Untitled by Pam Slotsema
“If you can take your eyes off the fish, you might notice that the strong-jawed German passing you your basket of fried walleye looks an awful lot like the man holding the chubs in the black-and-white photo on the wall. The Bortell gene is so strong, in fact, that five generations have caught and cooked up “Hot Fried Fish To Go” right from this very spot on the Lake Michigan coast. German Uriah Bortell was first, back in 1898, then came Charlie, Floyd, David and now Kris Bortell. Kris works side-by side with his mom, Joann Bortell, wife, Trish, and two children, Justin and Marietta, today serving ultra-fresh fish from both far and nearby waters.
Famed road foodies Jane and Michael Stern named the 110-year-old fish depot one of America’s Top Ten Seafood Shacks, of the ilk of The Clam Shack in Kennebunkport, Maine, and the Swan Oyster Depot in San Francisco. Bortell’s Fisheries seafood of choice is Great Lakes whitefish, but the menu also includes walleye, catfish, trout and smelt, all sold by the piece or pound, ready to take home or be fried to order before your eyes. Grab some old-fashioned wood-smoked fish or pickled herring for later and some hot fried smelt (cooked up tasty, fins, tails and all) or walleye (cut and fried in sweet, delicate strips) to gobble up immediately in your car or under the shade trees out front. The Bortells use the lightest, crispest dusting of breading and serve the fish in paper baskets with lemon wedges, paper packets of salt and pepper and little plastic peel-back containers of tartar sauce. They don’t take credit cards, so don’t find yourself as we did one day, scrounging for coins in the car cushions for one more round of smelt. Find more picnic tables across the road at the glorious Summit Township Park on Lake Michigan. The Bortells stay open through Labor Day weekend, until they sell out of fish. 5528 S. Lakeshore Dr., halfway between Ludington and Pentwater, 231-843-3337."over 4 years ago