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Seafood/fish: Catch 35 and Shaw's

In town on business. Wanted fish/seafood. Tried two places - Catch 35 and Shaw's. Keep in mind that I'm a "certain age" and was always taught to never order fish or seafood in the midwest...beef comes from the midwest; they don't have good seafood. Well, not that it is sustainable, but shellfish and most fish is shipped all over the place by air cargo now.

The concierge recommended Catch 35 and while there was little info on this board, what I could find was all positive. The online menu seemed good. So off we went. It is very convenient from all points in the Loop and easy to find. It is attractive and comfortable in a corporate sort of way. We were disappointed to see people dressed like slobs walking in. Granted it is summer and people want to be comfortable. I live in DC and I see the exhausted tourists and don't expect them to be fashion plates but I do hope that if they go to nice restaurants they will go back to the hotel and change out of the baggie shorts and t-shirts and put on a clean shirt and slacks. I wouldn't dress like a slob in someone else's city but apparently that's one more standard that is passe.

If you want quiet, ask to be seated in the back of the long, narrow restaurant. There is a live band (very good) in the bar area and then the center area is across from a semi-open kitchen. Service was good/attentive and timing was good but again, in a corporate sort of way. The server described dishes but she didn't seem to actually know food. She was just well-trained. Fortunately, that did not include upselling. We each ordered a glass of red wine. It was overpriced but very good. We then shared a pot of mussels in a lemongrass broth. Excellent! The mussels were small but of extremely good quality and properly cooked. The broth was delicious and the sour dough bread was given to us in ample quantity to soak up the extra broth. I had swordfish topped with three shrimp, served with chimichurri sauce. Hard to imagine fish standing up to chimichurri, but it did. I didn't eat the fingerling potato salad it was served on. It was an odd accompaniment and one that did not enhance the fish at all. The fish itself was delicious, as was the shrimp. Husband had yellowfin tuna with a sichuan glaze. Sichuan should have a kick to it. This was just sweet. It was properly cooked but not very good. The chive pot sticker that came with it was truly awful. A huge, doughy, gloppy, sweet mess. The two large battered onion rings were OK.

The big issue here is not the fish or shellfish. It's too many ingredients. Good seafood doesn't need all those heavy, gooey, fussy sides. The mussels were perfect as is. They didn't need the jalapeno dipping sauce that came with them. The swordfish and shrimp with the chimichurri were also very good and properly cooked. They didn't need that bizarre fingerling potato salad.

We didn't have dessert.

So bottom line is that they have good quality fish, they know how to cook it, but someone needs to re-think the overall composition of the plate. Simple sides would be great. Some nice fresh seasonable vegetables, for instance.

Value was OK - $120 including tax and tip. About what you'd expect for a Loop restaurant.

Shaw's was the night before. I had a hunch that it was not an authentic "old" Chicago place because it was not grungy or shabby looking. However, I didn't know until the next day that it was actually a newish Lettuce Entertain You place. It was that well-designed and executed - it didn't seem phony or kitschy. It had a great vibe. It was packed and everyone seemed happy. Good music, too. Had a great cocktail called a Corso something or other. Not on the online menu. Had red ruby grapefruit juice and orange liquer, among other things. Super-refreshing. Mixed green salad - very fresh, very good. Shared blue crab spring rolls with my companion. Meh. I'm from Maryland and should never have ordered blue crab. It was almost guaranteed to be a disappointment. The crab was mushy and flavorless and really didn't belong in a spring roll to begin with. Then had three yellowfin tuna tacos w/ ginger soy vinaigrette and sriracha. Really terrific - fresh, light, excellent quality fish.

Service was good - efficient, friendly, professional.

Overall, I enjoyed Shaw's much more than Catch-35. They are so different that it really depends on what you are in the mood for but in terms of overall quality and value, as well as menu and preparation, I'd choose Shaw's.

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  1. The next time you're in Chicago with a yen for seafood I suggest trying L2O, if it fits your budget. They are considerably more expensive but the food is exceptional.

    I just saw a list of the "Top 100 Restaurants in the World" which had Alinea as # 1 and, a bit of a surprise to me, L2O as number 18.

    We dined there a few weeks ago (second time but first with this new chef) and were really impressed with the food and the wine pairings. http://l2orestaurant.com/

    2 Replies
    1. re: willyum

      I would add GT Oyster to that list.

      1. re: willyum

        Thanks. The menu looks VERY enticing but it looks like the choices are tasting menu or prix fixe only?

        And interesting - also a Lettuce Entertain You. They have some range...from Maggiano's Little Italy and Wildlife - both have locations in my area and both are meh at best, dreadful at worst ....to this place, which looks like it really knows how to handle fish and seafood, and Shaw's, which was highly credible in terms of fish and seafood.

      2. Totally agree with you. Catch 35 is still an early 90's corporate lunch place that really needs an update, the quality, however, is always good.

        If you return try the Oyster Bar side of Shaw's, high tops a big bar and more casual atmosphere.

        And if you return, please bring me two G&M crab cakes. I miss them.

        1. As for Shaw's being "newish," it's not as old as the decor suggests but it's been around for nearly 30 years.

          2 Replies
          1. re: ferret

            That speaks volumes. It is rare for restaurants to survive 5-7 years. If a place has been around 30 years and is still packed everynight despite being a bit pricey, it must be worth a try. And it was.

            1. re: Just Visiting

              Shaw's may be a bit pricey but I can honestly say I've never been disappointed with a visit (and I've been going there nearly as long as it's been open). You do get value for your money.

          2. I have visited Shaw's twice during recent visits to Chicago and I was really impressed with the quality of the seafood and the execution of the dishes. I have recommended it to local Chicago friends as well and we have all been pleased with our dining choice. I also didn't think Shaw's was pricey but rather a good value for dollars spent. A similar meal in Los Angeles would have been significantly more expensive.

            1. You should try the bear and the bull bar/pub. They have a salmon dish which is sauted salmon, over spinach, and sticky rice. [Surrounded by a potato flake ring.] It's freaking awesome.

              1. We have a brand spanking new Peruvian spot in town also. Tanta is on Grand near Franklin and is a sister restaurant to LaMar (in SF, NY and various South American locations). It's part of Gaston Acurio's growing empire. Terrific ceviches and seafood specialties.

                1. I'm not sure what you mean by "grungy" or "shabby" as such restaurants would probably be shut down for health code violations but if you want old and or authentic perhaps you should dine at Calumet Fisheries. Great atmosphere and nothing beats eating in your car or on the hood. Also, Troha's Chicken and Shrimp is also excellent. Newer but also great places would include New England Seafood Company and also Big and Little's. By the way, "Lettuce" restaurants have great reputations. Perhaps you've heard of Everest or Tru?

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: hoppy2468

                    Well, the food snobs where I am from frown on chain restaurants, although some of their sacred cows certainly qualify as chains if you just count common ownership or number of locations (Jose Andres has FOUR Jaleo locations not to mention the seven or so other restaurants in the Think Food Group). So I've been brainwashed by the uber-foodies in this town, I guess. Second, I've been to several Lettuce restaurants including Wildfire (lousy), Mon Ami Gabi (food not bad but trying just a touch too hard on the Parisian bistro thing - tone it down!), and Maggiano's Little Italy (dreadful). So I have my own experience with Lettuce and it hasn't been great.
                    Yes, I have heard of Tru, haven't heard of Everest, so I don't know if they are better or worse than the three I have tried.

                    Shabby would NOT get a restaurant shut down. Shabby is not a health-code violation. By shabby I mean well-worn. Paint perhaps rubbed away by thousands of elbows on the table. The smell of Old Bay ground right into the walls. The occasional floor board grooved from decades of footsteps. Like Crisfield in Silver Spring, MD.



                    1. re: Just Visiting

                      By the way, Magiano's is NOT an LEYE any more. It was first created in Chicago by Rich Melman, but for nearly 20 years has been owned by the Brinker Restaurant Group (that also owns Chile's).

                      I am a little bummed that you think Wildfire is lousy since I think for what it is, it's actually quite good. It's price point is significantly below the standard steakhouse and it's meant as a family supper club style. When I want a good steak, very good sweet baked potatoe, or most often when I order non steak items that are always 100% consistent, that's Wildfire.

                      That said your LEYE has only been with their mid-range restaurants that are exactly as designed. Very good food, 100% consistency, great service at a moderate price point.

                      1. re: jbontario

                        Maggiano's Little Italy is still listed on the LEYE site:


                        As for Wildfire, the one in McLean, VA was lousy. As for being mid-price, well, a burger is $12.00. We have several places here where you can get a phenomenal burger for that price. The steaks range from $27 to $40. Again, we have a number of places here where I can get the same cut for that price (or even less) and it will be a great steak.

                        1. re: Just Visiting

                          Yes, since Magianno's was originally started as LEYE, they remained in the points program and therefore are on the website, but alas it has not been owned by Rich Melman since 1995.

                          Now to continue my view on Wildfire--we have different views of what midprice is and I spend a lot of time in DC and have an office in Tyson's so i've eaten at that Wildfire, its exactly the same as the other three locations. I will agree, the regular burger at Central Michel Richard is 10x better but it's $17 and the tuna burger is $21. The best burger i've ever eaten was at BLT Grill in lower Manhattan which was a dry-aged steak burger, but it was $27. As far as steaks, where can you get a bone-in filet for $40 (the most expensive cut on the menu)? At the big Chicago steak houses, Chicago Cut which is one of the best for example, the bone-in filet is listed as Market Price when available and last month when we were there, I think it was $58. You're right, i would never send a foodie for a great meal at Wildfire, but we take the little kids there for great Tuesday night casual dinners.

                          That all typed, please provide me some recs for a great burger in Greater Washington.

                          1. re: jbontario

                            Ray's to the Third (Arlington) and Ray's the Classics (Silver Spring). Even with the luxury toppings, you'd be hard-pressed to spend $15. Your basic burger with any number of free toppings is $10. And best burgers you can imagine. They are absolutely delectable. The most expensive steak (at Ray's the Steaks (Clarendon) or Ray's the Classics is $32.99 including the sides and equally phenomenal. It is a NY Strip. Trust me, you will really enjoy this food.