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Barney Greengrass

541 Amsterdam Ave., New York, NY - (212) 724-4707
Posted By Michael Stern on 11/6/2004 3:58:00 AM
Food trends come and go, great New York bakeries have vanished, and it is harder and harder to find a good babka on the upper West Side. Barney Greengrass still has these dense, sweet cakes that go so well with coffee; and although babka is not the main attraction, we cannot come to this storefront restaurant without one to take home.

The food that put Barney Greengrass on the map is smoked fish. In the glass case of this restaurant and take-out store, you will find lean, silky sturgeon, salty cured salmon (known as lox), not-so-salty cured salmon (novie), snow-white whitefish, and luscious sable. At the tables in the dining room adjacent to the takeout counter, all these fish are available on platters, with bagels and/or bialys, cream cheese, onions, tomatoes, and olives. These are the makings of a true New York breakfast; there isn’t a restaurant in town that does it with the aplomb of bare-tabled Barney Greengrass.

Good as the smoked fish platters are, the single best dish in the house is the one known as eggs-and-novie. If you come in the morning, especially on a weekend, you will smell plates of it being carried from the kitchen to customers as soon as you enter. It is eggs scrambled with plush morsels of Nova Scotia salmon and onions nearly caramelized by frying. The combination tastes opulent; the textural range from the eggs’ soft curds to the firm nuggets of fish they enfold to the slippery web of onions is a tongue's delight. The aroma of this omelet, as well as smells of freshly-toasted bagels and of cold cuts, salamis, and garlic pickles from the take-out side of the restaurant, make walking into Barney Greengrass one of the most appetizing experiences New York City has to offer.

The original Barney Greengrass became known as “The Sturgeon King” after opening his first restaurant in Harlem in 1908. Barney passed the business to his son Moe, who ran it for decades in its current location on the West Side. Moe died in January, 2002, and the store is now run by Moe's son Gary.

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Scorecard

5 - Overall: Legendary - Worth driving from anyplace
Overall: Legendary - Worth driving from anyplace
Mini-Babka
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Eggs and novie: supremely savory and aromatic beyond all description. That's half a toasted bialy in the background.
"Eggs and novie: supremely savory and aromatic beyond all description. That's half a toasted bialy in the background."
Michael Stern





You can count on excellent bagels to accompany your smoked-fish platter.
"You can count on excellent bagels to accompany your smoked-fish platter."
Michael Stern


A chocolate babka from Barney Greengrass, sliced and ready to eat. On the cusp between bread and cake, it's good with coffee any time of day -- for breakfast, dessert, or a snack.
"A chocolate babka from Barney Greengrass, sliced and ready to eat. On the cusp between bread and cake, it's good with coffee any time of day -- for breakfast, dessert, or a snack."
Michael Stern


White Fish are a bit disconcerting if you're squeamish about eating things with faces.
"White Fish are a bit disconcerting if you're squeamish about eating things with faces."
Michael Stern


A chocolate mini-babka, marshaled on the dashboard and ready to eat. That's Amsterdam Avenue in the background.
"A chocolate mini-babka, marshaled on the dashboard and ready to eat. That's Amsterdam Avenue in the background."
Michael Stern


The fish that made Barney Greengrass famous: smoked sturgeon
"The fish that made Barney Greengrass famous: smoked sturgeon"
Michael Stern


As we waited for our food to be bagged, we watched the man behind the counter spread ample butter on crepes and load them with cheese: soon to be fried in a pan full of butter. Hail the blintz!
"As we waited for our food to be bagged, we watched the man behind the counter spread ample butter on crepes and load them with cheese: soon to be fried in a pan full of butter. Hail the blintz!"
Michael Stern


The center of the smoked-fish universe
"The center of the smoked-fish universe"
Michael Stern


On a Barney Greengrass Shopping bag: King of the Sea
"On a Barney Greengrass Shopping bag: King of the Sea"
Michael Stern



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