Zabarâ€™s is one of those original New York City gourmet shops that is legendaryâ€¦originally specializing in smoked fish and bagels and cream cheese, it has since expanded to a full line of gourmet foods and a second floor filled with cooking utensils. I have eaten smoked fish from Zabarâ€™s for perhaps 30 years, but it has been at the same location for over 70 years! To many visitors, the place is chaotic, difficult to navigate, sometimes intimidating. The blaring PA system screaming the daily smoked fish special or free tasting of some other promotional item can be disconcerting for some shoppers, Marketman included. However, it is still one of the top food store destinations in New York. If you hit it at the wrong time, say a Friday in the summer before everyone skeedadles to Long Island for the weekend or in preparation for all the neighborhood brunches, the place is a zoo!
You have to pick numbers to get served but the crew is efficient and you can move through a long line in a reasonable amount of time. On my recent visit, I was a bit turned off by the long lines at the smoked fish counter so I decided to look around the bottled and canned foods. I ended up buying nicoise olives (a must have in our pantry), some pure vanilla extract (so much better than artificial) and some poppy seeds for my lemon poppy seed cake. I also noticed they were doing a brisk business in the coffee department as people picked their beans and they were being custom ground to order. Zabar’s has superb quality goods and very reasonable prices.
Since Zabarâ€™s was just packed to the gills with shoppers, I never got close to the bagels at the bread counter so I decided to cross the street to H&H bagels to get a few plain and poppy seed bagels. They also had freshly baked onion, sesame seed, blueberry (yikes! I thought they only had fruity bagels in California!), cinnamon, and other bagels. Back home, I toasted up a plain bagel, slathered it with good sweet (unsalted) butter and sat down with a large mug of teaâ€¦ yum! A great bagel has that crusty skin but chewy insideâ€¦I once lost a cap (tooth jacket) in a New York bagel and will never forget the experience. H&H Bagels is one of the best in New York. Zabarâ€™s also makes fantastic bagels. I have tried to make bagels from scratch in Manila and they were an absolute disasterâ€¦ I will never attempt that again, not when you can buy good ones for less than a dollar a piece!