Restaurant: Russ & Daughters
Last visited: September 3, 2011
Location: Manhattan, NY (Lower East Side)
Address: 205 E Houston St
Nearby subway stops: 2 Ave
Price Range: $10 – 20
1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: Tres Excellent!!
Food: 5 (based on what I tried)
- Since 1888
- New York institution
- Family owned/operated
- “Appetizing” store
- Multiple award winning
- “Best in City”
- Local favourite
- World famous smoked salmon
- Double whipped cream cheese
- House made bagels
- Fish “deli” and bakery
- Caviar selection
- Specialty grocery store
- No seating
- Ships nationwide
- Cash only
- Sunday 8am – 5:30pm
- Mon-Fri 8am-8pm
- Saturday 9am-7pm
**Recommendations: Smoked Sablefish, Caviar, Cream Cheese
It was fate! I wasn’t even looking for it, but it was on my Follow Me Foodie to New York itinerary! I was on my way to Katz Deli for my world famous pastrami sandwich and Meg Ryan orgasmic experience, when I looked up and noticed Russ & Daughters! Well then, I couldn’t just ignore it. What’s another sandwich anyways?
Russ & Daughters is no doubt a local favourite and long time player in the New York food scene. I refrain from calling it a “deli”, because it isn’t. Many people call it a “deli”, but it’s actually an “appetizing store” and one of the very few remaining ones in New York. It’s an institution that has withstood the test of time since 1888 and still remains family owned.
Appetizing stores were started by Eastern European Jews and they’re places that sell things normally eaten with bagels. These items include smoked fish, cream cheese, salads, and preserves that are traditionally eaten as appetizers. The places selling cured and pickled meats were known as “delis”, and Russ and Daughters specializes in smoked fish. Seafood is not considered meat, so it is considered kosher to eat fish and dairy together as you would here.
It’s a small take-away only appetizing store operated by third and fourth generation Russ’. It’s not really a “touristy” place with long line ups, but it is part of New York history which locals still frequent. As a tourist, it’s good for a quick, casual, and affordable lunch on the go.
I got the recommendation from trusted foodie friends in Vancouver and I was given a specific order. I confidently walked up to the counter, put my elbow on it, and looked Russ in the eye (it wasn’t actually Russ, but I thought it was… Russ would be almost 100 by now), and asked for “Smoked Sablefish and Wasabi Caviar”. Okay, I wasn’t exactly that dramatic about it all, but I felt like a local doing it and I was really excited about trying this specific order!
Anyways “Russ” looked right back at me with a question mark and tossed me a menu. Oh crap! There’s a menu? I wasn’t told there was a menu! I scanned the items looking for “Smoked Sablefish and Wasabi Caviar” and it wasn’t on there! I was in panic mode. I ended up breaking down and confessing I was a tourist and that I was told I had to try “Smoked Sablefish and Wasabi Caviar” and even pulled out the e-mail to show him.
So it turns out this isn’t the name of a particular menu item or off the menu item, but it’s just products they sell. Smoked Sablefish and Wasabi Caviar. Oh! That makes sense! The menu did have signature bagel sandwiches, but you can customize your own too.
So I got THE Smoked Sablefish… which he actually let me sample first which was nice…
…and I got my caviar cream cheese (I missed the “wasabi caviar” or “wasabi-infused flying roe” because it wasn’t offered in a cream cheese. However, now that I think about it, I should have just ordered it as an extra filling)…
all wrapped up in a housemade bagel called the SHTETL! Yes, it was the S***!
This ended up being my appetizer on my way to Katz’s Deli for dinner (a couple walking blocks away). I thought it made perfect sense since Russ & Daughters was an “appetizing store”. Two sandwiches later also meant two desserts to balance. So I had gelato at Il Labartoie Gelato and ice cream at Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream afterward. It was day number two in New York so I celebrated with two of everything. Doubling up and I was just getting started!
On the table:
SHTETL Bagel Sandwich – 4/6 (6/6 for the sablefish
- Smoked Sablefish & All Natural Goat Cream Cheese on a Bagel or Bialy $13.25
- I ordered it with a housemade poppy seed bagel.
- Gah! $13 for a bagel sandwich?! It better have caviar in it! And it did!
- It had sablefish and caviar, so it’s not cheap, but the price is somewhat understandable. However you could choose any cream cheese in your bagel and it would be the same price.
- I loved everything about this sandwich, except for the bagel.
- It’s obviously a New York style bagel, and not a Montreal style bagel so the hole is smaller to accommodate the fillings. It’s also not dipped in honey like Montreal ones either.
- The bagel is made in house, but it’s not a bagel factory and they didn’t seem as fresh.
- The bagel was super hard and chewy and a bit dry and dense, and I just thought it got in the way of the silky sablefish texture.
- Next time I would just get the the sablefish and cream cheese alone.
- **Smoked Sablefish – 6/6
- $43.96/lb online ordering
- The sablefish is caught in Northern Pacific Waters and smoked to Russ & Daughter’s specifications with light dusting of paprika that’s supposed to seal in moisture and round out the flavours.
- The sable is probably one of the best things I’ve eaten. I love sablefish in general, but this smoked sablefish was insanely good.
- The smoked sable fish melted in my mouth with buttery flavour and it was silky smooth and slippery in texture and glided in my mouth!
- The fish was so naturally oily with an infused smoky flavour and I could have eaten the entire fish.
- Caviar Cream Cheese– 4/6
- Double-whipped cream cheese mixed with malossol fresh black whitefish caviar. $9.49/lb
- The cream cheeses are all double whipped and they’re amazing. They looked like mountains of whipped cream!
- It’s creamy, rich and very fresh and fluffy without being too airy.
- It doesn’t have a strong gamey goat’s cheese flavour either which I’m not keen on and it just tasted like cow’s milk cream cheese.
- It’s not the best quality caviar in the cream cheese, which would be a waste anyways, but it’s still good although not particularly noticeable.
- I would recommend checking out their other caviars (not in cream cheese) because they have quite a selection of high quality caviar and an in house caviar specialist too.
Saw R&D deli on No Reservations. Fascinating 🙂
Here’s a behind-the-counter look, so to speak:
I loved how you “pulled the email out to show him”! Such a foodie thing to do. I too saw R&D on food network, but I think it was on the “best thing I ever ate”.
@LR – ommggggg now I feel even cooler!!! He’s so cool lol
@Laura – lol!! I’m a geek! And I didn’t know it was on “best thing I ever ate”.. thanks for telling me!! that’s awesome!
Not a fan of bagel sandwiches(here we have Benny’s Bagels…Montreal smoked me on a bagel); however Solly’s makes a schmeer(bagel, lox, cream cheese , a slice of tomato and a slice of cucumber for under $4…SUCH A DEAL !!!
All said, I would enjoy having a place like Russ and Daughters here, because of all its variety.
@Mijune: did you go see him (Bourdain) when he came to town to speak recently at end of October ? I planned on it, but couldn’t go 🙁
@LR – I was out of town!! So I missed him too 🙁
@Bow – and smoked fish is something I wouldn’t do at home so I can appreciate it! 🙂
mmmm i love love LOVE places like this… i wish vancouver had somewhere like this.. this is definitely on my MUST SEE places in NYC… my NYC bucket list 🙂
@Linda – I can’t wait to see your list! Amazing! Hope you have a great experience!!!