In his epic 1983 road trip chronicle Blue Highways, William Least-Heat Moon rates eateries on the basis of how many calendars from local businesses such as body shops, real estate offices, and hardware stores the owners hang on their walls. “Five calendars: keep it under your hat, or they’ll franchise.” Restaurants that occupy a shack, or even better a truck, are sound bets.
Then there’s good old fashioned word-of-mouth. A packed parking lot at lunchtime is a good sign, though not always essential. On the street that divides Chicago from Greater Suburbia, where you can find Kosher sushi rolls, Jamaican jerk chicken, Dairy Queen, and Senegalese soul food, there is an eatery—takeout only—where fish and seafood are the only things on offer: raw, grilled, Cajun, breaded, or fried. That parking lot is jammed.
On one unplanned, hunger-induced pit stop, I pulled into the Fish Keg and paused in giddy anticipation beneath the sign, thinking about one piece of advice from Yelp’s tasters: deep-fried heaven.
My order of breaded deep fried walleye from Lake Erie has spoiled me forever. The crispy, nearly inch-thick fillet was glossy and shining white; the grease did not take a nose-dive down the front of my shirt; and the breading gave each fillet a crunch.
The Fish Keg is worthy of a very long detour as it is said not to be merely great, but depending on who you listen to, is the best Great Lakes fish in the city, the best in the state, maybe the whole Midwest.