Update: For an updated review see New York Food Journal.
On a recent trip back north, I headed to my local 100-year-old culinary institution: Barney Greengrass. Barney Greengrass, a.k.a. the "Sturgeon King," is a Jewish deli, breadshop, fish shop, and restaurant. Unsurprisingly from their self-selected nickname, and my admitted bias for smoked fish, I was inclined to make a recent appearance. Barney's is known for incredible house-smoked fish, slightly spendy prices, extremely gruff employees and wait staff, and delicious bialys. (My understanding is that they serve H&H bagels. I do not know where they get their bialys from. They taste different/better than Kossar's or Bell's, the two major NYC bialy powerhouses. One of life's great mysteries)
Barney's is both a store and a restaurant -- with many of the tables for the "restaurant" situated in the portion of the establishment ostensibly devoted to the store. Predictably, you don't want to sit there. The back room is solely devoted to the restaurant. On this most recent visit, I was there with two out of town friends. Naturally our waiter picked up on this and treated us with an appropriate level of gruffness. He also tempted us with some excellent looking latkes by repeatedly bringing over a plate to our table, but we were unmoved.
The best dishes at Barney's naturally involve some combination of bialys and smoked fish. Past favorites include their Eggs Leo - Nova Scotia Salmon scrambled with eggs and onions. On this occassion, we had their gravlax, white fish salad, and a pastrami omelet. The gravlax and white fish were predictably superb; the white fish was well-suited as a schmear for the bialy. The gravlax was a similarly good complement -- the salt-cured fish had a tender and smooth texture. The eggs were also nicely done, but obviously they were not the main attraction. The pastrami omelet got mixed reviews. It is served open-faced. The pastrami itself was crispy and delicious but the omelet had an enormous amount of oily cheese, which was excessive.
Overall, it remains a staple on the NYC brunch scene. Be sure to pick up some bialys for the road on your way out.
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541 Amsterdam Avenue
New York, NY 10024
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