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Calumet Fisheries reopening Saturday, seven months after fire at iconic Chicago restaurant

New and improved Calumet Fisheries to reopen after fire
New and improved Calumet Fisheries to reopen after fire 01:38

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The grills at a beloved South Side seafood restaurant are heating up again this weekend, months after a devastating fire.

Calumet Fisheries, housed inside a small shack along the 95th Street bridge over the Calumet River, will reopen on Saturday.

The restaurant has been closed since a fire tore through the building on Nov. 21. The Chicago Fire Department deemed the fire an accident due to an electrical issue.

It took months of repairs and renovations, but now, Calumet Fisheries is ready to reopen. Rarely does a 76-year-old business prepare for a grand opening, but that is exactly the situation the staff find themselves in at Calumet Fisheries.

"I feel every emotion," said assistant manager Annise Louden. "I am excited. I'm nervous. I'm just like scared for what come."

Word is spreading about opening day at the historic smokehouse.

"I expect lines at the door, to be honest," said Louden.

Some people were so eager to revisit the old standby that they arrived a little too early.

"Where's everybody at? Where's the crowd?" said Marchan Jackson. "You know, because I expected it to be crowded."

Jackson looks forward to shrimp dinners or smoke trout when Calumet Fisheries does reopen for business.

Jeff Maddux of Streamwood and his family stopped by on a bicycle outing – also a little before Calumet Fisheries was ready.

"It's been a place that has been on my Chicago visit list for a long time," Maddux said.

Staff said they have been preparing more food than they do their typical busy season – Lent. The owner said while guests will notice a new interior and menu board after months of repairs and renovations, the famous recipes at the cash-only Chicago classic will always stay the same.

The sign will flip to open starting at 9 a.m. on Saturday. Staff are expecting really big crowds to fill the sidewalk - especially when smoked fish sales start at 2 p.m.

Calumet Fisheries is known for smoking its own food on site. It was first opened by brothers-in-law Sid Kotlick and Len Toll in 1948.  

The famous sign on the side of the building advertises, "Finest french-fried shrimp, smelt fish, chips, oysters, catfish, smoked fish, chubs, salmon, sturgeon, trout, sable, eel."

Another sign out front displays a caricature of the John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd as the Blues Brothers. Calumet Fisheries did not actually appear in "The Blues Brothers" movie, but the smokehouse did host the movie crew during filming in the summer of 1979, when they used the 95th Street Bridge for a famous bridge jump scene.

Calumet Fisheries also appeared on the late Anthony Bourdain's "No Reservations" and WTTW-Channel 11's "Check Please!" and also received The American Classic Award from the James Beard Foundation. A caricature of Bourdain and the James Beard award also appear on the sign with the Blues Brothers.

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