Finding a bagel and lox in this city is as easy as finding the sidewalk—but an excellent bagel and lox? That question will throw most New Yorkers into a heated argument.
The truth is, many of NYC’s Jewish food institutions like Zabar’s and Barney Greengrass all fetch their smoked salmon varieties from the same high-quality vendors. It’s the preparation of these items that makes the special few stand out.
The service is perhaps the reason Barney Greengrass has been around for a century. Nova Scotia salmon, lox, and Gravlox may be interchangeable anywhere else, but at Barney Greengrass, your waiter will spend as much time as necessary explaining the differences between the three to ensure your sandwich has the right proportion of smoky flavor and salty goodness. (For the record, you can’t go wrong with the three choices anyway.)
In addition to the heavy salmon/lox and egg items on the menu, the smoked fish are a highlight often overlooked during brunch-time in NYC but never in a Jewish deli. (Zabar’s takes its smoked fish seriously enough to make a YouTube video about it.) Barney Greengrass is famous for its sturgeon and has been featured on travel and eating shows for a decade. Its chopped herring salad sandwich ($10, pictured) was featured on The Food Network’s “The Best Thing I Ever Ate: At A Deli” with Alton Brown, and Anthony Bourdain is a fan of the chopped liver and the scrambled eggs with lox and onions (pictured, $15).
To name not-to-miss menu items would be a crime, so the best I can do is advise that you try a little of everything, from the meaty potato latkes to the bagel sandwiches and lox platters. Just be careful—it’s an addiction! Barney Greengrass’s most famous customers, including Alfred Hitchcock and Al Jolson, used to have his lox and sturgeon flown across the country. The store still fulfills mail orders…
Barney Greengrass is located at 541 Amsterdam Avenue, at 86th Street. Open Tues-Sun, 8:30am – 6pm. (To-go opens at 8am.)
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