Stuffed between a Baskin Robbins and the rather sorry looking Fabric World on a particularly gray stretch of North Lombard, the Fishwife doesn’t seem a likely contender for best seafood restaurant in town. Inside it’s ordinary, with diner furniture and walls covered in pictures that all, however tenuously, tie into the idea of fishing or seafood (granite bars, reclaimed wood, rescued chandeliers and ironic moose heads have yet to make it to the Portsmouth neighborhood). The view is of a Shell gas station and whatever kook happens to be passing by. They don’t do reservations; the early crowd is seniors and tables jammed with families. The servers, working their asses off, might take a while to take your order. It’s homely but in terms of "great eatery" the signifiers are pointing in the wrong direction.
But it’s about the fish—Alaskan cod, local salmon and halibut, either grilled, poached or (the best) blackened. The fillets are always perfectly cooked, fresh, flavorsome. Chunks satisfyingly flake off. Paired with the garlic mash it becomes a source of deep contentment, unbelievably simple and yet astoundingly good. I know people who travel across town for this. They are also good at details: the salad dressing, and tarter and hot sauces are all house made, the bread is from Grand Central. There are more elaborate specials, but I’ve found that the straight-up fish is the best way to go, though the smoked salmon Alfredo is good; I’ve been meaning to try the fish and chips, especially as they have a $6 lunch deal. They also do take out, and half-priced wine Tuesday dinners. They’ve been going 20 years and I hope it doesn’t change one bit. The Fishwife, 5328 N Lombard