The Secret Behind New York City’s Best Smoked Fish

New Yorkers have so many options when it comes to lox and smoked fish — Eastern Nova, Western Nova, Gravlax, or Belly Lox just cover the basics. You can sample and place your order at the city’s finest appetizing stores, like Zabar’s, Barney Greengrass, Russ & Daughters or Shelksy’s, each with their own take on smoked fish. But these menu items actually have a lot in common –many of them come from Acme Smoked Fish in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

READ: What Are the Different Kinds of Lox?

According to Bloomberg News, these distinct fishes are expertly brined and then cold smoked at 70 degrees. Zabar’s, Shelsky’s and Barney Greengrass all have a different Acme-smoked Nova on the menu. Shop owners work closely with Acme to craft the exact kind of fish that they know their customers are looking for. Josh Tupper, owner of Russ & Daughters, told Bon Appetit that cold-smoked fish is the most popular type of fish on the menu. There’s a lot at stake with lox — customers analyze it for the texture, flavor, appearance, melt-in-your-mouthiness and, last but not least, flavor.

Smoked Salmon Sandwich

How did Acme Smoked Fish rise to fame?

It all started with Harry Brownstein in 1905, a Russian immigrant in Brooklyn who with a pushcart distributed fish from local smokehouses to appetizing stores. Brownstein co-created his own smoked fish company in Brooklyn’s Brownsville neighborhood in 1937, and eventually built his own smoking facility in Greenpoint in 1954. The name Acme, according to its website, was chosen not only because it means “best in business,” but also because it shows up first in the Yellow Pages.

Acme soon started supplying several local grocery store chains with pickled and smoked fish, becoming one of the first brands to do so. Prior to the 1970s, most smoked and pickled fish was sold behind the deli counter or at appetizing stores. With advances in technology, food safety and food preservation, the company was able to expand into further markets and set up shop in Florida and North Carolina. From pushcart to fish factory, the Acme story is one with which local retailers like Shelsky’s and Russ & Daughters can identify.

According to Bloomberg’s food writer, Kate Krader, no slice of Acme-smoked Nova is the same. She rates them here. Which one is your favorite?

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