When owner Dirk Fucik invited me in to his store, Dirk’s Fish & Gourmet Shop, I was expecting to get a little tour, take a few pictures, maybe sample some shrimp cocktail and be on my way. I guess I did not have the slightest idea of what was in store for me, nor did I expect to spend several hours at this seafood haven.
My visit to Dirk’s was more of an expedition. When I stepped in, my first impression was that it didn’t smell like a fish shop even though there was plenty of fresh fish everywhere. Later I found out that they clean the fish in a way to take special care to keep it smelling clean and non-fishy. First good sign indeed!
Dirk came out of the kitchen shortly after I had walked in, and after a quick greeting we sat down to talk about his store, which he’s had for fourteen years and is located in a bustling part of Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood. Dirk’s passion for seafood was apparent not only as he narrated the conception of his shop, but also in the strong bond he shares with his longstanding employees and well-trained fishmongers, some of who have been with him for 30 years. They truly are his second family. Second good sign!
His store is truly a hub for fish from all over the world; from the Great Lakes all the way to New Zealand. We took a tour of his shop, browsed through the freezers that house their original, homemade soups such as the oyster bisque, a variety of fish salads, many Cuban delicacies such as Congri (inspired by his wife who is Cuban) and an array of condiments and seasonings- anything you could possibly need to spice up your fish!
This man lives, breathes and knows his fish and he wants his customers to share in the experience. Dirk is one of the few food enthusiasts to go from wholesale to retail. His vision for his store was for it to be much more than a place to purchase fresh fish. In his words, “Fish is the original fast food,” and he wants folks to not be afraid of cooking it on their own and in their homes. So he and his wife offer cooking classes every Tuesday night. In addition, the store puts out samples of grilled fish every Saturday from 12-3. Did I not tell you he would do anything to spread his love for fish?
In addition to selling all different kinds of raw and cooked fish, they also offer a few specials and hot items such as crab cakes, fish burgers, sushi rolls and sashimi for purchase. And while Dirk stated to me his disinterest in opening a restaurant, the store does offer limited seating for in-store dining. Dirk asked me to sit at one of the tables while he whipped out some specialty items for me to try. And then he started bringing out a slew of colorful, flavorful and aromatic dishes, and thus began my tasting adventure! I ate shrimp ceviche with avocado, fish ceviche placed in house-made plantain cups, a platter of fresh oysters and more. There also came a smoked fish platter with the most amazing hickory smoked salmon, melt-in-your-mouth novalox and gravalox, and a dollop of delicious white fish pate. I got to sample the creamiest, tastiest dips with my favorite being the Blue Crab dip with old bay seasoning and mayo.
The Salmon Burger, which came out last, knocked my socks off! Who would’ve known that dill and arugula can entirely augment the taste of salmon in the most unique and delicious way. And let me not forget the plate of yellow tail, tuna and salmon sashimi I picked on as I devoured the rest of the food. Of course, I couldn’t eat it all, but happily took leftovers home. Now you guys know that a briny meal like this needs a sweet ending. Dirk is always a step ahead and brought out a mini key lime pie (homemade of course) and my only complaint about this dish was that it was the mini version.
Dirk’s Fish & Gourmet Shop is not your ordinary fish shop, so you should not expect to pop in and out. They care deeply about sustainable fish farming and only work with fisheries that support it. All of their fish is labeled with detailed information on where it comes from, where it was purchased, and even includes its Latin name. I’m so excited that my pescetarian and wannabe pescetarian friends now have a place they can go to, where they can, shop, sample, and get educated about fish. Dirk himself oversees the store most days of the week and I don’t think there’s a question he couldn’t answer about fish. Great product and even better hospitality! Go here now!
Dirk’s Fish & Gourmet Shop
Neighborhood: Lincoln Park
Address: 2070 N Clybourn Ave, Chicago, IL 60614
Phone: (773) 404-3475
Hours: Mon-Fri: 10:00am-7:00pm, Sat: 9:00am-6:00pm, Sun: 10:00am-5:00pm
Price: $4.00- $10.00