In Israel, Sherry Ansky and her daughter Michal Ansky are food-world royalty. The former is a well-regarded columnist and cookbook author, the latter a journalist, TV personality (she was a judge on Top Chef) and founder of the iconic Farmer's Market in the Tel Aviv Port, which has since branched out to other locations around the country. Eleven years ago Michal gave her mom a stall at the market to set up a sandwich shop called Sherry Herring, and people have been lining up for her Schmaltz and Matjes ever since.
Now the Anskys are in New York City, taking over a one-time hat store on West 72nd Street with their first Sherry Herring outside of Tel Aviv. The shop actually opened last fall, but, as the waggish sign in the window warned at the time, with "No Sherry No Herring." Alex Benchimol, the restaurant's general manager, explained to Gothamist that pandemic importation delays forced them to open without their two headliners. The fish has finally arrived, however, and Ansky herself will be here next week—so now Sherry Herring is finally up and running with its full cast.
Sandwiches dominate the proceedings here--"it's the essence of what Sherry Herring is in Israel," said Benchimol--led by two types of herring, Matjes and Schmaltz, both of which spend three months in Holland getting cured in salt water before they make their way into your baguette.
"Matjes in Dutch means young, so it's a younger herring," explained Benchimol. "The Schmaltz is an older herring, so it's a little bigger. In the process of curing it, the Matjes, being smaller, becomes more buttery and saltier, whereas the Schmaltz is more meaty, has more of a bite, and is a little less salty."
I went with the Matjes, and the chunky fillets made for a big-flavored, wholly satisfying sandwich. It may not look like there's a lot of fish on this beast, but even a little bit of herring packs a punch, and doesn't get lost under the sour cream, onion, butter, scallions, chilis, and tomatoes. Another signature Sherry Herring selection, the housemade Smoked Tuna, also made for a memorable hero. Other sandwich stuffers include Smoked Sprats, Salted Anchovies, and Smoked Sardines, all served on baguettes from the nearby kosher bakery Patis.
If you're in more of a grab-n-go mode, or simply want to eat some of Ansky's fish in your home with, say, a nice poppy bagel (Sherry Herring emphatically does not sell bagels), many of your proprietor's "secret recipes" are also available in the Appetizing case. There are several herring preparations, of course, plus various Anchovies, a decent Chipotle Tuna Spread and a good Whitefish Salad. No vodka shots like they pass around at the Tel Aviv shop, but you can get coffee and soft drinks.
So far the Sherry Herring team is loving their first New York City home. "Herring is something that used to be very, very popular in the city," said Benchimol. "We did some research and realized that back in the late 1800s, early 1900s, there were hundreds of herring shops in New York. You can still find a few places, but it's much more unique at this point. And the Upper West Side is amazing—it's very special when you have a small shop and people know you and wave at you and they're really happy to have you here. You can feel it."
Sherry Herring is located at 245 West 72nd Street, between Broadway and West End Avenue, and is currently open on Sunday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m, and on Friday from 8:00 until Shabbat. Closed Saturdays. @sherry_herring_nyc