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IRL: Sunday Afternoon Picnic on Brown Bag Seafood Co.'s Communal Table

By Alisa Hauser | May 6, 2014 3:55pm | Updated on May 18, 2014 1:45pm
 The outdoor patio at Brown Bag Seafood Co. will soon include a communal picnic table, perfect for a group outing.
The outdoor patio at Brown Bag Seafood Co. will soon include a communal picnic table, perfect for a group outing.
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DNAinfo/Alisa Hauser; Picnic table courtesy of Brown Bag Seafood Co.


THE LOOP — New to Downtown's "New East Side," Brown Bag Seafood Co. plans to make it easier to find fresh and affordable seafood Downtown. DNAinfo is hosting an "In Real Life" event there Sunday. Follow the social media posts.


"I wanted to make seafood much more accessible to people who want to have it for lunch or dinner," said  Donna Lee, owner of Brown Bag Seafood Co., 340 E. Randolph St.

Designed to look like a New England fish shack with whitewashed tables, fishing nets hanging from the ceiling and Adirondack chairs on the patio, Brown Bag Seafood Co's menu gives eaters the option to "grab and go," taking their meal away in a brown paper bag, or to hang out inside or outside. 

Overlooking the future Maggie Daley Park, the patio seats 40 and includes a communal picnic table that will serve as the gathering spot for our next DNAinfo Chicago In Real Life outing, slated for 1-2:30 p.m. on Sunday.

Readers are invited to join DNAinfo Chicago reporter Lizzie Schiffman at the picnic table after ordering their lunches and watching food being prepared in an open kitchen led by manager James Buis.

"It is a beautiful location away from the business of the city. You have the south facing skyline, the park, the view in itself is pretty awesome," Lee said of the "New East Side," which stretches along Randolph Street from Michigan Avenue on the west to Lake Shore Drive on the east.

At Brown Bag, guests scribble their orders on a brown paper bag, first choosing a protein (whitefish, salmon, tuna, shrimp, crab and chicken) and then selecting one of five formats: sub sandwiches ("subbies"), as a salad, in tacos, "straight up" with seasoning options or in a "power box" with quinoa.

 Inside Brown Bag Seafood Company.
IRL: May 18 Brown Brown Bag Seafood Company
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Available sides include four types of cole slaw, flavored tater tots (including a high-end truffle parmesan variety) and soups such as "clam chowdah" and seasonal vegetable. 

To wash everything down, readers will chose either a craft beer or glass of wine, lemonade, infused water, or soda. Tickets, which represent a reduction from menu prices for the group outing and include slices of lemon bars for dessert, are $18 and can be bought here.

At the gathering, Lee will be on hand to chat about Brown Bag's partnership with the Monterrey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch team, which helps to ensure the eatery is buying fish from purveyors who do not source from the "avoid list" of over-fished waters.

In addition to wanting to bring fresh sustainable seafood to the Downtown area, Lee's inspiration to create Brown Bag Seafood Co. evolved out of a desire to find a place to "quickly grab quality seafood" that is healthy and won't "cost an arm and a leg."

True to Lee's word, crab zucchini cakes top the menu at $12.99 per serving, with most entrees ranging between $9 and $12. Craft beers are $6 each and sides are $1.50 when ordered with an entree. 

Brown Bag Seafood Co. has brought 16 new jobs to the neighborhood and several other construction jobs during the build out, which began in January and ended last week.

So far, the early feedback from neighbors and passerby has been "great," Lee said.

"People are so ready for something fast and casual in this neighborhood that feels relaxed; the community has been very antsy about getting open and we are excited to unveil it," Lee said.

Brown Bag Seafood Co. is at 340 E. Randolph St. Hours are 11 a.m.-9 p.m  Mondays-Saturdays. The restaurant is closed on Sundays but swill stay open for the May 18 lunch. Phone: 312-496-3999.