Appetizing shops are an NYC-bred tradition, opened in the late 1800s and early 1900s by Ashkenazi Jewish immigrants, most hailing from Eastern European countries. Historically, appetizing shops observed kashrut, the Jewish dietary laws outlining what’s considered Kosher, and only carry certain seafood (fish with scales; no crawfish or bottom-feeding species, including bivalves and mollusks) and dairy items, but no meat, as mixing meat and dairy is verboten. Pastrami, corned beef, chopped liver and other carnivorous Jewish comfort foods historically had to be sourced at delicatessens, like Katz’s and 2nd Avenue Deli.
While some of the places on this list have upheld the Kosher, strictly fish-and-dairy approach to the appetizing genre, most don’t adhere to this. Hence why one can find lobster or shrimp salad in some modern-day appetizing places, or chopped liver and pastrami in others. But in most cases, the time-honored basics that appear in any proper Jewish event’s catering spread (from bat mitzvahs to funerals) or Sunday morning brunch is defined by: buttery, salty smoked fish, a bagel, and schmear (cream cheese), ideally accessorized with onion, tomato, and capers.
The culinary genre can be overwhelming to the uninitiated. The selection might include multiple varieties and provenances of cold-smoked salmon; lox, which is cured in salt and not smoked; gravlax; which is also cured instead of smoked, but with sugar and herbs as well as salt; kippered salmon, which is hot-smoked; sable, a fish in the black cod family and often one of the priciest picks in the case; pickled and/or smoked herring, with or without sour cream-based sauce; whitefish, available both sliced and in salad form; and sturgeon.
Appetizing shops are on the decline, so restaurants offering the traditional meal are also on this list. Ahead, 16 excellent shops and restaurants to hit up when a smoked fish craving sets in.Read More