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How Legendary NYC Deli and Grocery Store Zabar’s Sells 4,000 Pounds of Fish Per Week

Zabar’s is a beloved local destination for just about everything

Open since 1934, New York grocery landmark Zabar’s sells over 4,000 pounds of smoked fish and 8,000 pounds of coffee a week. “That’s a lot of fucking coffee to sell for one store,” says general manager Scott Goldshine, who has been in charge of operations at Zabar’s for over 30 years. “Not a chain — this is just one location, one store.”

One secret to Zabar’s popularity: consistency. Every Tuesday, floor manager Ken Hom and Annie Zabar cup, smell, and taste all of the coffee that is delivered to Zabar’s. It’s become a ritual every week, one they never skip. “One of the reasons people keep coming back for everything is they know it’s going to taste the same every week,” explains Goldshine.

Zabar’s, an icon of the Upper West Side, is not just known for its coffee — in fact, it’s probably best known for smoked fish. And the buying of the fish is a task taken very, very seriously. Saul Zabar, now 95 years old, used to be the fish buyer; now Tomas Rodriguez, who trained for years under Zabar, is in charge of acquiring the goods. “He’s Dominican, but he’s buying the smoked fish for the greatest Jewish smoked fish store in the world,” quips Goldshine.

Once the fish is hand-selected by Rodriguez and delivered to Zabar’s, it’s sold and served in various ways. The fish counter pros hand-cutting lox into paper-thin slices inspire devotion from locals; then there are the fish salads, made from recipes passed down through generations. Yuri Khanis, appetizer department cook, has been with Zabar’s for 34 years and knows all of Saul Zabar’s fish salad recipes. “These recipes are 50 years old,” says Goldshine. “Saul still comes back here most days [and] he tastes.”

Watch the full video to see the ins and outs of the Zabar’s operations and meet the individuals who make the store what it is.

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