Acme Smoked Fish


On a desolate block in Greenpoint sits a cinder block warehouse that is home to Acme Smoked Fish. The company was started in 1905 by Harry Brownstein and is still run by family members. Once a week Acme opens up their warehouse to the public. I was there to check it out.

Before I go any further I should confess, I've never liked the superstar of Sunday brunch: smoked salmon. Today my history of ignoring the lox tray next to the basket of bagels was turned on its nose. I tried at least five different kinds of smoked fish and loved every single one.

But first, what to expect when you arrive at 30 Gem Street. The door, easily something you might walk by, has a small unofficial looking sign that says "Retail Entrance," plus an arrow. Follow it. (I'm told that in good weather the roll up grate is opened, but if you go in the winter keep your eyes open.) Once inside you'll be in a cement-walled room, slightly haphazard with this and that, a pallet here and there and a few cardboard boxes. There is definitely no welcome mat and no instructions. At the end of the room is a plastic curtain, this is where the line might end. Acme is only open Fridays from 8am - 1pm so expect a slow-moving line. And bring cash they don't take credit cards.

The slow line gave me plenty of time to look around and ask questions. The crowd was varied and leaned more towards oldsters than hipsters (insert sigh of relief). The man behind me had bags under his eyes as weathered as his army green field jacket. There was a much older man wearing what looked like a full length mink coat (fake?). He pushed along a tennis-balled walker next to his fifty-year old son. They both wore caps and the resemblance was striking. The remainder of the line spoke English with an accent or held a tour guide in Japanese.

Until my arrival at Acme I didn't really know the difference between cold-smoked and hot-smoked but thanks to all the sampling, I now know that I like both methods. It seemed to come down to what was on top and how you feel about fish texture. Cold-smoked seemed to retain more of the raw nature of the fish while hot-smoked looked and tasted cooked. My favorites from the shop were the cold-smoked siracha slathered–which tasted spicy and sweet at the same time, the cold-smoked "pastrami"–which a gritty peppery top that tasted like pastrami but less fatty and way healthier, and the honey hot-smoked which melted in my mouth and I longed to put on a bed of kale. I also picked up a tub of their Blue Hill Bay smoked salmon spread, a perfect compliment to any cracker you might have in your pantry. I put it on top of a few flax seed crackers. It was perhaps a hair too oily but it's definitely not too fishy. The diabetic in me was happy to see that there wasn't a single gram of carbs in an entire serving, just fat and protein.

Want to smoke your own? Follow these simple steps.