Chicago’s a food town. We love food like Lenny loves Carl. We love food so much we took Wisconsin’s lunch money and spent it on Gobstoppers. Our fat souls have dreamed up the Twinkie, the Pizza Puff, the Italian Beef, Cracker Jacks, brownies, deep dish, and the Chicago-style hotdog.
World, you’re welcome.
But even we, corn syrup-saturated city that we are, have gaping culinary holes in our food scene. Say it slowly now: gaping. culinary. holes. Where, for example, is the New York-style pizza? Or the good gumbo? For chrissakes, who in this city can make a real tacos al pastor? Mexicans are by far our largest immigrant group and no one from Mexico City remembered to bring an al pastor recipe with them? If someone makes them, we’ll eat them. We’re like Kardashians, we Chicagoans: give us the good stuff and we’ll open up like hippopotamuses. I want a corn tortilla filled with saucy pork and pineapple sliced from a meat spinner and topped with cilantro, onions, lime, and hot sauce. Is this too much to ask?
Lucky us, sometimes we’ve at least got one joint that handles their business. These are the Highlanders of the restaurant world, the stand alone cheese. What sort of awful, calorieless world would we live in if Great Lake Pizza said, “Sorry brosephs, our feet are up, no more pie for you,” or Philly’s Best was like, “Eat a bag of dicks, Chicago, we’re done feeding you cheesesteaks”? What then would we do? Probably something like this.
Which brings us to Snappy’s Shrimp House. I can’t tell if I love this place only because the food is so delicious or because there’s simply no comparable joint in Chicago. If Snappy’s closed shop, my catfish sandwich and hush puppies fix would have to wait until I get back down south, which happens about as often as the LTH forum untucks its shirt. Snappy’s is it’s own thing for sure, one-of-a-kind, a real diamond in the rough–like a Sox fan without a battery record.
Here’s a sample of what you can get at Snappy’s:
shrimp — fried or cocktail-style
BBQ chicken sandwich
jerk chicken sandwich
I suppose I could go to any number of chicken and rib joints around town and find most of this shit, but guaranteed at least half of them taste like freezer-burned dog balls. A bag of frozen shrimp dumped in a vat of month-old Sysco oil does not fried shrimp make. This is some other food item, something dreamed up by a Long John Silvers exec with a diarrhea fetish. It’s gross.
But Snappy’s, though–Snappy’s does all the above, and well. No bullshit 5lb.-onion rings. No crumbly weak-sauce buns. No chicken breasts. No KC Masterpiece. Everything here is solid as hell. Plus, it’s fun just to say “Snappy’s.” It sounds like it’d be delicious.
And guess what? Guess who loves the place so much he gave them a picture of himself to put up on the wall? It’s our old friend, The Hungry Hound, Steve Dolinsky. What kind of giant douche passes out framed 8 by 10s of himself to restaurants he eats at? Thanks, Dolinsky, now I get to eat my crab cake sandwich smothered in the creepy glow of your mousse helmet. Please stay away from Leo’s Coney Island when it opens. I’d like to eat somewhere without your smug mug lording over me.
But enough about Dolinsky. His endorsement of the food at Hamburger Mary’s gives him as much credibility as Michael Vick at the Humane Society. Let’s talk about the food at Snappy’s.
To begin with, this is a shrimp house, so we should talk shrimp. Readers will remember that Gluttons love skrimps. We eat them like husky kids pop corn candy. Snappy’s serves up Gulf shrimp two ways: fried or cocktail. I’m not gonna lie: I still haven’t tried the fried variety (cuz deep frying shrimp seems like buttering angel food cake) but the cold variety is a delicious departure from most short-order fare around the city. Who else has a reach-in full of shrimp cocktail? This a badass service to offer: fresh-tasting shrimp cocktail to go.
But the real superstars here are the sandwiches. On visits one, two, and three I went in for the crabcake sandwich, a meaty cake of creamy crab deep fried and served on a toasted bun. These dudes do the buns right here: all their sandwiches come on a toasted bun that’s usually served charred at the edges and sometimes, if you’re lucky, has a char mark seared right into the center of the top bun–a little Gorbachev forehead to chew on. And the crabcake sandwich is actually crabby, not full of celery and bread chunks. Some places (ahem…Wishbone) make crabcakes with more filler than a U2 album.
There’s also the jerk and bbq chicken sandwiches, both above average. The jerk, especially, shines. It’s dry rubbed– not drowned in a bottle of “jerk sauce”–and chopped, which maximizes the surface area to which the seasoning clings. The bbq is moist and sticky, the kind of bbq you can turn upside down in a bowl and it stays in place.And then there’s the catfish. Now, I don’t like to encourage people to order off-menu items, especially when the restaurant itself isn’t encouraging it and may even seem a bit confused when you try to order it, but in this case I’m disregarding my sense of propriety. This sandwich is too dank not to push. The last time I ordered one, it was so humid I was pouring sweat like Chris Farley on a coke binge, and I still managed to put it away before I hit Damen on foot. This sandwich is so good the Olsen Twins would fight over it.
Here are the catfish sandwich rules. It requires only four ingredients: 1) bun, 2) fried catfish strips, 3) hot sauce), and 4) tartar sauce. It’s extremely important to ask for both sauces. If you don’t use both, you are eating a completely different sandwich. The combination of these ingredients works as naturally as pork and beans, pastrami and rye, Mexicans and mustaches. Ask for a sandwich made with the fried catfish strips. Ask for the condiments. You will be rewarded with the kind of sandwich you use to serenade someone.
Heads at this point ought to be nodding like a roomful of heroin addicts. See that hot sauce? It’s thick! You want your sandwich doused in it. That and the tartar create a spicy, tangy mixture that catfish was meant to bathe in. Of course, you can and should get lettuce and tomato on your sandwich. It’ll probably be served like this, so you don’t need to ask for it. It’s slightly more delicious this way, but if you really need this, this may not be the sandwich for you. May I suggest something at Subway with the word “veggie” in it instead? The catfish sandwich is for closers only.More importantly, you should also order sides with your delicious sandwich. In some countries, sides consist of plantains and curry fries. Here in America, where retards are legally allowed to govern, we often offer sides such as steamed vegetables and white rice. I don’t get it. I’ve been to M Henry like six million times, for example, and if I have to choose between plain blue tortilla chips, Asian slaw, and salad with Asian dressing again, I may projectile vomit on cue. Plain blue tortilla chips? That’s the Bryant Gumbel of food. A plain corn chip is still a plain corn chip, no matter what color corn meal you use.
Snappy’s has got you covered, though. Sides here include fried scallops and hush puppies. First of all: fried scallops! These little fuckers are breaded in the same thing everything else here is breaded in–meaning they are crispy and not to too bready. Inside is a tender little scallop bite that melts under pressure. The hush puppies are like deep fried cornbread bombs. They should be served in a little carrying case like Dunkin’ Donuts Munchkins.
Inevitably, someone from like Louisiana is gonna be all like, “Listen, idiot, a real hush puppy is fried in an iron skillet full of butter, not cooked in a deep fryer by some Yankee.” And this may be true. But we’re in Chicago, where even finding a hush puppy is a small victory. Locating a tasty one is like finding a Republican who doesn’t own a pair of whitey tighteys. This is what Snappy’s does. They bring that shit no one else is. And there’s that catfish sandwich. Which you should eat before your next sleep. You will dream good things.