Open since 1914, Russ & Daughters is a Lower East Side institution.
They say they’ve been “appetizing” since 1914 and according to their website “appetizing” is a noun which means “the foods one eats with bagels” such as smoked/cured fish, cream cheese and salads. It’s like a deli but for fish instead of meat!
They have a wide variety of smoked and cured fish including an extensive selection of salmon and other specialty fish (sturgeon, whitefish, trout mackerel), herring and caviar. All the fish is sliced to order. The other side of the store sells sweets which include babka, regulach and macaroons.
There isn’t any seating inside the store. There’s a small bench outside the store but it can get pretty busy, especially on weekends and holidays so it’s best to bring your purchases to a nearby bench to enjoy.
We started off with two slices of their Pastrami Cured Salmon ($34/lb). The salmon is covered in a pastrami rub which contains 14 different herbs and spices. I really enjoyed it and it ended up being Mike’s favourite.
We wanted to try another type of smoked salmon and went with the Gaspe Nova Smoked Salmon ($36/lb) which was described as mild and succulent. It was very mild indeed – not too salty, which was perfect for me. The centre of the salmon slices had a taste reminiscent of salmon sashimi. Another delicious slice of smoked salmon!
I had never tried Smoked Sablefish ($49.96/lb) and being a big fan of sablefish, we decided to give this a try. The smooth texture was still there and the smoked fish was covered in a paprika rub. This was my favourite between the three.
Something else we had never tried before was herring. Since Russ & Daughters had such an extensive selection of herring, we had to give them a try. We had no idea which type to go with but went with the Holland Herring based on a recommendation from one of the guys behind the counter.
I can’t remember the price of these but I believe they were around $4.99 each. These herring had a buttery, fatty texture to it and a little bit of a briney taste to it. You eat them by holding one up by its tail and dropping it into your mouth. They may not look or sound appetizing but these herring were fantastic!
I just wanted a little taste of the Chopped Liver ($11.98/lb) and they had the perfect little container for me (the size usually used for condiments). Growing up, I never really liked liver but if I had grown up eating this kind of liver, it’d be a completely different story.
It was packed full of onions and had a smooth, rich texture to it. It actually had a pretty mild liver taste to it and I liked the bit of sweetness in it which came from the caramelized onions. The chopped liver was so good we just ate it by the spoonful without any bread.
Russ & Daughters has a long menu of bagel sandwiches stuffed with their delicious fish. It took us a while to narrow it down to one sandwich but we settled on the Super Heebster Sandwich – whitefish & baked salmon salad with horseradish dill cream cheese and wasabi flying fish roe on your choice of bagel ($10.95) which was a great decision.
There’s a regular Heebster sandwich for $2.20 less which is essentially the same sandwich without the flying fish roe. But I decided to go all out since I was on vacation. If I’m already paying $8.75 for a bagel sandwich, what’s another $2.20, right?
I had my sandwich on an everything bagel which I found to be a little hard, chewy and dense. While I wasn’t a fan of the bagel, the filling made up for it all. I loved the spice from the wasabi and horseradish cream cheese and the whitefish & baked salmon salad was incredible. It all worked perfectly and was something I’d gladly order again!
We didn’t initially have Russ & Daughters on our food itinerary but I’m so glad we ended up dropping by. It’s nothing fancy but sometimes its places like these were you’ll leave most satisfied.
At a glance:
• A Lower East Side institution; open since 1914
• Known for their smoked fish – extensive selection of salmon, herring, caviar
• The fish Is sliced to order
• No seating inside the store – only one bench outside
• Known to get very busy on the weekends/holidays
• Smoked sablefish, chopped liver and Super Heebster sandwich were the highlights
• Total spent on our breakfast: $38
Ratings (out of 5):
• Food: 4.5 stars
• Service: 3 stars
• Atmosphere: N/A