.95 dinner.

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Lake Perch Dinner
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Swingbelly's

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Michigan City IN

I've been going to this place since my grade school days when they were in a small house like building down on Lake Shore Drive in Long Beach. They've come up and are now housed in the old Michigan City train station stop from the South Shore Line. This place is one of the only good spots in the area unless you wanna drive 15 minutes to New Buffalo. They do everything better than average and their new digs has some nice indoor and outdoor seating on the water. I really like their firecracker chicken sandwich and have also had the walleye which is rarer in these parts.

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Walleye Dinner

I didnt think their walleye was up to par with the other places I've had it at here in the Midwest but their lake perch is some of the best. Available as a lunch or dinner or as a sandwich, they have really fresh tasting filets of perch which are perfectly fried. Get their homemade onions strings to go with it. I eat this at least two times every trip up there. Looking forward to some this summer.

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Lake Perch Lunch
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Heston Supper Club

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La Porte IN

That same trip with the Grub Seeker we wound up down a dark road in La Porte headed towards the popular Heston Supper Club. This place is a really great example of this popular style of eatery usually found in Wisconsin but extending throughout the Midwest. Big people dining and all. I always go Prime Rib at these places but Jim went with the small Lake Perch plate. I tried a taste and it was just ok, it wasn't fried as good as others. I'd stick with their excellent Prime Rib. You should see it in a report sometime soon. Until then...

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Lake Perch Dinner (small person portion)
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Too full too continue. See y'all next time @chibbqking.
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Up for Grabs
1923 Calumet Ave
Whiting, IN 46394
(219) 659-4508

Knights of Columbus
1104 Knights of Columbus Dr
East Chicago, IN 46312
(219) 398-6700

Chuck and Irene's Hotel and Bar
6110 Kennedy Ave
Hammond, IN 46323
(219) 844-9812

Town Club Restaurant and Lounge
2904 45th St
Highland, IN 46322
(219) 924-5227

Tradition's Restaurant and Pub
2739 Highway Ave
Highland, IN 46322
(219) 838-3100

Teibel's Family Restaurant
1775 U.S. 41
Schererville, IN 46375
(219) 865-2000

Dick's Restaurant
10808 Wicker Ave
St John, IN 46373
(219) 365-5041

Boundary Waters Lodge
514 N Halleck St
De Motte, IN 46310
(219) 987-5757

Marti's Place
17519 N 700 W
Hebron, IN 46341
(219) 996-3363

The New Country Lounge
3700 Montgomery St
Hobart, IN 46342
(219) 942-6699

Lincoln Carry-Outs
1002 Lincoln St
Hobart, IN 46342
(219) 942-2113

Johnson's Fish & Shrimp
2619 Central Ave
Lake Station, IN 46405
(219) 962-1956

Old Style Inn
5 Lincolnway
Valparaiso, IN 46383
(219) 462-5600

Bass Pro Shops
6425 Daniel Burnham Dr
Portage, IN 46368
(219) 787-6800

Swingbelly's
100 Washington St
Michigan City, IN 46360
(219) 874-5718

Heston Supper Club
2003 East 1000 North
La Porte, IN 46350
(219) 778-2938

4 comments:

BBQ Binge said...

Well Done!!! Hard to fing Lake Perch in Western Suburbs. I usually make my own, however always better in a supperclub setting!

Anonymous said...

AMAZING!!!!

Don K. said...

Lincoln's in Highland has an ocean perch sandwich on the menu, but no lake perch.

Anonymous said...

Old Style Inn is my place. I'm going to have to venture out elsewhere now. Wonderful roundup,

Jim in Valpo

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