Most Greenpoint inhabitants might have no idea where Gem Street is. Small wonder given that it’s the shortest street in the Greenpoint/Williamsburg area. Still, even if you don’t know its precise location, you can always follow your proboscis. The tell-tale fishy odor should lead you right to the front loading bay of ACME Smoked Fish, a company that sounds more like the subject of an LSAT logic game than an actual place of business. Yet one close look into the many bins of fish skin sitting outside sets the record straight. ACME Smoked Fish isn’t messing around.
The scene outside ACME on a Friday morning isn’t drastically different than any other day of the week. The floor inside the open loading bay is wet and bloody. White-jacketed workers, sporting hairnets and rubber boots, schlep boxes and take cigarette breaks. In fact, the first time I showed up there, I was certain I had come to the wrong place.
A friend had informed me that there would be a fish market. Before rounding the corner from Franklin Ave, I suspected something might be amiss. I did not hear the sounds characteristic to fish mongering. Gem Street seemed dead and the loading bay was empty, save of course for the usual bins of discarded matter. For a moment, I wondered if the refuse is what my friend had been referring to. I tried to remember whether I had ever observed her eating out of trash cans… then it hit me: she used to go to the New School. Eating garbage is like porn to those people.
It was with much trepidation that I ventured into the loading bay, wary of being reprimanded. I have never handled scolding well and I was in no particular mind to spend the next three days holding a grudge against some fish mongering security guard.
As I stepped inside, two yuppies stepped out of what I had taken to be a gutting room holding plastic bags and evidently headed back to Park Slope. Still I was unconvinced. Perhaps they were management. Furthermore, the room was obscured from my view by big plastic strips, which I usually equate with crime scenes and slaughterhouses. Finally a worker emerged and sensing my helplessness pointed towards the room. I entered (not without worrying about my hair lest the plastic strips have fish blood on them).
Inside, white people with means (WPwM) lined up alongside a series of metal processing tables upon which several varieties of smoked fish lay on ice. The salespeople chatted cheerily to each other in Polish while cleaving large chunks of smoked salmon or seasoned bass to offer customers.
The line advanced slowly as every customer saw fit to sample the greatest variety of fish possible. Indeed, if you’re ever starving on a Friday come in and ask to try a bunch of different kinds. The rich, fatty fish meat will leave you feeling satisfied for hours to come.
When my time finally came, I ended up with a pound of premium, smoked salmon for a mere $13. At your local super market such delicacy will cost easily over $20. Unwilling to wait, I found myself tearing off pieces as I walked home, relishing every succulent bite. And that was just my first foray into secret fish markets. I hadn’t even tasted the mind blowing seasoned fishes by then. ACME also offers canned fish in case you need fish that keeps, for your bunker or whatever.
The fish market takes place every Friday from 11 to 2. Just walk in and take the doorway on your right (the one with the hanging plastic strips). Show up early to avoid the lines.
Never buy retail again.
ACME Smoked Fish Co.
Friday from 11am to 2pm
30 Gem Street
Photo Credit: capitalnewyork.com