For the past couple of decades, appetizing fans in the know have made a weekly pilgrimage to a Greenpoint, Brooklyn factory. There, a 60-year-old fish-smoking plant offers retail shoppers a wealth of delicacies — from fatty sable tail to peppery pastrami lox and much, much more — all at bargain-basement prices.
The ritual is known as Fish Fridays, and it takes place at Acme Smoked Fish. Founded in 1954 by Harry Caslow, a Russian immigrant who arrived in New York in 1906, the factory offers a huge range of house-smoked and cured fish, and while the products are normally available at stores and restaurants only, on Friday mornings they’re offered to the public at a 50 to 70 percent discount.
The combination of high-quality fish and low prices attracts a diverse array of customers, from Orthodox Jews loading up for the Sabbath to local hipsters looking to brunch in style. For Adam Caslow, Acme’s fourth-generation owner and operator, that’s what’s most exciting about running the “smoked fish speakeasy.”
“As the neighborhood has changed, so has Fish Fridays,” Caslow said on a recent Friday morning. “In the ’50s, when we were founded, this was a neighborhood of Polish immigrants. But today, all kinds of people live here. And the popularity of smoked fish has grown, too. So we get an incredibly varied mix of shoppers.”
For Caslow, it’s heartening to hear that Acme smoked fish forms the centerpiece of many a family gathering.
“This type of food is so ingrained in family,” Caslow said. “I’ll hear customers tell me, ‘I drove from Jersey to get lox for my son’s bar mitzvah,’ stuff like that. Knowing that what we make unites families, brings them together? That makes me feel good.”