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Looking for the best seafood in the country? Try Chicago.

There’s no question that Duxbury has access to some of the freshest seafood you could ask for. With a bay in the backyard, dinner can be hauled up in the afternoon and on the table in minutes flat. But on a recent journey to the Midwest, as far away from an ocean as you can get in this country, Skip and I ate some of the best seafood we’ve had this year. We were in Chicago to visit the folks at Shaw’s Crab House, an institution in the Windy City. We were there most of the day and dined on everything from seafood casserole to king crab legs to freshly rolled maki to New Zealand lobster tails. The very breadth of options was staggering. But even more so was the quality of what we were eating. Those crab legs were perfectly firm and pink; the tuna in the maki practically quivered; a Maryland style crabcake was packed with meat; and the oyster selection is one of the most comprehensive in the country. And while some might balk at the thought of lobster tails being flown over from New Zealand (not the gentlest of carbon footprints), the tails had a meatiness and umami that you don’t always find in lobster from our own shores.

The quality here is due in part to the fact that all seafood can be shipped overnight from one coast to the other. But it’s also a testament to the dedication of Shaw’s seafood buyers who are on the front line, dealing with seafood purveyors around the world on a daily basis (including Sarah, who calls Island Creek for an order almost every morning). What’s more, they’ve partnered up with the Shedd Aquarium who has help them put together an entire menu of sustainable seafood options. So while it might seem ideal to have access to the Atlantic on a daily basis, it’s also inspiring to know that there are a team of folks doing everything they can to get that same freshness and quality to the heart of the country, too.

Erin Byers Murray‘s most recent book is “Shucked: Life on a New England Oyster Farm“.  Her work has appeared in Food & Wine Magazine, Body + Soul, Boston Magazine, the Boston Globe, and many more publications.

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