GOOSE ISLAND — On any given weekend, the Goose Island Shrimp House is packed to the gills with a late-night party crowd that's loud, impatient and hungry for fried shrimp.
The Shrimp House, a humble eatery on the empty industrial island that's a 15-minute hike from the nearest CTA station, has been frying shrimp, oysters and other seafood since 1973, and has attracted a cult fan base that includes families and professionals by day and throngs of bikers and club-goers by night.
“When I’m out drinking and partying and whatever, this is where I’m coming,” said Hector Santiago, 28, ordering his usual jumbo shrimp and fish chips, one pound each, $12 for the shrimp and $5 for the fish chips.
The restaurant continuously batters, breads and fries seafood starting as early as 10 a.m. until as late as 5 a.m., five days a week.
“The night crowd is the party crowd,” said Tony Shaw, who's worked at the restaurant for 20 years. “They are more ravenous than they are during the day, so you want to get them out as quick as possible.”
There’s not much in terms of furniture inside the Shrimp House's small room. The walls behind the counter are lined with photos of celebrities who once stopped by, including Shaquille O’Neal and the late actor Michael Clarke Duncan.
There also is a pinball table and a Ms. Pac-Man arcade machine that some customers feed while waiting for their seafood.
Shrimp is sold by the pound — fried to order in seven minutes in a vegetable oil and beef fat mixture before being tightly packed into brown bags.
Lamon Eichelberger, the restaurant's manager, said the Shrimp House intentionally keeps the prices low to build a loyal customer base.
“We try to keep our seafood affordable,” he said. “We're biting the bullet doing that. We'd rather see you repeatedly rather than once a week.”
Eichelberger carefully guards the source of the seafood joint's success.
“The secret is in the batter," Eichelberger said. "Not going to tell you anything else about the secret. It's a process.”
Regulars come from all over the city and beyond.
"The food is just awesome and has been for many years," said Tywanna Greene, who lives nearby. “I come here twice a month, usually late. I come here whenever I get a taste for this.”
Eichelberger admits the location of the shrimp house is kind of odd, but people are always coming. The staff even claims a member of the Secret Service came to pick up an order for President Barack Obama when he was in town last year.
“You have to cross bridges to come here either way you come and people travel to get here,” Eichelberger said. “People travel for good things.”
For more neighborhood news, listen to DNAinfo Radio here: