Russ & Daughters has been providing Jewish “appetizers” in Manhattan’s Lower East Side since 1914. My ex-boyfriend first took me to Russ & Daughters last year when we went to NYC for a hazy, three day food and cocktail binge over Memorial Day Weekend. He had been raving about this spot for months, and when we finally entered the little shop, I could see why. The adorable tiny shopped is almost always packed with people, and has a retro vibe with gleaming white tiles, and giant glass display cases showcasing their fish salads, cream cheeses and cured fish. While I don’t actually think they have the best bagels (recommend Ess-a-Bagel for that), their cream cheeses and smoked salmon options are just incredible.
I was not planning on making a stop to Russ & Daughters during this trip. This changed when I woke up on Sunday morning in my friend’s East Village studio after an extremely long night celebrating our other friend’s birthday and engagement (!!!!). I set my alarm an hour before my scheduled departure so that I could walk down to Chinatown where my bus was taking off. I had a slight headache from the festivities, but felt relatively functional as I tossed my things together (into that same damn weekender). It was a beautiful morning, and a two mile stroll down 2nd Ave seemed like a nice way to start off the day. A few blocks in however, I started to feel hungry and my stomach was signaling to me that it needed something to soak up the remaining alcohol in my system. I debated going to Doughnut Plant (the absolute best place to get doughnuts in the world) before getting on the bus but I was in the mood for something more savory. I realized that I would be passing Russ & Daughters, and an everything bagel with their pastrami-cured salmon sounded absolutely perfect. When I got there at 9:30am on a Sunday morning, the shop was slightly quieter than usual, but I still was behind 12 other orders. This gave me a little bit of time to debate whether or not I should order a sandwich, but decided the best option was a classic: everything bagel, pastrami-cured salmon, lox cream cheese, onions, tomatoes, capers. The staff here are all clearly professional sandwich makers, and it is mesmerizing to watch them execute the orders by slowly slicing the salmon, angling the tomato, and carefully finishing everything off with a few capers (also I was slightly fading at this point due to hunger and slight dehydration so I basically could not do anything else besides stare).
I waited until I got into the bus to dive into my bagel, and could almost hear my stomach’s sigh of relief when I bite in. The combination of hearty carbohydrates with the salty fish and rich cream cheese was just what my body needed after the previous night’s combination of wine and champagne. The cream cheese is double-whipped, so it is fluffy and light, while the silky slices of salmon are slightly smokey and the onion is the perfect amount of tangy. I housed the first half of the sandwich quickly, and tried to chew the second half a little slower. It still disappeared faster than I wanted it to, but padded my belly enough to allow me to sprawl all over the seat next to me and pass out for a few hours. Overall, that bagel from Russ & Daughters was a great way to start my Sunday trip back to reality in DC.
*For people looking for more of a sit-down spot, Russ & Daughters recently opened up their cafe, located around the corner from their shop.