From yesterday to the present, you'll find traditions at Phil Smidt's worth coming back to -- excellent food, great service and generous hospitality. Our famous recipes and attentive service are the same now as they were when "Captain" Phil and Marie first pan-fried lake perch and personally served their guests. Simple, classic recipes, careful preparation and pride go into all of our menu items, from seafood and steaks to fried chicken and our house specialty, frog legs.
The basics haven't changed since 1910, but our services have grown. Our 450 seat restaurant accommodates banquets and events up to 140 people. Our growing Group Tours has introduced thousands to our dining experience. Dancing Frog Productions, presents mini concerts and plays, call for details.
Phil Smidt's today has something for everyone. No matter the occasion - a special event, a business lunch, a holiday or just casual dining with friends and family -- you'll always enjoy a traditional dining experience at Phil Smidt's, Chicagoland's Seafood Tradition Since 1910!
A Seafood Dining Tradition Since 1910
1205 North Calument Avenue
Hammond, Indiana 46320
Tuesday - Thursday 11:15 - 9:00
Friday 11:15 - 9:30
Saturday 1:00 - 9:30
Sunday 1:00 - 7:00
A little history...
As the Twentieth Century was beginning, Phil Smidt and his bride, Marie, boarded a train in Bayonne, New Jersey and headed west destined for California. Their train stopped for water in Roby, Indiana. Believing they had arrived in Chicago to change trains, they disembarked to find a shoemaker since Phil's shoe was in need of repair. It was a fateful decision because the train left without them. They had found a new place to set their roots.
Phil and Marie Smidt stand proudly in front of their new restaurant, 1910Phil soon found employment loading huge blocks of ice into railroad cars from the Knickerbocker Ice Co.'s Ice House #1 located on Wolf Lake. It was common practice back then to cut ice blocks from Lake Michigan during the depth of winter and store them covered with straw. The railroads then used the blocks in their refrigerated freight cars throughout the rest of the year.
It was back-breaking, exhausting and unimaginative work and Phil would join his fellow laborers after work for a beer and a sandwich at various local food shacks which dotted the shores of Wolf Lake. The lake in those days was a common recreation area for the local residents of Hammond, Whiting and Roby to picnic and "take to the water". Reaching the lake area was easy because streetcar lines with terminals in Hammond, Gary and Roby provided regular service past the lake. The more familiar he became with the area, the stronger Phil became convinced that a good lake perch restaurant and tavern would prosper in Roby. He convinced a friend to loan him $600.00 to open a bar and restaurant. On May 30, 1910, he achieved his goal and opened a 12 seat, three table dining room and 12- foot bar with an attached boat livery. Marie's special recipe for pan fried perch had the townspeople flocking to their establishment. This popular meal was served "all you want" with rye bread and a vegetable for 40 cents. Pike, chicken, steak and frog legs were also on the menu. The business was so successful that he repaid the loan to his friend in just 59 days! In ten years the restaurant was bursting at the seams.
Phil and Marie had a son, Pete. Marie Smidt died in 1926. Pete Smidt and his wife, Irene, slowly began to take over the reins of the restaurant by the time of the Great Depression in the early thirties. Even during those bad economic times, the fame of the restaurant drew people from hundreds of miles away by trolley car, bus, auto, train and boat to relax and dine on the Phil Smidt's famous cuisine.
The history of this restaurant's middle years is really personified by the personal life styles of Irene and Pete Smidt. The fabulous reputation of the establishment was based not only on their personalities, philosophies and persuasions but also on the lake perch, chicken and frog legs that were served by the tons each month.
Irene Smidt was beloved by the customers. She never forgot a face or the name that went with it. She was respected by her staff yet she was strict in maintaining top quality food and service. She was adored by the community for her generosity in providing food and money to orphanages, retirement homes and religious institutions.
Some of Irene's operating policies were years ahead of their time. She insisted that the kitchen be immaculate at all times, even during rush periods. She instructed waitresses to provide the finest service and to be alert to the needs of the customers. She taught waitresses that they didn't have a "job" but were in the "service profession" catering to the special needs of the restaurant's guests.
She adored children and welcomed families with little ones, giving them extra special attention. She welcomed boaters too. Irene hired a doorman and one of his duties was to ferry yachters from their craft in a dinghy to the restaurant. In the parking lots, she assigned boys to clean auto windshields which before the days of automatic window washers was a welcomed service.
James Cagney personally congratulates Pete Smidt for his work on behalf of the war effort.Pete Smidt was a great story teller and entertained folks gathered around the bar with tales of his golf triumphs, fishing exploits and hunting expeditions. He was charmingly good natured except when his patriotism was questioned. During World War II, because the name Smidt is of German origin, anti-German rumors circulated. All rumors ceased when it became known that the Smidt's were born in this country and that Pete was serving on the Selective Service Board and was active in War Bond sponsorship rallies which were often held in the restaurant's banquet facilities. At one Bond raising event, film star James Cagney personally congratulated Pete for his tireless work on behalf of the war effort (see picture).
By War's end, Phil Smidt's Restaurant had already achieved an international reputation. It became the destination restaurant for such sport luminaries as Babe Ruth, Jack Dempsey, Gene Tunny and Dizzy Dean. The Prince of Wales made a special trip to Roby, Indiana to feast on the lake perch and frog legs.
On their cross country trips by train, the famous of stage, screen and radio took advantage of their layovers between trains and hastened across the Illinois State Line to dine at Phil Smidt's. They included Lee Bowman, George Murphy, James Cagney, Buddy Rogers and Bob Hope. Governor Adlai Stevenson and Mayors "Big" Bill Thompson and Richard J. Daley made a point of dining here too.
Disaster strikes Phil Smidt's Restaurant At five o'clock, the beginning of the dinner hour on January 19, 1945, disaster struck the restaurant. An underground gas transmission pipe that ran beneath the facility exploded, blowing out walls, killing two customers and injuring nineteen others in the ensuing fire. The building was a total loss. One remarkable fact was that the Smidt's pet dog "Flag" was dug out of the rubble alive the next day. Undaunted, Pete and Irene sought a location to rebuild and within a few months they closed a deal on a nearby place known as Lundgren's Restaurant which is the present location of 1205 Calumet Avenue. They remodeled that restaurant as rapidly as the post war shortages of restaurant equipment and supplies permitted and opened on February 5, 1946. It is at this present location that a new and exciting epic in the history of the restaurant is unfolding, an era dedicated to developing modern techniques and systems to provide even greater service to the prosperous Northwestern Indiana community and the rapidly expanding suburban communities in Indiana and Illinois.
The current location and appearance of Phil Smidt's Restaurant, 2000When Irene passed away in January of 1969, Pete was in sole charge of operating the restaurant and maintaining its reputation. He deeded the restaurant to Calumet College on August 1,1976 and retired. The College needed a good management team. Michael Probst, a local young man schooled in restaurant management, was chosen to meet this challenge. The College eventually wanted Mike to buy the restaurant, which he was able to do on September 29, 1980. Chris Probst joined on as co-owner shortly afterwards and the Probst brothers continued the tradition that was started in 1910.
Mike and Chris carefully researched the atmosphere, policies and menus that first created, and then sustained, the fame of Phil Smidt's from its humble beginnings in a little frame building on Wolf Lake. To celebrate its history with the community, the brothers decided in June of 1980 and 1981 to offer 1930 prices commemorating the 70th and 71st anniversaries of the restaurant's founding.
As long lines of eager customers formed to dine at these nostalgic prices, for five brief hours each of those years the 30's came alive again. Once they gained entrance and were served, over 2,500 customers found they could enjoy lake perch or frog legs at prices they might have expected to pay for bait.
A special menu printed up for the occasion listed Lake Perch at $1.25 and Frog Legs at $1.50. Mike prepared for each day by purchasing 3,000 pounds of lake perch, a ton of frog legs, 1,100 pounds of chicken, 3,600 rolls and 180 pies.
The events attracted the national media, with newspapers such as the Tallahassee Gazette, Philadelphia Inquirer, Knoxville Journal, Hot Springs Sentinel-Record and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette carrying detailed reports of the promotion.
In the Spring of 2000, the Probst Brothers sold Phil Smidt's to David and Barbara Welch of Naperville, Illinois, a couple who are following their dream to run a "great restaurant."
David and Barbara will continue the tried and true traditions that have made Phil Smidt's a restaurant icon in the industry. Traditional recipes, great service, exceptional quality, old favorites, new menu items and genuine hospitality -- these are the values that David, Barbara and the staff of Phil Smidt's will continue to bring to their customers.
No Band! Not even a pitchpipe! Just an amazing blending of the oldest instrument known to man…the Human voice. Totally accapella, completely portable, toe tappin, finger snappin, slick vocal arrangements that make you forget that there is no instrumentation.
Up tempo numbers that make you want to dance…groovy love ballads that will jar loose some of your fondest romantic memories. All this, enveloped into a polished presentation that leaves audiences on their feet begging for more. It's simply the purest form of vocal entertainment…it's Harbor Lights!
The group has performed all around the country at premier theaters such as The Wang Center in Boston, The Fabulous Fox Theater in St. Louis, The Front row Theater in Cleveland, and the Star Plaza theater in Indiana.
They have shared the stage with scores of Musical Legends. The Temptations, Smoky Robinson, Chubby Checker, Carl Perkins, Dion, The Drifters, The Coasters, and Ronnie Spector to name a few.
On four separate occasions they performed they performed at the White House for special holiday events. At a National media event, as President Bill Clinton approached the stage to address the hundreds of news celebrities in the audience, he gave the group a big thumbs up while they sang The Lion Sleeps Tonight as his introduction tune.
At the Voice of America, also in Washington, DC, the group did a live radio broadcast performance to an estimated audience of 200 million listeners all over the globe. During this live broadcast, through an interpreter, the group was interviewed by listeners from China. The enthusiastic callers described the group's streetcorner Doo Wop sound as smooth!
In 1996, the group had the unique honor of performing for the athletes in the Olympic Village, at the 100th Olympiad in Atlanta.
The group has appeared on WGN Superstation , The Fox Network, Entertainment Tonight, Larry King Live, and sang live on dozens of radio shows across the country.
Over the last 14 years, members of Harbor Lights have recorded 12 albums. Their brand new album, 50s Doo Wop Chrome, has been described as pure vocal rapture./ All the magic is there to enjoy.
Harbor Lights has performed several times at Phil Smidt's to sold out audiences since 2001. On Mothers Day and New Years' Eve they sing throughout the restaurant to diners who love this added touch.
For more information regarding our
"Dancing Frog Productions"
Entertainment schedule, Please contact us at 1-800-FROGLEGS
PHIL SMIDT'S MENUS:
"A quintessential old favorite, luring city dwellers to the South Shore for pan-fried perch and frog legs ever since Taft was in the White House."
Chicago Magazine - 1999
"Going out for perch in Northwest Indiana is a strange experience, a night of gastronomic indulgence that seems in some ways lavish, yet has all the personal charm of frequenting a favorite street-corner coffee shop."
Gourmet Magazine - 1995
Our Perch is Indiana's Great Plate!
"The 50 Great Plates of America,"
"Part of the Great Lakes' greatness is that they're home to delicate-tasting perch, a popular variety of fish at Midwestern fish fries. Try the ones served up at Phil Smidt and Son in Hammond."
USA Today, May 2000
One of the last known pictures of Phil Smidt's before being demolished in 2013: