An unassuming fish market and cafe located in a strip mall on the outskirts of downtown St. Charles may be one of the area’s best-kept secrets. Well, the secret’s out.
E&S Fish Company, which gets quite busy at dinner (reservations a must), reels in an onslaught of regulars, who swear by its fresh, deeply flavorful and affordable seafood menu. And did I mention that this seafood charmer is B.Y.O.B.?
A cornucopia of fresh fish awaits in a display case along the market-end of the eatery, where you can purchase raw fish and shellfish to-go or, instead, take a seat at one of the cafe’s few arbitrarily-dispersed, rickety tables (which somehow look as though they’ve taken a beating from the oceanic elements), and have the chef create something truly special out of whatever you choose – Chilean sea bass, scallops, jumbo shrimp, salmon, home-made crab cakes, halibut, grouper or mahi-mahi, to name a few.
A culinary wizard must be in the kitchen, as far as I’m concerned (just look at the E&S Fish Company Facebook page to get a taste for the caliber of creations leaving that kitchen), and the menu – though small – is inventive, creative and constantly changing to best suit the fish being used in each dish.
B.Y.O.B. dinner is served between 6 and 8 p.m. Tuesday, Friday and Saturdays. But lunch is a quick and affordable treat – no reservations required.
The lunch menu boasts sushi, shrimp quesadillas, fish tacos, salmon burgers, red seafood chowder and seared tuna salad, among other items.
Seated at a square, wooden table flanked by a wall of windows, the cafe exudes an understated, East Coast, fishing-village vibe. The staff is pleasant, friendly and happy to serve you.
My dining companion and I visited on a Friday for lunch and had the place to ourselves, minus a few regulars stopping in to purchase items from the fish market.
With the lunch menu, we were given a lengthy list of sushi options – 32 to be exact. My dining companion and I opted for the Spicy Tuna ($5.75), a six-piece classic roll, and the six-piece House Roll ($8), made with eel, smoked salmon, avocado, cream cheese and massago. The freshness of each sushi roll was beyond compare. Though I am not normally a fan of eel, the house roll was my favorite.
A slew of seafood sandwiches ($9.95) – served with lettuce, tomato, onion, potato salad, a pickle and choice of garlic or wasabi mayonnaise, tartar sauce or Dijon mustard – lined the menu, along with salads, soups and a “fish entree” ($14.95), that allows diners to choose a fresh fish selection from the display case, which will then be cooked and served with sautéed fresh vegetables, a choice of sweet potato puree or white rice and mango salsa.
I ordered the Salmon on Kaiser Roll with garlic mayo, and my dining companion opted for the Shrimp Quesadillas ($9.95).
We watched as fish was selected from the display case and then cooked in an extremely small kitchen, in which we could see part of our meal being prepared.
Each bite of my sandwich, with the salmon’s perfect sear and an even smattering of garlic mayo melted in my mouth. The succulent sauteed Gulf shrimp in the quesadillas were tossed with sauteed red and yellow peppers, tomato, onion and corn with melted Jack cheese and a side of mango salsa to temper down the spiciness.
Other sandwiches include Seared Tuna on Sourdough, Crab Cake on French Roll, Tilapia on Kaiser Roll and Grouper on French Roll.
With an ever-changing menu, E&S will continue to excite and delight with its fierce flavor components and inventive creations.
If seafood is what you’re after, E&S Fish Company is quite a catch.
• The Mystery Diner is a newsroom employee at the Kane County Chronicle. The diner’s identity is not revealed to the restaurant staff before or during the meal. The Mystery Diner visits a restaurant and then reports on the experience. If the Mystery Diner cannot recommend the establishment, we will not publish a review.