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Zabar’s Lobster Salad Under Fire

Iconic Jewish-owned food store sells trayf, gets it wrong

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Zabar's "Lobster" Salad.(West Side Rag)

Something’s not kosher on the Upper West Side. After word spread that Zabar’s, the well-known food store frequented by New Yorkers and tourists alike, was selling what appeared to be lobster salad for $16.95 a pound—but what was actually a less glamorous mix of wild freshwater crawfish, celery, mayonnaise, salt, and sugar—everyone from local customers to the Maine Lobster Council wanted an explanation.

The Times spoke to Saul Zabar, 83, Zabar’s president and co-owner, who stood by the decision to knowingly label the crawfish-based spread lobster salad:

“If you go to Wikipedia,” he said, “you will find that crawfish in many parts of the country is referred to as lobster.”

He read aloud the beginning of the Wikipedia entry for crawfish: “Crayfish, crawfish, or crawdads — members of the superfamilies Astacoidea and Parastacoidea — are freshwater crustaceans resembling small lobsters, to which they are related.”

By that definition, he said, he could call a product in which the main ingredient — actually, the only seafood ingredient — was crawfish, “lobster salad.”


The superbly misleading food item was first noticed in July, when the Times Picayune’s Doug MacCash was in town from New Orleans with his family. On line at Zabar’s, he made the surprising discovery:

“The tiny tubs of lobster salad in the refrigerator case caught my eye. Lobster salad on a bagel; why not? It was delicious, but the pink/orange tails seemed small and somehow familiar.

Then I read the label. The lobster salad ingredients were: wild freshwater crayfish, mayonnaise, celery, salt and sugar.”

The salad has since been renamed; you can find the identically priced Seafare Salad in the seafood aisle.

Lobster Salad, but a Key Ingredient was Missing
[NYT]
In New York City a lucky crawfish can become a lobster [Nola.com]

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Harold says:

Zabar’s is not a “Jewish food store”.

A New York food store? Yes. An Upper West Side food store? Yes. But there is nothing about Zabar’s that makes it a “Jewish food store”.

Harold says:

You’ve changed it to a “Jewish-owned food store”, and now you have it right.

lazer says:

It’s culturally Jewish, Harold. Do people still not get that?

Joseph says:

Well, uptown, its the best place to go for lox, sable, whitefish, etc. The guys behind the counter know how to slice and package the fish. While in smaller print the label said what the salad was made with, Saul should have called it what it was, not something else. New Yorkers are in a hurry and shouldn’t have to squat to read the small print at Zabars. Definitely a black eye. But, I still like the place.

Joseph says:

I meant squint.

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Zabar’s Lobster Salad Under Fire

Iconic Jewish-owned food store sells trayf, gets it wrong

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