Earlier this summer, my colleague, John, flew to Chicago to help with a presentation for a dealer of ours in Evanston. The presentation was the next morning, so the night before we stayed in downtown Evanston and walked to a place I've wanted to try for quite sometime - Davis Street Fishmarket at the corner of Davis and Hinman (see map). I'd always heard the food was good and that night we were going to find out.
The Davis Street Fishmarket is part of the Clean Plate Club restaurant group owned by Mathew David, Larry Huber and Eardley Firth. Other restaurants under the Clean Plate Club shingle include the highly-acclaimed Pete Miller's Steakhouse in Evanston and in far north suburban Wheeling, and Merle's #1 Barbecue in Evanston. Linda Diguardi is the G.M. of the Davis Street Fishmarket while Firth handles the Executive Chef chores for the restaurant.
The Davis Street Fishmarket was the first of the Clean Plate Club restaurants opening in 1985. Merle's #1 Barbecue opened in 1992 while Pete Miller's in Evanston opened two years later. Pete Miller's is known in the Chicagoland area as not only having some of the best steaks around, but the restaurant is also known as having some of the top contemporary jazz performers grace its stage on a nightly basis. I've wanted to try both Pete Miller's and Merle's #1 Barbecue and if this dealer in Evanston works out, I'm hoping to have that chance at some point in the future.
It was a 10 minute walk from our hotel to Davis Street Fishmarket on a beautiful summer evening. John hadn't had anything to eat since breakfast and since his stomach was still on Eastern time he wanted to get an early dinner. We were seated in a booth in the dining room just around 6:30 local time and the place was far from packed. Both of us ordered up an Anchor Steam beer and took a look at the menu to see what they had to offer.
Davis Street Fishmarket has a lot of their fish flown in daily from the East, West and Gulf coasts. Chef Eardley Firth comes up with a number of nightly specials based upon what types of fish he gets in that particular day. But the restaurant also has a consistent menu that features shellfish, Cajun specialties, seafood pasta dishes, steaks and, of course, seafood entrees.
The first thing that caught our eye was the Prince Edward Island Malpeque oysters on the half shell. We immediately signed up for a dozen of those. The only problem is that the waiter misunderstood us and brought out a half-dozen. We said, "Oh, no. We said we wanted a dozen." He apologized and said he'd get another half-dozen and adjust our bill to reflect the dozen price versus the half-dozen price. The oysters were big and meaty, adding a little fresh ground horseradish and some Tabasco they were outstanding.
With such an extensive menu, I was torn between a number of items. They had a couple of specials that evening that sounded pretty good, but I was also looking at the blackened fish tacos, the Louisiana seafood chili (basically, Davis Street Fishmarket's answer to jambalaya), and the sesame seared ahi tuna served with wasabi mashed potatoes. Like I've said many times on this blog, I'm a sucker for good fish tacos. I had to try their blackened fish tacos. They came topped with red cabbage and a spicy remoulade sauce, along with a side of red beans and rice along with pico de gallo.
John, too, was torn between a number of items. He said, "I'm sure the fish is great here, but I'm sort of looking at getting a big ol' Midwestern piece of beef!" But he ended up going 180 degrees away from his thinking and ended up getting the Maryland crab cakes served with a side of honey mustard sauce and a corn relish. Garlic mashed potatoes came with his meal.
Since it wasn't all that busy, our entrees showed up rather quickly. My blackened fish tacos were served open-faced with the remoulade sauce drizzled on top of the fish and the red cabbage. The red beans and rice was served in a cup on the side. The fish was fresh and the blackened spices with the remoulade sauce gave the tacos a nice kick. I even scooped a little bit of the red beans and rice onto a couple of the tacos to give them a little more of a diversified taste.
John said that his crab cakes were very good. They were very large and - according to John - very rich. He had trouble finishing both of them, but he was able to get through them. He said, "I still find it somewhat surprising of all the good of seafood I've had in the Midwest over the years. These taste just as good as some of the crab cakes I get on the Eastern seaboard."
We were both overly impressed with our experience at Davis Street Fishmarket. The food was excellent and the service was adequate. Our waiter was neither pushy nor was he invisible. The decor was contemporary, yet subdued. It was a very relaxing meal. I'll have to put Davis Street Fishmarket on the top of my list of Evanston restaurants that I've tried so far. I'm hoping to try more over the next couple three years.