Monday, August 11, 2014

Russ & Daughters Cafe - Teach Your Children Well

Everyone knows the story of Russ & Daughters, the 100+ year old appetizing store on Houston Street in New York City, right? And everyone knows what appetizing is, right?  And everyone knows how to pronounce Houston Street, right? Oy - where do I begin?

To start, read the story of Russ & Daughters in Mark Russ Federman's book, Russ & Daughters: The House That Herring Built. Mark is a 3rd generation Russ, whose grandfather Joel started the business over a hundred years ago, from a pushcart on the lower east side.  Here's the timeline. Mark is also a hell of a nice guy, and always with the stories, if you know what I mean.

Next - appetizing.  Or, to put it better, an appetizing store. Appetizing, according to that great Yiddish website Wikipedia, is the food that one normally eats with bagels. Typically, one eats these foods for breakfast or lunch. So what you'll find in an appetizing store is stuff like lox, smoked salmon, herring, cream cheese, etc. And what you won't find in an appetizing store is stuff like pastrami, corned beef, tongue, salami, etc. You want that - walk down the block to Katz's - it's a delicatessen. Oh yeah, it's also on Houston St. - and no,  it's not pronounced like the city in Texas, heathens.

So where am I going with all this? Simple - around the corner and down the block to the newly opened Russ & Daughters Cafe, at 127 Orchard Street. It only took a hundred years, but Russ & Daughters has finally expanded, with a sit-down cafe, nu - and we're all the better for it. Fourth generation cousins Niki Russ Federman and Josh Russ Tupper are in charge here, and if it's possible for Russ & Daughters to be a schtickle better, they've accomplished just that.

At the cafe, you'll find wonderful house-made sodas and cocktails, though I'm not one to drink booze with my bagels. I had some sort of cucumber-y thing, which was perfect on a hot summer afternoon, and my California friends (one's an ex-NYer) loved their chocolate egg-cream and matzo ball soup. We also thought these potato knishes were the real deal...
I went back with Significant Eater a few days later, because, well, once she knew I had been, you know the rest of the story. We had no problem enjoying this ice-cold borscht on a sultry afternoon...
And these potato latkes were (almost) as good as mine...
Now you'll notice I didn't have any smoked salmon, lox, herring - those goodies which make Russ & Daughters famous.  That's because I eat them all the time, at home, with Significant Eater - I'm a Russ junkie, and as anyone knows, that whitefish salad is addictive.

But if you've never been to Russ & Daughters (the appetizers), you don't know what you're missing. I realize that can be hard to do if you don't live in town or you're just here for a visit. But now that there's a cafe a block or two away, your worries are over. Just do me a favor - don't wait 100 years. And Niki and Josh - mazel tov. I'm sure great-grandpa Joel is smiling down on Orchard Street.