Friday, September 30, 2011
Uncle Slappy and the fish place.
About a generation ago slicing lox went from being an old-Jewish-man profession to one manned by young, first-generation Chinese. The Chinese began in the early 1970s by sweeping up after the alte-kocker slicers, by the late 80s to early 90s, they had taken over and were running fish counters at the old-school delis like Zabar's and even Barney Greengrass. A few years after that, they started open up their own "Jewish" delis, which, in many cases were better than the delis they replaced.
My neighborhood has one, Sable's, that opened about 20 years ago as a pure rip-off, right down to the orange and white signage of Zabar's which is from whence these Chinese lox-slicers sprang. The fish is excellent, sliced thin and even, as is the service. When Uncle Slappy lived in the neighborhood, Sable's was one of his haunts. He would stop there for their unmatched whitefish salad, their nova and all the other delicacies that were both reminders of his childhood and signposts of his current success.
On the wall at Sable's, which is cramped like the Collyer Brothers' apartment, are about 1,000 old polaroids of Sable's favorite customers. There are also pictures of former mayor Ed Koch, Yankee star Derek Jeter and sundry celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow and Brian Williams from NBC News. Uncle Slappy and I walked to Sable's today for fish. And to check to see if his picture is still there.
It was. It's right in the middle above. That's Slappy in his blue baseball windbreaker, eating a schtickel.
"That picture will be up there long after I'm down there," Slappy said, pantomiming death.
The Chinese guys heard him and laughed. Then they gave Slappy an extra-large free sample of fish.
Posted by George Tannenbaum at 4:30 PM