On another thread (regarding Phil Smitd's) there was a discussion about one of my favorite foods, Great Lakes Yellow Lake Perch. Surprisingly, I am NOT a great fish lover, but I absolutely love this special fish delicacy, a great meal of which I am forever in search of.
I have NOT been much of a fish eater all my life, but the one big exception (ah . . . maybe a couple) has been the Yellow Lake Perch that I was practically raised on when living on the "Sout' Side of Chicago." As a kid when my dad was alive, we used to go fishing on Governor's pier out on the south end of Lake Michigan. I remember many a day when we could not bait the hooks fast enough and caught buckets and buckets of yellow lake perch that we afterwards shared with friends and relatives back on our "block" in South Chicago. And on other times, my mother used to send me on Friday evenings during lent to local taverns, not for the booze, but to pick up a large container of fried lake yellow perch and french fries for our family's Friday lenten meal.
As the years went by, one of the most common fishes in Lake Michigan, Yellow Lake Perch, became among the rarest and the price per pound for the fish went through the ceiling. And because Yellow Lake Perch was so very, very good, it's price almost rivaled that of lobster believe it or not. (If you find that hard to believe, go to a good fish market in the midwest Great Lakes area and price YELLOW lake perch, not the imitation white or European Zander perch -- and certainly not ocean perch.)
On many Sundays afternoons afterwards, my parents, siblings and I used to drive in the old "clunkers" to far away places, including northwest Indiana, to have some good yellow lake perch at many great restaurants, including Phil Smidt's, Vogel's, and Tiebel's, with the latter being my favorite. Vogel's and some others no longer exist, but Phil Smidt's, Tiebel's and others are still around that serve to satisfy my lake perch cravings whenever I'm in the area. I've read a lot recently on how the Yellow Lake Perch (the ONLY true Lake Perch) population is coming back significantly after many decades of decline.
There was discussion about having a "Perch-off", which is an effort -- I think -- to go and taste the prepared lake perch meals at a number of good restaurants noted for having "good" lake perch and reporting on the best of those places, which I would be very excited about since it is one of my food passions. I would like to stimulate some thinking on this as well learn of others' experiences.
My memory is filled with a lot of cobwebs, unfortunately, but here are some restaurants that I can think of at this time for a great yellow lake perch meal:
1. Tiebel's Restaurant, Schererville, IN - I've eaten their lake perch and unique Dutch fried chicken since I was "knee high to a grasshopper." It has gotten very expensive in price at Tiebel's, unfortunately, but is soooo very, very good and on Friday's the yellow lake perch is always "all you can eat" for the same price. The fabulous fried chicken is always AYCE (if you get it family style). See http://www.teibels.com/
2. Phil Smidt's, Hammond, IN - a very famous place for lake perch in the old industrial area of Hammond near the big lake (Lake Michigan). It still has the old pink and black decor that it had back in the 50's. It's lake perch is very good, but I've always found it odd that it's coating (i.e., breading) was only on one side of the fish, but it is number one in the hearts and minds of many, many people.
3. Bottoms Up, Lansing, IL - this place looks like a bikers' dive, but don't be afraid and go straight in. It may at first look a little rugged, but it is completely safe and harmless. They have horseshoe pits, bocce courts, bean bags, basketball free throw shoots, and much more fun things to do (and booze, too). I usually talk the waitress into getting me an order an a half of their great, great lake perch, with a little cup of butter on the side along with their home made potato chips and it is really good. It's a little hard to find on Thornton-Lansing Road between the two towns. (http://members.aol.com/bottomup98/homepage/homepage.html)
4. Schererville Lounge, Schererville, IN - just about 10 or 15 minutes drive east of Tiebel's (above) on Joliet St. is another great restaurant that has some terrific yellow lake perch. It is my uncle's favorite because - as he says - it is the "crunchiest." And indeed it is. Never have I been to a place where the waitresses have a routine to get the food to you as fast as they can after it comes out of the fryer. Be very careful because when you get the fish, it will be very hot. Ask for a small cup of melted butter with it (or a little butter to melt over it). In the evenings, you can get just a regular portion or the "all you can eat" way, which I usually get.
5. Lake Forest Lantern, Lake Forest, IL - up in downtown north suburban Lake Forest is a great little lounge and restaurant that serves up some good food, including lake perch. I don't remember if they serve the lake perch all the time like the restaurants above do, but they may only serve it of Fridays, so you may be wise in calling them ahead to check on that. A really nifty place and the lake perch is extra special. (http://www.lakeforestlantern.com/)
6. Marti's Place - Ramsey's Landing, Hebron, IN - this place is great for yellow lake perch and all kinds of good food, but may only be for the real adventurous. I had a relative take me and a large number of people there last year and it seemed like we were in the middle of nowhere down in the middle of a cornfield overlooking the Kankakee River in the countryside near Hebron, Indiana. To my surprise it was a fairly large restaurant with many loyal patrons. Most of our party and those at the other tables were having . . . what else, but yellow lake perch. And it was delicious. Check it out at http://emartisplace.com/.
I'll add the names of other restaurants as they come to mind but hope some others can think of some good places where they've had some good lake perch from the Great Lakes.