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Brown Bag Seafood Company Bringing Affordable, Fast Fish Dishes To Lakeview

By Ariel Cheung | February 21, 2017 5:18am
 Brown Bag Seafood Company will open its third location this summer at 3400 N. Lincoln Ave.
Brown Bag Seafood Opening On Lakeview's Lincoln Avenue Corridor
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LAKEVIEW — A decent seafood dinner can end in a whale of a bill, but a new Lakeview eatery hopes neighbors will find its fast-casual seafood to be a real catch.

Brown Bag Seafood Company will open its third location in Lakeview at 3400 N. Lincoln Ave. this summer, owner Donna Lee said Monday.

The restaurant's menu offers a range of seafood served up for under $15 as a sandwich, salad, tacos or a powerbox, which comes with a quinoa and wild rice blend over chopped spinach. Seafood can also be served "straight up" with no additions. 

"I, as well as anybody else, like to go to a nice, sit-down seafood meal," Lee said. "But they can be time consuming and costly."

Customers at Brown Bag Seafood select a protein and how it is served. Meals start at $8.99 for non-fish proteins like chicken and mushrooms, while the daily catch, curry fish cakes and lemon-broiled whitefish are $9.99.

Other options include a teriyaki scallion salmon ($10.99), blackened or crispy shrimp ($11.99) and a fish and shrimp combo ($10.99).

There are several ways to enjoy seafood at Brown Bag Seafood Co. [DNAinfo/Alisa Hauser]

Sides like tots and coleslaw — in varieties ranging from Louisiana tang to truffle parmesan — are $2.50 each, and soups are $4-$7. Lobster rolls and fancy fish sticks are among the regular specials.

A year and a half after opening her first Brown Bag Seafood Company in the Loop in 2014, Lee announced plans for a second location in River North.

While that building is under construction, though, developers Centrum Partners told Lee of another new mixed-use development just south of the Paulina Brown Line "L" station.

Three years after purchasing what was once an empty lot, Centrum Lakeview is now leasing its luxury boutique apartments in the transit-oriented development, with units starting at $1,822 per month for a studio.

Lee was sold, and easily shifted her plans to include a third Brown Bag Seafood."I think the space is fantastic, and I think it's an area that could benefit from even more eating options and variety," Lee said.

She's not alone in thinking so; Bareburger, Bitter Pops, Entente and Left Coast Food and Juice also opened over the past year on the Lincoln Avenue corridor.

Tacos at Brown Bag Seafood Company, which offers sustainable and fast-casual seafood. [Provided/Donna Lee]

The strip has been somewhat neglected in years past, compared to Southport Avenue one block east. But the massive new Whole Foods at Lincoln, Ashland and Belmont has been promised as a catalyst for development in the west Lakeview sector.

Target will replace the current Whole Foods at 3300 N. Ashland Ave. later this year.

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And although New England Seafood Company is nearby at 3341 N. Lincoln Ave., Lee said she thinks there's room for both to flourish.

"I love what they do, but I think of them as a place to go to dine and have a sit-down meal with waiters and stuff like that," Lee said. "They also have a seafood market component. We don't do either of those."

Lee, who lives in the South Loop, got her start in the Evanston fine dining scene before switching to fast casual eateries. When she became a pescatarian, she realized there was a need for affordable, fast seafood.

A salad at Brown Bag Seafood Company, which will open at 3400 N. Lincoln Ave. this summer. [Provided/Donna Lee]

"Sometimes you just want to eat a piece of salmon over a green salad and call it a day," Lee said. "And it was really difficult to find that [in Chicago]."

Lee opened her second Brown Bag Seafood with a condensed menu inside Revival Food Hall in August. The fourth restaurant is expected to open in River North at 412 N. Wells St. over the next year, she said.

The Lakeview location will have a similar menu to the flagship restaurant, although Lee said she'll consider how best to adapt to the family-oriented neighborhood.

"We have a lot of office traffic [at current locations] right now, and we'll do our best to modify the concepts for larger groups and families," Lee said. Possibilities include a children's menu and desserts, she added.

Brown Bag Seafood will also have a summer patio, and Lee plans to adjust the restaurant's hours based on the neighborhood's needs.

Lee said she places a lot of importance on her seafood being sustainable; Lee only buys from vendors who make sure not to deplete species of fish faster than they can reproduce.

With reports of the world's oceans in "a state of silent collapse" and 118 million tons of seafood being consumed each year, focusing on sustainable sources is vital, according to The Sustainable Seafood Blog Project.