For the third year in a row, I’m going to attempt to eat every single item on Time Out New York’s annual 100 Best Dishes list. In no particular order, here’s my take on their Top 100. Let the gluttony continue…

If you ask just about anybody where to get smoked fish in New York, the answer will almost always be Russ & Daughters. And for good reason. This classic, old time Appetizing shop (a kosher food store that does not serve meat) slices some of the best varieties of smoked fish I’ve ever tasted.

But the game has changed a bit. A young guy named Peter Shelsky opened a similar shop in the family friendly neighborhood of Carroll Gardens and is now giving Russ & Daughters a run for their money. Not really. I’m not convinced that this little shop on Smith Street is worth the trip for tourists wanting to taste NY cuisine. Russ & Daughters is closer, larger, and has more history. But for those who live nearby, Shelsky’s is a gem.

I came to get one of their speciality sandwiches. Just like R&D, Shelsky’s has some inventive smoked fish sandwiches that utilize their wonderful cooler of ingredients. Time Out raved about the namesake Peter Shelsky sandwich, which is like your typical bagel and lox on steroids.

They use Kossar’s bagels, which I find to be terribly inconsistent and was worried about freshness considering this was Saturday in Brooklyn and Kossar’s stops baking on Friday in Manhattan. But I didn’t want to risk killing it in a toaster.

This was one mess of a sandwich. Scallion-studded cream cheese oozed out of every opening of the sesame bagel. To add to the creaminess, pickled herring that had been drenched in cream sauce was present, along with Gaspe Nova (smoked salmon) and rich buttery sable (black cod).

The cream may have overpowered the sandwich a bit, but I could taste the smokiness from the sable, the puckering vinegar from the herring, and the saltiness from the salmon. And any issues with the bagel were covered up by all the other flavors. It was distinct and filling despite the mess all over my face.

Russ & Daughters may still be the place to visit for smoked fish when in Manhattan, but when in Brooklyn, Shelsky’s hits the spot.

Would Shelsky’s Smoked Fish’s Peter Shelsky make my Top 100 of the year? Despite the overabundance of gooey cream, this gets an 8 out of 10 because the fish flavors balanced with each other nicely and made for a great play on bagels and lox.

SHELSKY’S SMOKED FISH
251 Smith Street (between Douglass and Degraw Street),
Cobble Hill, Brooklyn
(718) 855-8817
shelskys.com
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About the Author

Brian Hoffman is a classically trained actor who is now a full-time tour guide, blogger, and food obsessive. He leads food and drink tours around New York City, which not only introduce tour-goers to delicious food, but gives them a historical context. He also writes food articles for Gothamist and Midtown Lunch in addition to overseeing this blog and a few food video series, including Eat This, Locals Know, and Around the World in One City.

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