Lox me!
May 1, 2008 9:02 AM   Subscribe

If I could I would live on lox. When I moved to NYC, I thought that I would be in lox-heaven. Instead, I am in lox-hell. Please help me find good lox!

My problem is this: about half of the time, when I buy lox, I open the package up and smell feet because the lox has gone bad. This happens even at good/pricey grocery stores, and has happened so many times at so many different places that I have mostly stopped trying.

The rest of the time, the lox is edible but has a texture that I really dislike. It's kind of mushy, for lack of a better word. The lox that I fell in love with before my New York life was thick, fleshy, firm; it was lox that you could bite and chew and it was moist, fresh, pink, and delicious. The lox I get here is not lox you can chew. It's very soft and it doesn't resist at all. It feels wrong to me to eat such soft, mushy lox (does it mean that the lox has gone bad?). If this texture is just the result of a specific method of perparing the lox, please tell me so that I know what to look for.

I will order it online. I will travel to buy it. If you know where New York is hiding the good stuff, please clue me in!

Thanks in advance, big city MeFites.
posted by prefpara to Food & Drink (24 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Ess-a-Bagel on First Avenue and 21st Street was my spot when I lived in the East Village, pretty much everything in there is real deal. Half the time they've got the whole fish right there on the counter; they lop a chunk off it and drop it right on your sandwich or in a take out container.
posted by The Straightener at 9:20 AM on May 1, 2008

I don't live in New York, so I don't really know the places to go, but I think the root of your problem is that you're going to grocery stores. In a place like New York, the grocery store is the last resort, not the first stop.

Go to the nearest delicatessen (Jewish, natch) and talk to the guy behind the counter. He'll hook you up. For cuts of meat like steaks, you go to to a butcher, veggies, the market.

Some of this takes a bit of traveling, but the trains are fast and essentially free since I'd imagine you have a monthly pass if you're living there. Sorry I don't have specific recommendations.
posted by explosion at 9:23 AM on May 1, 2008

Have you tried a traditional appetizing store like Russ & Daughters.

More on appetizing from the good folks at Wikipedia can be found here.
posted by elkerette at 9:32 AM on May 1, 2008

Zabars. That's pretty much all you need to know.
posted by SampleSize at 9:44 AM on May 1, 2008

What part of NY are you in? I think with that piece of info you'll get some more specific answers. If your in the upper west side for instance, Zabars would pretty much be it.
posted by xammerboy at 10:02 AM on May 1, 2008

seconding russ and daughters. I also recommend the following:
1. differentiate btwn lox and smoked salmon. maybe you prefer the latter? Also, try wild pacific salmon vs "Atlantic" salmon (farmed)
2. recommend going to somewhere they slice it themselves. getting the salmon sliced fresh is the best way to get really good fresh tasting lox.

I never get lox at the bagel places.
posted by alkupe at 10:06 AM on May 1, 2008

I just had some very nice lox from Costco that had the firm, chewy texture you are describing.
posted by metahawk at 10:09 AM on May 1, 2008

Yeah... If you live in New York City there shouldn't be a package involved in Lox, but a fish and a guy with a knife.
posted by Jahaza at 10:09 AM on May 1, 2008 [3 favorites]

If you go to Barney Greengrass and order lox, the waiter will say something like the following: are you sure you mean lox and not nova, because you probably mean nova; real lox is really, really salty. So, go give them a try.
posted by chengjih at 10:12 AM on May 1, 2008

Or, Murray's Sturgeon Shop, also on the Upper West Side. Thirding Barney Greengrass and Zabar's of course.

And reemphasizing what Jahaza said.
posted by JimN2TAW at 10:21 AM on May 1, 2008

In Park Slope, possibly on Park Place, there is a very good shop with a big lox selection in the back. I think it is the Blue Apron. The Bagel Hole, down the street, has my favorite bagels.

You can also make your own lox very easily and far more cheaply than you can buy it. Salt, sugar, black pepper, and vodka (along with some limoncello, if you like) is all it takes, and after 3 days you have more lox than you can shake a stick at.
posted by charlesv at 10:33 AM on May 1, 2008

I agree with everyone who has said you should go someplace that is known for having good lox, and sells a lot of it, like Zabar's, Fairway or Russ & Daughters. It would probably be best to go sometime when there's hardly anyone else in the store, like on a Tuesday at 10 am, when you can chat with the guy who slices the lox, ask him what he prefers, and sample some of the fillets.

I think the mushy problem might be a function of the pre-sliced lox being packaged in plastic wrap. I also recall that salmon from Acme has a texture like that, so you might like the Irish or Scottish lox better.

If you are fond of cured salmon, you should try the salmon sampler at Aquavit.
posted by Lycaste at 10:36 AM on May 1, 2008

The lox I get here is . . . very soft and it doesn't resist at all. . . . If this texture is just the result of a specific method of perparing the lox, please tell me so that I know what to look for.

prefpara -- Yes, that's definitely right. Classic NY nova is indeed more mushy than firm, particularly when it's very thinly sliced, as it should be. That's what you'll get at Zabar's, Murray's, and Barney Greengrass. I don't know what methods they use. Maybe you prefer fish that's smoked and not soaked? Many New Yorkers refer to "smoked salmon" even when it's not really smoked at all. I've made vodka-cured gravlax at home, from the freshest salmon, and it always comes out barely firm enough to slice with a very sharp knife.
posted by Dave 9 at 10:43 AM on May 1, 2008

Don't buy a package! That's just like being in Idaho and buying a package of lox! You need to go to a place mentioned above that has the giant slabs and they cut fresh for you.

I wouldn't describe good lox as mushy, it's tender, silky and melt in your mouth-y. Maybe the lox you had outside of NY was processed differently? But I don't think lox should be chewy.
posted by spec80 at 11:16 AM on May 1, 2008

Downtown: Russ & Daughters (179 E. Houston St. (bet. Allen & Orchard Sts.)

Uptown: Barney Greengrass (541 Amsterdam Avenue at 86th Street)
posted by andrewraff at 11:47 AM on May 1, 2008

Born and raised and still a lower-Manhattan half-Jew here, Nthing Russ & Daughters.
posted by nicwolff at 11:55 AM on May 1, 2008

I find the nova (but colloquially referred to as lox) at Fairway to be okay, but not as good as Zabar's. Russ & Daughters is a good choice as well. Barney Greengrass is good, but not worth the price premium over Zabar's in my opinion.

It's a bit of a sidetrack, but if you're going to Russ & Daughters, you also need to stop by Katz's and get some pastrami.
posted by Caviar at 12:21 PM on May 1, 2008

I second that Blue Apron, in Park Slope, Brooklyn (I think it's on Union Ave and 6th? Definitely on Union between 7th-5th) has spectacular lox. They have a specially-trained slicer who will slice it wafer-thin (if you'd like it) and will even remove any non-pink parts (usually there's a brown bit on the edge). It'll cost you, but it's so worth it. I love a buttery lox, though, so it may not have the chewiness you crave.

Now I'm all hungry.
posted by chowflap at 12:22 PM on May 1, 2008

*I forgot to add "dill" to my list of lox ingredients.

Seriously, since I started making it 6 months ago, I have not once purchased lox.

Now I need to get my smoker running....
posted by charlesv at 12:46 PM on May 1, 2008

Please don't make me kill you. I'm from NYC but I live in Ireland, where I have access to... smoked salmon. And that's it. I can get something that is somewhat nova-like, but nothing that approaches lox. I can't even buy a decent bagel. Clearly I am being punished for some really, really evil deed.

You, on the other hand, have access to Barney Greengrass, Russ & Daughters, Murray's and Zabars. In my opinion, Russ & Daughters is the best in the city. The very thought makes me weep with envy. Go. Enjoy. Mail me some!
posted by DarlingBri at 12:47 PM on May 1, 2008

Yes to Russ & Daughters. If you want to really do it right, get your nova/lox and cream cheese, and buy, or "source," your bagel elsewhere. Like David's Bagels on 1st Ave just south of 14th Street. Then you should go get coffee at Taralucci e vino, or maybe Mud, both nearby. Oh god, I can't wait for this weekend.
posted by taliaferro at 2:19 PM on May 1, 2008

Nthing Russ & Daughters.
posted by kenzi23 at 8:13 PM on May 1, 2008

Darlingbri, Itsabagel in the Epicurean Food Court on Henry St flies bagels in daily from H&H. FWIW, I LOVED the Irish smoked.
posted by brujita at 11:36 PM on May 1, 2008

Thanks, everyone! I will try out all of these suggestions. If I find the firm, fresh, elusive lox of my dreams, I will report back.
posted by prefpara at 8:36 AM on May 3, 2008

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