- scene: Modern Diner meets old-school hospitality, with a crowd of loyals, foodies, and tourists alike
- sip: Full-out soda fountain/bar in the front serving homemade soda blends, egg-creams, cream sodas, and tricked our Bloodies
- savor: There's barely a way to go wrong… Smoked fish platters, Lower Sunny Side, SUPER HEEBSTER
- sit: While the counter seats at the soda bar in the front of the restaurant caters well to both singles and duos, try to grab a high top or booth in the back with a bigger group
- spend: $$
- address: 127 Orchard Street, btw Rivington and Delancey
- phone number: (212) 475-4881
- website: http://www.russanddaughters.com
We may have blonde hair and blonde eyes, but these two shiksa-looking babes grew up Jewish, and have been taking down bagels with lox since birth. Russ & Daughters has been catering the Pants breakfasts and also our family’s Break Fast during Yom Kippur for as long as we can remember, and has always held a special place in our hearts… I even took some of my engagement photos there (insert eye roll from other sister here) because my husband and I have embraced our Jewish roots (my whole, his half) through food (of course) over the years at Russ & Daughters.
There are few people (Jews and non-Jews alike) who don’t know of Russ & Daughters, which has been a staple for all things smoked and other Jewish “appetizers” (aka, things served with bagels) for 100 years (insert clapping emoticon here). If you walk into the Russ & Daughters store on Houston, don’t forget to pop a xanax first – the lines are long, cramped, and aggressive, so it seems way overdue that a larger outpost would open in addition to the iconic storefront.
Well the Nova gods have spoken, and Russ & Daughters Cafe now resides on Orchard Street, a couple of blocks from temple of appetizing on Houston. The crisp, clean decor of the cafe is bright and welcoming in an area of town which isn’t so crisp or clean, and the diner-like setting is both old school and modern at the same time. I was a little hungover on a summer Sunday and figured I would take my chances by putting my name down for what I was told was a 45 minute to an hour wait. I should have used the opportunity to explore what was new on the LES, but instead popped a squat and received a text only 20 minutes later that my table was ready… now I just needed my husband, who upon a frantic call from me about losing our table, sprung up from his dentist’s chair, and raced over to meet me earlier than planned. The things we do for food!
I knew I would love Russ & Daughter’s Cafe, but the icing on the cake (which we hadn’t even touched yet), was when our jolly waiter – dressed in the same white lab coats they classically wear at the store – came over to the table and without asking, he poured us SELTZER. I’m truly in love. He also joked that being the table closest to the door, we have a lot of pressure on us because everyone would see what we are eating – I assured him that we would make him proud, as we were already planning on over-ordering and stuffing ourselves.
Just a glance at the menu and you’ll see new creations of old Russ & Daughter favorites (The Superheebster, the best bagel sandwich of all-time, now in “Nosh” form), cheeky names for traditional plates (“Yum Kippered” for a platter of kippered salmon), and completely new ways to enjoy the food you’ve always loved (“Schmaltz & a Shot”).
While we thought our “Noshes” would come over before the larger plates, everything arrived at once, which ended up being fine… drooling ensued for about 2 minutes while I quickly snapped pics before we could attack our plates. There was no way I was leaving Russ & Daughters without my SuperHeebster, and at the Cafe, it is served in smaller form on a bagel toast – if there was one way to perfect an already perfect bite, it is by swapping out the doughy bagel on the original Heeb for a thinner, crispier toast to enjoy the combination of horseradish dill cream cheese, whitefish and salmon salad, and wasabi caviar.
I always love me some dip, so it was only natural that I’d order the Hot Smoke/Cold Smoke, a dip made with kippered salmon and Scottish smoked salmon alongside homemade waffle chips. Despite the name, the dip is served cold, and while extremely tasty, it was our least favorite dish on the table. That’s not to say that I wouldn’t order it again, but their fish shines so brightly on their own that a dip tasting similar to salmon rillettes was more of a supporting role to a leading cast of dishes.
Husband is a sucker for sable and ordered the Shtetl, one of the boards you have definitely seen posted on Instagram, with smoked sable, a goat cream cheese, choice of bagel/bialy, and tomatoes, red onions, and capers. Fun fact, all of the boards they serve were made from the old counter at the original store – how about a side of history with that fish? I wasn’t sure how I would feel about the goat cream cheese, but after taking a full loaded bite, the bitterness of the goat cheese was cut by the thick sweetness of the sable. YUM!
Although in recent years I have developed an allergy to egg yolk, there comes a time when you must battle the elements and preserver for the sake of the cause. The cause here being an amazing brunch, so I popped my meds and ordered the Lower Sunny Side: two sunny side up eggs, Gaspe Nova Smoked Salmon and two perfectly cooked potato latkes. Like the entire aesthetic at Russ & Daughter’s Cafe, this dish was perfection in simplicity and quality. The salmon alone was a thinly sliced piece of heaven, but paired with the creamy eggs and a crispy yet pillowy soft latke, it was f*cking incredible. These three elements come to together for the greatest bite in recent history (OK, I did just go to Brooklyn Fare, but more about that in another post).
I am not the most patient person, but some things in life are worth waiting for – in this case, it was a long 100 years until the 4th generation of the family behind Russ & Daughter’s opened their Cafe, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Stroll down to the LES, put your name on the list, and get ready for the most “appetizing” brunch in the city.