McCormick & Schmick's Seafood - Chicago (Wacker Dr.) - Chicago
branch of McCormick & Schmick’s Seafood & Steaks has the fish, beef, and happy hour booze you’ve been dreaming of (“USA Today” voted McCormick & Schmick’s Seafood & Steak the “#1 Happy Hour in America”).
The Wacker drive location is an easy shot from the theater district, Millennium Park, the Magnificent Mile, or wherever else you might find yourself strolling when you’re downtown in one of the great cities of the world. Once you’re inside, McCormick & Schmick’s offers a comfortable, quiet respite from the crowds of people outside, many of whom are likely also trying to figure out where they should eat. Lucky you: you already know and you made a great choice.
The Oregon-based chain has long been a destination for downtown diners, with a seafood selection that easily outpaces most of its downtown competitors. “The ever-changing menu,” wrote John Norris of the “Chicago Reader,” “features mostly seafood, flown in daily from around the world and ranging from the mundane (sole and whitefish) to the unusual (thresher shark) and including everything in between (Alaskan halibut stuffed with scallops and crab, California sea bass with papaya-mango salsa).”
Fresh oysters are a treat for our mostly-landlocked local diners, with both East Coast and West Coast options available. Enjoy their briny sweetness raw, or get them Rockefeller’d with spinach, bacon, Pernod, and hollandaise. After that, you may find yourself feeling like Don Draper three Scotches into a working lunch.
Appetizers are entirely seafood-focused, including mushrooms stuffed with your choice of crab or shrimp, then baked or fried and served with an Old Bay cream sauce. There’s also fritto misto, coconut shrimp, seared ahi, and a pepper jack/bacon concoction known as “Shrimp Kisses.” All seafood is served in just about any way you can imagine. Presumably, even the bread basket has at least been walked past some ocean life.
The service has also been noteworthy for diners, including Norris. “In my experience it's been professional, knowledgeable, and attentive,” he wrote. The soup selections (clam chowder with potato and bacon, Maine lobster bisque) span the map from New England to, well, a slightly different part of New England. For greens, go with a chopped salad studded with chunks of bacon and blue cheese, a Cobb salad with lobster, bacon, and avocado, or a cool summer salad with fresh mozzarella and heirloom tomatoes.
One of the chain’s unique aspects of the seafood selection at McCormick & Schmick’s Seafood and Steak is that they rotate their fish offerings, which are sourced directly from the daily Honolulu Fish Auction. When you’re dining in the former Hog Butcher to the World, a tender, well-seasoned forkful of bigeye tuna or shutome (Hawaiian swordfish) can be a bracing change of pace.
The regular seafood offerings are just as impressive, with the signature selections including almond-crusted rainbow trout, bourbon-glazed salmon, and blackened mahi mahi. The specialty dishes show a mix of preparations and technique, like frying (classic fish and chips), searing (sea scallops with crab and potato hash), and cheese-blanketing (shrimp and andouille mac and cheese). Or just mow down an entire pound of Alaskan king crab legs with potatoes and a moat of butter.
But why choose? Try a mix of seafood to make the undersea denizens truly fear your name. Get a trio of shrimp stuffed, buttermilk fried, and scampi’d. Have crab, salmon, and stuffed shrimp in a variety of preparations. And, of course, where would we be without our friend surf ‘n turf? The world is your oyster, which, as we noted, you can also have several ways.
The quality of the steak more than matches the seafood. Filet, sirloin, New York strip, and both center-cut and bone-in ribeye steak: your old friend the cow is there for you, even in this largely seafood palace. The kitchen gives you the option of foie gras butter, au poivre, truffle butter, and Boursin blue cheese to finish your steak.
The American Kobe Style Burger deserves special mention. This beautiful patty is umami-enhanced with mushrooms and fontina cheese, then it’s bumped to the next level with onion aioli, a fistful of delicious flavors and a hamburger you really cannot pass up.
Conveniently, McCormick & Schmick’s Seafood & Steak is Riverwalk-adjacent for a nice post-dinner constitutional. You might want a long one when all is said and done…and eaten.