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#1
Posted March 6th 2007, 8:00pm
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.
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#2
Posted March 6th 2007, 9:30pm
Really great post, BTB. I suspect I'm not the only one who just penciled in a few spring/summer road trips. Thanks for the tips and info.
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#3
Posted March 6th 2007, 9:48pm
Mike G wrote:Really great post, BTB. I suspect I'm not the only one who just penciled in a few spring/summer road trips. Thanks for the tips and info.


Ditto, I'm thinking about Phil Schmidt's one Friday this month.
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#4
Posted March 8th 2007, 6:14pm
FOLKS, LATELY PHIL SCHMIDT'S IS A GHOST TOWN . I GO IN ON FRIDAY AND SATURDAY NIGHTS AND THE PLACE IS EMPTY. ITS STILL THE SAME FOOD ALTHOUGH I HEAR A LOT FROM PEOPLE WHO THINK ITS NOT. THE ONLY THING THATS CHANGED ARE THE PRICES. ITS NOT A CHEAP MEAL BUT I THINK ITS WORTH THE MONEY . I HAVE TOLD MANY FRIENDS TO DINE THERE AND TOLD THEM IF THEY DID NOT LIKE IT I WOULD PAY FOR THEIR MEAL. I HAVE NOT HAD TO PAY ONE PENNY OUT OF MY POCKET ! IF SCMIDT'S CAN STAY OPEN UNTIL 2010 IT WILL HAVE BEEN OPEN FOR 100 YEARS ! GIVE IT A TRY
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#5
Posted March 8th 2007, 6:56pm
dbrick59 wrote:FOLKS, LATELY PHIL SCHMIDT'S IS A GHOST TOWN . I GO IN ON FRIDAY AND SATURDAY NIGHTS AND THE PLACE IS EMPTY. ITS STILL THE SAME FOOD ALTHOUGH I HEAR A LOT FROM PEOPLE WHO THINK ITS NOT. THE ONLY THING THATS CHANGED ARE THE PRICES. ITS NOT A CHEAP MEAL BUT I THINK ITS WORTH THE MONEY . I HAVE TOLD MANY FRIENDS TO DINE THERE AND TOLD THEM IF THEY DID NOT LIKE IT I WOULD PAY FOR THEIR MEAL. I HAVE NOT HAD TO PAY ONE PENNY OUT OF MY POCKET ! IF SCMIDT'S CAN STAY OPEN UNTIL 2010 IT WILL HAVE BEEN OPEN FOR 100 YEARS ! GIVE IT A TRY


Welcome dbrick59 :)

Just a heads up: posting in all-caps is considered "shouting." Rest assured your future posts in lowercase will get read.
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#6
Posted March 8th 2007, 7:27pm
Someday, someday, I will catch a yellow perch that's big enough to eat, and will host a fry myself...
(don't hold your breath, I've only caught two thus far, and they were comparable to a 1/2 cup scoop in size) Apparently you really need a boat for the big ones
Last edited by Mhays on March 9th 2007, 9:34am, edited 1 time in total.
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#7
Posted March 8th 2007, 11:45pm
I've been to Marti's Place a few times because my brother lives in nearby Crown Point. My guess is that the perch you saw people eating was in fact catfish -- that's what they're known for, and it's really, REALLY good.

If you want great yellow lake perch in that area, head a few miles south to Demotte and go to a place called Boundary Waters Cafe.

And if you REALLY want to be in the middle of nowhere, there's a place called Grand Kankakee Hunt Club that serves incredible game meat at their restaurant.
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#8
Posted March 8th 2007, 11:55pm
And if you REALLY want to be in the middle of nowhere, there's a place called Grand Kankakee Hunt Club that serves incredible game meat at their restaurant.


I checked the website, though I didn't find a menu. I did see they offer lake perch. Do you care to comment further on the wild game? The pictures of the interior reminded me of Club 81, Too without the mounted trophies.

Club 81, Too, photo by Rene G
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Regards,
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"You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
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#9
Posted March 9th 2007, 11:37am
Thats sad to hear, dbrick59, about the lack of customers lately at Phil Smidt's. Here is a history piece on them that I came across on the internet recently. It would be a shame if we let the fast food and chain restaurant industry destroy such great enterprises like Smidt's, but maybe that's just "pie in the sky" thinking:

Historic Restaurant

"Over 94 years ago a famous Northwest Indiana restaurant got its beginning when Phil Smidt and his wife Marie were traveling by train to California. The train stopped for water in Roby, Indiana and the Smidts, thinking it was a stop in Chicago to change trains, disembarked. But the train left them behind and stranded them. History tells us that the young man took advantage of his misfortune. He began his first restaurant in 1910 with a 12-seat dining table with a 12 foot bar. Marie’s pan-fried Lake Michigan perch were a great hit at the cost of 40 cents, served “all you can eat” with rye bread and a vegetable. As years went by frog legs, chicken and steak were added to the menu.

"By the late 1920's their son Pete and his wife Irene were operating the business. Despite the Depression, the Smidts cooked and served lake perch and frog legs by the ton each month. Irene set the personal tone and charm that identifies Phil Smidts to this day with her rose patterned plates so familiar to patrons of the dining establishment. It is said that by the wars end in the 1940's Phil Smidt had achieved such an impressive reputation that celebrities visiting the Chicago area would make a special trip to Roby, Indiana to feast on perch, frog legs and chicken. Among famous visitors were Babe Ruth, Jack Dempsey, Gene Tunney, stage stars George Murphy, Bob hope, Governor Adlai Stevenson, and Mayor Richard J. Daley. They say that even the Prince of Wales made a special trip to feast on the succulent buttery frog legs and yellow lake perch.

"The early restaurant was located at 1170 Indianapolis Boulevard. On January 29, 1945 the restaurant suffered a violent explosion and fire that completely destroyed the building. Despite post war shortages, Pete and Irene reopened their beloved family restaurant a short distance away at its present location at 1205 Calumet Avenue.

"Phil Smidts Restaurant has seen many new managers in recent years. Pete Smidt deeded his business in 1976 to Calumet College under the culinary mastership of Austrian Michael Probst. In 1980 Michael and his brother Chris Probst purchased the restaurant keeping alive the tradition of the Smidt family. The current owners, David and Barbara Welch, purchased the eatery in 2000 and to this day have promised to continue supplying their customers with traditional recipes, including their great yellow lake perch, great service and new menu items to appease the customer."
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#10
Posted March 12th 2007, 9:10am
Another place for a good Lake Perch meal on Friday's only is Hackney's, which has various locations, but the location in Glenview or "Hackney's on Harm" has a great outdoor patio for springtime and summer outdoor dining. I remember many great Friday lake perch luncheons on their outdoor patio and their onion loaf, along with the perch, is terrific if you order the loaf cooked well done (i.e., crispy). See http://www.hackneysonlake.com/index.htm. Another place on Friday evenings only is Chandler's on Roselle Rd. in the Schaumburg Golf Club. The lake perch is AYCE, but while it has been a few years, the last time we were there, my wife and I were a little disappointed and wondered afterwards whether they had switched to white lake perch instead (which really isn't perch). But on earlier visits, we were always satisfied with the meal, so hopefully someone can report on how it's been lately. See http://www.chandlerschophouse.com/chandlers/dinner03.html.

Some other places that I have not tried, but which others' emailed me about and said had good lake perch are: Tuman's Tavern on West Chicago in Chicago, Pier 5736 on North Elston Ave. in Chicago, RL Restaurant (heard it's fancy) on East Chicago in Chicago, Shaw's Crab House (I remember having good lake perch there years ago, but I thought they took lake perch off their menu), and J.J. Camalick's in Calumet City (I think this may only be a carry-out place, tho).
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#11
Posted June 6th 2007, 9:50pm
Hi,

I was at Hagen's recently for al fresco lunch on the parking lot bench. When I was ordering perch I asked the pertinent question, now that I am clued in, "Yellow or white perch?" "We serve yellow perch."

Clockwise from the left: fried yellow perch, fried oysters, fried shrimp and coleslaw
Image

Regards,
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Cathy2

"You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
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#12
Posted June 8th 2007, 8:01pm
Another Northwest Indiana spot for lake perch is Traditions Restaurant & Pub in Highland, Indiana. Not only do they have great lake perch, but bluegill too. The bluegill is not listed on the menu so you have to ask for it & it is every bit as good as lake perch in my book.


Traditions
2739 Highway Ave
Highland, IN 46322-1615
219.838.3100
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#13
Posted June 8th 2007, 8:25pm
Dale wrote:Another Northwest Indiana spot for lake perch is Traditions Restaurant & Pub in Highland, Indiana. Not only do they have great lake perch, but bluegill too. The bluegill is not listed on the menu so you have to ask for it & it is every bit as good as lake perch in my book.


Traditions
2739 Highway Ave
Highland, IN 46322-1615
219.838.3100


Thanks Dale!

We love learning off menu items!

Regards,
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Cathy2

"You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
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#14
Posted October 22nd 2007, 5:53pm
Well , it happened. Aafter 92 years schmidt's is closed. Last day , 10-20-07. Will be missed very much by me. I tried to go on the last day and the place was busier than i had ever seen it. Why is it when some place announces that they are closing people come out of the woodwork ? Same thing happened when john's pizza in calumet city closed.
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#15
Posted August 3rd 2009, 10:19pm
Hi,

I was chatting with two out-of-towners who had very fond memories of Phil Smidt's. While it is now closed, I pointed out they didn't have a monopoly on yellow perch. I suggested Teibel's as something that would emulate the Phil Smidt experience minus the gooseberry pie. I was asked if Teibel's yellow perch was bone-in, which was a feature for him. I checked Teibel's website to find their yellow perch is already boned.

Can anyone advise locations for bone-in fried yellow perch?

I like the idea proposed in the original post for a perch-off. Trying a number of styles in a short period can yield very useful information.

Regards,
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Cathy2

"You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
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#16
Posted August 3rd 2009, 10:40pm
I can't advise on de-boned yellow perch, nor really offer much at all except to say that we dined at BrownTrout tonight, and Great Lake yellow perch was on the menu (in this case, Lake Erie perch). I thought about getting it, but it was in an appetizer with two other fish, and we were both planning on getting fish for entrees, so it seemed overkill. But we did have a short conversation about the collapse of the yellow perch fishery, only to return home to this thread. Perhaps I'll try it another time, and be able to tell you the state of its bones.
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#17
Posted September 2nd 2009, 11:00am
I too was horribly dissappointed with the closure of Schmidts and the general lack of quality establishments that carry genuine yellow perch. Notwithstanding I do recommend highly the Glenwood Oaks Restaurant in South Suburban Glenwood for perch. Its fresh and the real deal and they typically have an "all-you-can-eat" night at lease once a week (currently Monday).

Eddie G
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#18
Posted September 2nd 2009, 11:32am
I'm addicted to this Midwestern delicacy as well....

My first taste was at Half Shell on Diversey.....which is still my fave, mainly due to their homemade yougurt/tartar sauce...but the perch is good too..

Was just very pleasantly surprised to find a great version at The Boat House in Kenosha, WI......sell them in 5, 10, 15, 20 and 30 oz......excellent quality...
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