Every week, I document another dish that impressed and satiated me during my food adventures around New York City
It’s heartbreaking how many old school places continue to close in this city due to astronomically high rents and changing neighborhood clientele. So it warms my heart when a business that has been around for over a hundred years (and started off as a modest pushcart!) not only thrives, but expands.
Russ & Daughters is a classic, fourth-generation family-owned appetizing shop in the Lower East Side. It’s the best place to go for Jewish-style smoked fish and dairy products. But you have to either take their loaded bagels (with lox and sable, of course) to go or hope there’s room on the lonely bench out front.
Just a few months ago, they opened a sit-down (and slightly expensive) all day café. It has both an old-fashioned feel and a modern trendy vibe inside. The counter serves classic egg creams, sodas, and cocktails, while the food menu is loaded with smoked fish platters, bagel sandwiches, and egg dishes.
I wanted to try it out but wasn’t feeling like a full meal, so I sat at the bar and ordered up their herring plate. Sure, these are all available at the shop (and at a cheaper price), but the experience of tasting the nuances of each variety (and with accoutrements) was worth the $20. I never quite realized this salty fish could come in so many different flavors.
Along with a dish of pickled beets, creamy flavorful dipping sauces, and requisite slices of pumpernickel bread, I found four types of herring. Pickled, of course, was the traditional one and so fresh. I loved the presentation of the roll mops, which are named for the fact that the thick herring is wrapped in pickled onions and gives off a bright vinegar flavor. Next to them, I took a bite of the ocean as the Schmaltz Fillets burst with salinity. And I adored the Swedish Matjes with their sweet richness from a brown sugar, clove, and cranberry marinade.
Russ & Daughters is somehow both living in the past and changing with the times. The quality and tradition of the fish remains, while a new generation discovers their food. I have every expectation that they will be around for another hundred years.
|RUSS & DAUGHTERS CAFÉ|
|127 Orchard Street (between Rivington and Delancey Street),
Lower East Side,