Barney Greengrass ~ Orderinny

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Barney Greengrass

I had visitors from Singapore again this weekend, and before a trip to the Met thought it would be good to fuel up somewhere nearby. Barney Greengrass - a 99 year old upper west side Jewish foodstore/ restaurant complete with tiny formica tables and 1950-ish shiny plastic and chrome chairs - isn't exactly on the same side of the park as the museum, but I figured, a short walk wouldn't kill anyone, not especially after a nice, fishy breakfast.

Jeanette had lamented on the dismal state of Singapore bagels and while Barney Greengrass is more famous for smoked fish, the bagels we had were dense, chewy, poofy, not too big. Overall a pretty decent bagel.
As good as the bagels may me, it unfortunately plays second fiddle at Barney Greengrass. For the main reason people frequent this old store is not for the bagels nor the excellent baked goods, but for the fish. I clearly wasn't the only one with fish on my mind, as the main sitting room was already filled at 10.30am with early risers including my coworker Alan, his fiancee and friends, and my party had to be sitted on the more makeshift are right across the refrigerated displays. This proved to be a great seat as we stared at all the unfamiliar types of fish like sable and salmon pastrami, imagining their tastes, and watched the deli-men perform their mean slicing skills, shaving thick slabs of lox into thin layers fit for a cream cheese, lox and bagel trifecta. The lovely couple I breakfasted with both chose plates of nova scotia salmon scrambled with eggs and onions. The creamy eggs binded well with the thick chunks of flavorful cured salmon, while the soft and slow cooked onion provided a sweet counterpoint. I selected a fried egg sandwich stuffed with a generous serving of sturgeon, for which Barney Greengrass unabashedly calls itself a king of. The delicate fish was moist and flaky and the eggs was just as I liked it, crispy on the eggs but juice-filled as I bit into my towering sesame-seed flecked sandwich.
We, or rather I ended my meal buying a bag of black-and-white cookies that are as New York as bagels are and was not disappointed. The cookies are ubiquitous in New York delis, but are often stale, dry disks of cake dough topped with oily glaze. The mini cookies I bought were moist and tasted slightly lemony, while the duo of chocolate and vanilla glaze were sweet but not cloyingly so. Yummy.
For New Yorkers, Barney Greengrass is a great place to enjoy local favorites in an efficient, friendly and no-nonsense setting and for visitors, a charmingly old-school dining experience that is definitely not cookie-cutter!

Barney Greengrass
541 Amsterdam Avenue (86th St)

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