- Acme Smoked Fish is a 100-year-old, family-owned smoked-fish company based in Brooklyn.
- It sells products to some of the biggest markets and resalers in the country, and locals vouch for it having the best smoked fish products in NYC.
- We visited the factory for a behind-the-scenes tour and returned for “Fish Friday,” where Acme sells its products to customers at wholesale prices.
- Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more stories.
Following is a transcript of the video:
Spencer: If New Yorkers know anything, it’s how to sniff out a good piece of smoked salmon. Ask anyone in the know, and they will tell you this is the spot for the best smoked-fish products in NYC.
Customer: I’ve got about 6 pounds of fish here because my friends and neighbours know I’m coming.
Customer: Ah, it’s great fish. The servers are wonderful. This is the best smoked salmon, lox, fresh smoked fish in New York City.
Spencer: Acme Smoked Fish is a fourth-generation, family-owned, smoked-fish company based in Brooklyn. You’ve probably seen Acme products in well-known markets like Whole Foods and Zabar’s, but what you might not know is that they also sell anonymously to some of the most-famous bagel shops and specialty stores in the city. Meaning if you’ve ever ordered lox on your bagel in NYC, there’s a decent chance it came from Acme.
Customer: You realise half of New York City would not exist for smoked fish if it wasn’t for this place.
Spencer: The hundred-year-old business produces about 15 million pounds of smoked-fish products every year. To see how Acme makes its legendary products, I met up with Adam Caslow, the company’s fourth-generation co-CEO.
Adam joined the business in 2006 along with his cousins and sister.
Adam Caslow: My great-grandfather became a smoked-fish-wagon jobber in 1906 and was just competing for that American dream. His dream was to one day open up his own smokehouse, and he did that at the very end of his career. Today, we’re in the fourth generation of Acme, and so the four of us are keeping the family legacy alive and well.
Spencer: Over the years, Acme has significantly expanded its inventory with products like whitefish salad and poke bowls. But there’s one thing that really put them on the map: their classic smoked nova salmon.
The salmon is expertly trimmed and scraped so that it can fully absorb the salt during the brining stage. It will brine for about seven days before ultimately undergoing Acme’s signature smoking process.
Adam: The origins of smoking fish are really around preserving food for a later date. So in Europe, people in the 1600s would salt their fish to keep it for extended periods of time.
Now, the origins of smoked fish are a little bit up for debate as some people say that as the fish were hanging out to dry, the smoke from the campfire gave it this added flavour…
Adam: But it’s unconfirmed. It’s a really nice story…
Spencer: It’s a good story. We don’t know if it’s true, but it’s a good story.
Adam: It’s a good story. The salt gives it about a 30-day shelf life, and the smoke really adds that flavour.
So this oven has been the original smoker that we’ve had at Acme since its existence. Back in the day, they would just light fires on the floor of the smokehouse.
Spencer: That sounds very safe.
Adam: It was not safe. But the principles of smoking really haven’t changed. We’re gonna turn these fans on, they’re gonna blow air throughout the oven, dry out the fish, and after about three to four hours, we’ll turn on the smoker and fill this room with wood-burned smoke.
Spencer: After smoking, most products are packaged and shipped out to stores across the country, but some stuff is put aside for the best-kept secret in NYC: Acme’s legendary Fish Friday.
Fish Friday is a weekly event where the public can buy Acme products at wholesale prices right out of the warehouse. Offerings range from typical fare you can buy in a store to weekly specials only available to Fish Friday attendees.
Richie Shiff: Fish Friday is an every-week ritual for some, a special excursion for some, just a very cool, underground, Brooklyn happening. There’s a mixture of products here that you cannot find anywhere else probably in the world.
Richie: We have things that are exclusive, just here that we come up with and we’ll do just for one week. And you could also get all the classics. It’s almost that treasure-hunt atmosphere where you know you’re gonna get what you want, but you may get some other things that you don’t need, and it’s all gonna be delicious.
Spencer: The tradition began over 40 years ago but has never been officially advertised. Even still, crowds show up week after week full of hungry people lucky enough to be in the know.
Customer: I have been coming to Acme Fish Fridays for probably about five years. It’s great fish. The servers are wonderful. It’s a fun thing to do early on Friday morning.
Spencer: Thank you so much.
Employee: Enjoy. Have a nice weekend.
Spencer: You too.
With my bounty in tow, it was time to see what all the fuss was about.
Adam: Messy but good.
Spencer: Messy but good. Looks like Acme deserves its local cult following and then some.
Adam: I don’t realise how lucky we are to be able to produce a product that affects people emotionally in ways that few foods can.
Each week, we get different people from all over the tristate area and even throughout the US who come and tell us about how smoked fish has played a part in their life, perhaps a memory with loved ones or a favourite brunch or mealtime with friends.
And being part of that emotional connection with people’s lives adds a level of meaning that makes a difference.
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