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Back to School: Our Favorite Things
Dinner at Shaw's

The bar at the Blue Crab Lounge

Jim Newberry

The Blue Crab Lounge at Shaw’s

I need to get more fish in my diet. I need my leafy greens. I need to watch my expenses. And once in a while I need a civilized dinner downtown even if I have no one to play with. Sometimes because I have no one to play with. When these needs intersect you’ll find me at the bar of the Blue Crab Lounge at Shaw’s.

At Shaw’s bar you dine by yourself without being alone. Almost everyone seated there eats something, at least a plate of raw oysters shucked before your eyes. It’s like a big, U-shaped table of strangers, presided over by a bartender-waiter who knows several of the customers or adeptly pretends to. There are other solo diners, amorous couples, teams of golf-shirted business boys with their Web phones lying on the bar, ready for action. They won’t bother you. They provide an amusing and harmless kind of society.

For starters I recommend the Shaw’s mixed green salad, a simple mound of high-quality greens expertly dressed in an oily vinaigrette ($4.95). Add a bowl of excellent seafood gumbo ($5.95) and, to make it a party, a glass of wine ($6.25 and up). With the fine, chewy sourdough bread and fresh butter, both generously supplied, these constitute a satisfying and relatively frugal dinner.

For my money the main attraction is the gumbo, a dark, nicely seasoned roux-based soup that features sizable chunks of fresh fish, whatever’s left after the day’s supply has been trimmed and portioned. I’m told that the same two cooks have been making it for more than 20 years. Enrique Perez and Florentino Lopez, take a bow. The lonesome guy on the corner stool is lifting his glass to you. 21 E. Hubbard, 312-527-2722. —Michael Lenehan

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