Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Barney Greengrass: The Ultimate New York Deli

A New York institution since 1908, Barney Greengrass is "the Sturgeon King" of the Upper West Side. Near and dear to many New Yorkers' hearts, this blissfully authentic Jewish Deli is a 'must' on any NYC food tour or pickle and pastrami pilgrimage. One of the great New York establishments, it's woven into the tapestry of the city. The fittings: formica tables, plain white countertops, yellowing wallpaper, are reminiscent of the era when Greengrass's grandfather, Barney, began selling sturgeon, whitefish, blintzes and other delicacies of the Eastern European Jewish palate at the store's former Harlem location. But over the following century, Barney Greengrass evolved into one of New York's quirkiest dynasties: an empire built on smoked fish. The ''Sturgeon King' keeps his palace shabby. "We want the place to be a time capsule," says Gary Greengrass, the third-generation owner of Barney Greengrass, the Upper West Side culinary institution, which recently celebrated its 106th anniversary. In 2006, Barney Greengrass was honored to receive the James Beard Foundation Award for Excellence as an "American Classic."

Part of its staying power is undoubtedly the quality of its cuisine. It's been named NYC's best deli for the past 16 years and running by the esteemed restaurant guide Zagat. While Jerry Seinfeld is a regular, photographs on the wall also testify to the patronage of the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon and Woody Allen, but like much of Yiddish culinary culture, Barney Greengrass belongs to all of New York, and to an impressive stream of international destination diners like us, on a sunny Manhattan afternoon. Gary Greengrass insists his family's winning formula is a simple one: mix quality food with the warmth and intimacy of a traditional family business. "Smoked fish is our marquee," he says, "but there's something about this food that ties generations together." I can't argue with that, because BG is now on my NYC culinary yiddish radar.

Barney Greengrass House-Cured Gravlox

Barney Greengrass World Famous Smoked Sturgeon

Potato Knish, a classic Eastern European snack food

A Jewish Deli isn't complete without a big jar of pickles 

Barney Greengrass Bagel Chips, Cookies and Cheese Twists

Barney Greengrass Restaurant connects through to the Deli

The quintessential Deli still life: Salt & Pepper Shakers, A bowl of sugar pouches and beaker of milk

The Barney Greengrass Restaurant glossy laminated menu

Three pages of Deli delicacies from Matza Ball Soup to Hot Pastami on Rye

A cold Stella Artois is the perfect partner for our Deli lunch

A Barney Greengrass Triple Decker Sandwich with Corned Beef, Tongue, Swiss Cheese, 
Cole Slaw and Russian Dressing on Rye

Turkey Sandwich with tomato and lettuce on Rye

Hot Pastrami on Rye

Barneys famous Cole Slaw

Our first Potato Knish with a heaping bowl of mustard for the sandwiches

One scene in "You've Got Mail" with Meg Ryan and Maureen Stapleton, was shot at Barney Greengrass

Barney Greengrass Lox, Eggs & Onions 
Serves 6
Recipe courtesy of Barney Greengrass, NYC 

3 Spanish onions, sliced in rounds 
3 tbsp vegetable oil   
8 large eggs   
1/2 cup lox ends

Sauté the onions slowly in the oil in a frying pan with a cover. When the onions start to soften, cover, reduce the heat to low, and cook for 1/2 hour, until the onions are very soft. Remove the cover and continue cooking until golden, so this way you do not need lots of oil. Beat the eggs well in a bowl. Pour over the onions and cook slowly, stirring well. Cover for about 10 minutes. Just before the eggs have set, add the lox, and cook until just set. Serve immediately