About ten years ago, my parents moved back to the Pacific Northwest. On one vist, my mom took me to Toby's tavern in Coupeville, Washington for mussels. The tavern is actually built over the waters of Penn Cove, where (in my opinion) the best mussels in the world are farmed. If you sit by the windows in the back of the tavern, you can see the mussel beds across the cove. Needless to say the mussels are very fresh. Toby's serves the mussels cooked in a broth of beer, garlic and cilantro (I think). You get 1 1/2 lbs of mussels in a big stainless steel bowl with a couple of big slices of toasted garlic bread to sop up the juice.
Once I tasted them, I realized until that moment, I had never had a truly fresh mussel. They were very sweet and tender, with no hint of chewiness. What was most interesting was the color. A fresh mussel is not pinkish orange, but a sort of buff color. As mussels get older they turn that familiar pink-orange hue.
Anyhow, I now have an impossible standard by which I judge mussels. I no longer order them in Chicago restaurants, because they never come close to the sweet buttery tenderness of fresh Penn Cove mussels. Unfortunately, my mom just moved to Arizona, so my trips to Toby's are going to be much less frequent. So, I was hoping one of you chowhounds could point me towards the freshest mussels in Chicago.
There is a company called farm-2-market that will ship Mussels from Penn Cove overnight at $80 for 10 lbs plus shipping. (They also ship oysters, lobsters, crawfish, copper river salmon, sturgeon and kobe beef.) However, I would prefer to find a restaurant where I can enjoy a big bowl with a pint of beer.
Somebody suggested the Hopleaf, which I have not been to since they started serving food. That place has a great beer selection, but I think they are way overpriced. However, if the mussels are good it might be worth the trip.