The 10 Best Appetizing Counters in NYC

The 10 Best Appetizing Counters in NYC
All photos by Adam Robb

When seeking an enduring taste of this city's culinary heritage, look for preservatives. Smoke and salt have been used as methods of preserving foods far longer than New York has had a grid plan, but the ways in which these techniques were utilized by turn-of-the-century Eastern European immigrants established a subsection of local cuisine -- appetizing -- that was dominant for much of the 20th century.

Used as a noun, the term "appetizing" loosely describes the many pickled, smoked, cured, and cultured edibles served alongside bagels, and in many instances, the places that sell these goods are preserving traditions along with their fish. Their inextricable link to the city has recently reignited, as many relatives of early immigrants look to the past for inspiration while applying newly acquired techniques and culinary know-how. These New Kids on the Kreplach are working within an evolved terroir, but while they look to change the game, plenty of old guard shops have become rarefied destinations in their own right, sustaining a local clientele. Some feature table service, others aren't much more than salty bodegas -- all will give you a pungent taste of New York history. Here are the 10 best appetizing counters in NYC, perfect for noshing on some nostalgia.

The 10 Best Appetizing Counters in NYC

10. Avenue P Appetizer (466 Avenue P, Brooklyn; 718-339-7202) This kosher Gravesend store has been operating for over 60 years (and in its current incarnation for the past seven). In addition to freshly baked bagels, the narrow space -- with glass counters that run the length of the shop -- is brimming with smoked and cured fish, juicy pickled herring, and an array of prepared salads, chopped liver, and other spreads. Rugelach and other baked goods are also available, but if you're looking to entertain guests, Avenue P's old school platters can't be beat for their products and artistic design.

The 10 Best Appetizing Counters in NYC

9. Fairway (2127 Broadway, 212-595-1888) Despite a history that dates back to the 1930s, you'll find no grand family traditions passed down through generations here. But Fairway is a New York supermarket at heart, at least, and it runs a commendable appetizing section, with buckets of pickles and olives, a formidable smoked fish counter with kippered salmon, whitefish, sturgeon, and multiple varieties of Nova lox. As a corporate operation, it even carries Fairway brand sides of smoked salmon that are perfect for catering.

The 10 Best Appetizing Counters in NYC

8. Schwartz Appetizing (3008 Avenue L, Brooklyn; 718-951-8575) This 40-year-old family-owned appetizing shop lies deep in the kosher wilds of Borough Park, where it's known for an impressive array of herring. The oily fish comes pickled, cured in wine, and swimming in oniony cream sauce for shtiglitz herring. The interior is spare and the owners are moody -- it's more of a corner store than a grand appetizing destination -- but flash a smile towards the counter, and chances are you'll walk away happy.

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