As far as Jewish delis on the NYC hit list go, Katz is the big one. Made famous in When Harry Met Sally during that scene – you know the one, don’t make me do it – and notorious for the frankly ridiculous size of their pastrami sandwiches. But the rumblings I’ve been hearing from no less than five separate friends in their latest New York recommendations is lesser known to those this side of the pond: NY institution Russ and Daughters.
Sitting pretty on the Lower East Side, this Jewish deli specialises in smoked fish and is well known for it, having been in business for decades. On the family deli’s 100th anniversary, the Russ and Daughters Cafe was born, situated just around the corner from the original outpost. I decided that on this trip, Katz could wait. I needed that board of smoked salmon and all the trimmings.
The joy of dining solo is you can often grab a single seat at the bar whilst couples and groups wait in line for a table to be seated, as was the case when I dragged myself from Astoria to the LES for the sole purpose of bagels and coffee one Friday in NYC. I’d overheard the couple sat next to me at the bar say they had waited for over 45 minutes, so clearly Russ and Daughters are doing something right. Luckily I swooped right on in as a solo diner.
The downside of dining solo of course, is that you can’t get away so easily with ordering loads on the pretense of sharing it all, which led to a difficult choice between the small plates. I settled on trying knishes for the first time – potato and caramelized onion encased in dough that had been baked, served with a mustard sauce. They were great, but I must report that the latkes the couple next to me ordered with wild salmon roe and creme fraiche looked amazing, and I did have a bit of food envy. The fishsticks also sounded brilliant – Gaspe Nova smoked salmon and scallion cream cheese in a rye crust served with two sauces for dipping – cocktail and tartare. An order for next time for sure.
Of course I’d already chosen my main because have you seen those boards loaded with bright smoked salmon, red onion, thick tomato slices, capers, dill and cream cheese on Instagram? I mean, you may not have done, but trust me, they will make you salivate. I chose a toasted poppy seed bagel to accompany the board and it utterly lived up to expectations. 100% would buy and ravish again. Boards also come with sturgeon, smoked sable or kippered salmon if you’d rather mix it up from the classic, and can be ordered as platters for groups of 3-4 people, though they look huge, so I reckon between 5 would be fine too – after all these are American sized portions.
There’s also plenty of caviar on offer if that’s your bag, along with a handful of salads and soups (Matzo ball soup is of course on the menu). Eggs complete the offering, the sunny side up eggs with Nova smoked salmon and potato latkes sounding like a great shout, as well as the Eggs Benedict served on challah bread (i.e. the greatest of all the breads). A strong sweets menu makes you wish you had two separate stomachs for sweet and savory; the cinnamon babka french toast with apple compote, candied walnuts and creme fraiche being reason enough to go to Russ and Daughters with friends so you can ‘order one on the side to share’.
The thing about New York is there is a constantly evolving mass of must eats in the city, and once you find the ones you love, you want to return on every visit along with trying all the new recommendations on your list (oh, the struggle is real). Russ and Daughters is absolutely on my ‘return to’ list – go try it and see for yourself.
Russ and Daughters Cafe: 127 Orchard St, New York, NY 10002
Open every day between 10am and 10pm, bar weekends when they open at 8am
Russ and Daughters Deli: 179 E Houston St, New York, NY 10002
+1 212-475-4880Open every weekday between 8am and 8pm, Sat 8am – 7pm and Sundays between 8am and 5.30pm