I have been really into Russ and Daughters lately. For the first couple of years I lived in New York, I generally knew that it was a mecca for smoked salmon and herring, but I didn’t take the time to actually visit the shop.
That all changed when the Boyfriend and I moved into an apartment down the street from their original Houston Street store. One Sunday morning we casually decided to drop in for bagels. The wait was outrageous — we stood cramped by the half-sour pickles for about 45 minutes before anyone even spoke to us. But we got a chance to check out the pickle and potato salad selection (very impressive), and then someone mentioned how much they loved the orange juice, so I cracked open a pint to tide me over.
I don’t want to be a drama queen, but it was the most amazing orange juice I’ve ever had. And before long, I was at the counter ordering a Super Heebster with a quart of pickles and pointing at different varieties of smoked salmon and herring. Since then, Russ and Daughters has become a regular grocery stop for all our appetizing needs — I even read the book commemorating the 100-year anniversary of the store. When my dad expressed an interest in lox over the summer, my sister and I shipped him a giant box full of the good stuff (which he devoured in less than a week).
While I love bringing a bagel home from the Houston Street store, I was thrilled to hear that the folks from Russ and Daughters were opening a cafe in the Lower East Side. They don’t take reservations, but the Boyfriend and I arrived close enough to 10am on a recent Saturday morning that we didn’t have to wait for a pair of seats at the counter.
We treated ourselves to a regular jewish feast! I had a cup of their special blend of Stumptown coffee (I am not a human without caffeine in the mornings) and the Boyfriend and I shared one of our favorites from the counter at the Houston Street store — a Super Heebster*. The Super Heebster is a thin bagel topped with whitefish and salmon salad, horseradish cream cheese, and a thin layer of spicy, crunchy, wasabi fish roe. It is creamy and totally decadent. Then I had a Stetl Board — a toasted bialy (basically a cross between a bagel and an english muffin, and my current favorite breakfast carb) with smoked sable, goat cream cheese, tomatoes, capers and red onions, ready to assemble into a perfect sandwich — and the Boyfriend got the Eggs Benny — challah piled high with poached eggs, smoked salmon and spinach, topped with hollandaise sauce.
I was full to bursting and didn’t have room to try their signature egg cream or babka french toast, but I’m already planning my next trip. In fact, you can probably find me on the next Saturday morning that I’m in NYC, belly up at the counter with a giant coffee and an assortment of fishes and carbs spread before me!
What we’ll get again: Stumptown coffee, a Super Heebster, the Stetl board, and Eggs Benny.
Russ and Daughters Cafe
127 Orchard Street
CORRECTION: Russ and Daughters Cafe is open 8am-10pm Wednesday-Monday. I completely invented that they open at 10 when we arrived! But really, if a cafe falls in a forest and leightogreato isn’t around to hear it, does it make a sound?
*In the Russ and Daughters book, Mark Russ Federman — the author and former owner who recently sold the business to his daughter and nephew — wrote about how offended he was when the new generation put something called a “Super Heebster” on the menu. It’s totally delicious and incredibly popular, and the former purveyor is officially over his initial shock (thank goodness).