Blackened lake perch and salad

For all the proliferation of ostensible fish shacks in recent times (across the spectrum, from G.T. Fish and Oyster to Fish Bar to Parson’s) there really hasn’t been anything to address the very practical concerns of day-to-day eaters; that is, some place inexpensive, convenient, and healthful (rather than indulgent). That’s why, on paper, the Brown Bag Seafood Company looks so good. Positioned on Randolph overlooking Millennium Park, and in the shadow of the Aon Center, it has a seemingly captive audience of office drones, condo birds, and tourists who would rather avoid the many pitfalls of Yum Cha at lunchtime. It’s a counter-service operation with myriad options: fried, broiled, and grilled sea creatures applied to a variety of platforms like sandwiches, tacos, salads, atop rice or quinoa, or naked and alone. You fill out a little checklist, present it to the register, seat yourself in a booth—or perhaps on the patio, which currently offers a less than stunning view of a tarped construction fence protecting the park—and wait for your order.

What the? Brown Bag Seafood Company
  • Mike Sula
  • What the . . . ? Brown Bag Seafood Company

My accomplice opted for a special fried shrimp sriracha burrito, which, as you can see quite plainly, was a disaster, an amorphous mass of vegetables, quinoa, and shrimps with their breading sloughing off, all saturated in a vaguely spicy mayo goop. Virtuously, I went with the blackened fish of the day—perch this time—perched atop a handful of salad greens. The portioning was a bit stingy, though it’s not bad for a $6.99 salad served in what would appear to be a small, enamel-clad vintage bedpan. But the fish itself was perfectly cooked, lush and moist, which is really pretty good for a fast-casual place doing such a high turnover. There’s nothing new on the tater-tot front here, but the slaw was really extraordinary—almost hostile—in its lack of flavor. But variety is really Brown Bag’s ace in the hole, offering everything from crab cakes to tuna salad to salmon teriyaki. You’re bound to catch something worthy of not throwing back sooner or later.

Brown Bag Seafood Company

Brown Bag Seafood Company, 340 E. Randolph, 312-496-3999,