Russ and Daughters
179 East Houston Street
New York, NY 10002-1024
There’s something about longevity that I find very appealing. Maybe it’s the human desire for “empire” building – leaving a legacy, making your mark – i have a lot of respect for places with a long history. No matter what you want to call it, the idea that an establishment has existed for generations, serving the same kind of food, is awesome.
Russ and Daughters has been in its current location since 1920 – a staggering 89 years old. An “appetizing” store, this Jewish store offers a variety of kosher treats – from lox, smoked fish, caviar, cream cheese, bagels, sweets, and other treats. They are best known for their salmon – smoked, or cured.
Russ and Daughters is divided into two sides. Sweets, and beverages like egg creams on the right, deli items on the left. The coolers on the left are loaded with goodies – house made goods that they are happy to let you sample before you buy. Based on the selection and diversity of choices, this is a good idea. Not every style suits everyone.
One of the most appealing things to me is the hand-whipped cream cheese. While most cream cheese usually ends up a bit too dense for my liking, their cheese are blended with other ingredients, and then whipped to a light, airy consistency. I may have eaten some with a spoon before…
What they are famous for though, is their bagel and lox. With 15 choices of smoked or cured salmon, I have never seen such diversity or selection. And perhaps even more surprising to me is that they really do have very different qualities in taste and texture. From Canadian, Norwegian, Scottish, and Danish, belly versus loin, salted versus different cures, there is bound to be a style of smoked salmon you’ll love. My personal choices over the years are typically the Scottish, or the loin cuts.
To create a bagel and lox order, you choose your type of salmon, your type of cream cheese, and then your style of bagel. Price vary based on the ingredients chosen.
Is Russ and Daughters the best? Well, the smoked salmon really is second to none. Fantastic flavour, light cure that doesn’t overpower the fish, great texture with a very subtle, complex undertone – 89 years of experience really counts for something. The cream cheese is a great compliment – light, loaded with flavour, but without the glue-like consistency of mass produced cream cheeses, it’s a great counter point to the smoked/cured aspect of the salmon.
Sadly, the bagel is fairly average at best. Tough, doughy, these are no Montreal bagels. And even for a NYC bagel, they are pretty average. All together, this is an excellent appetizer, and for the price, I feel it provides excellent value. I just wish they would improve the bagel.
So what do you get when you combine history, skill, and a quality product? A place worth visiting again and again. If you see a pack of dogs following a lone tourist around NYC, you’ll know it’s likely me with a half pound of smoked salmon in my backpack. Unlike the store Russ and Daughters though, the salmon will only have the longevity of about 89 minutes.