Dining

The Café That Herring Built

The new Russ & Daughters outpost on Orchard Street

"You got time for such a long lunch, kid? Don't you have a job?"

Mark Russ Federman swivels beside me at the counter, pours himself some hot tea and grins. His grandfather founded New York's most glorious appetizing store, Russ & Daughters--a wonderland of fish and caviar--100 years ago on the Lower East Side.

His daughter Niki Russ Federman and nephew Josh Russ Tupper now run the place and the duo has just opened a marvelous new outpost on Orchard Street.

Between the dining room and counter, a new slicer, trained by rock-star lox slicer Herman Vargas, is carving gorgeous filets of smoked and cured salmon. On the walls, there are replicas of the hand-stenciled lightbox signs that went up circa 1950 at the original shop.

Many of the dishes at the sit-down café are lovely: A ramekin of creamy chopped liver with pickled onions and a stack of crisp matzo that's been roasted with butter and salt ($9). A warm, peeled potato with salty (but not too salty!) schmaltz herring and a shot of extremely cold Icelandic vodka ($12). 

Beet shrub | Chopped liver

The cheese blintzes with a dollop of blueberry compote and sour cream ($8) are good, too. Soft but not soggy. Plump but not overstuffed. You could have a very long lunch here, indeed.

There are a few tourists today, drawn to the neon on the Allen Street façade, but mostly it's New Yorkers in the house. Old timers eating their scrambled eggs with lox ($15) and scruffy LES kids who understand the healing powers of smoked sturgeon with toasted bialy ($22).

Lox slicers = rock stars

"Whoa. Did you go home last night?" The woman behind the bar asks the girl who just sat down.

The girl shakes her head. Then she orders potato latkes with salmon roe and crème fraîche ($14).

Things are looking up!

  • Russ & Daughters' Café is the new outpost of the 100 year old appetizing store on the LES. It's an ode to the past, but it's sleek and modern too, with a gleaming white counter and dining room.

  • Beverage consultant Yana Volfson has put together an outstanding drinks list. Here, a beautiful carob egg cream.

  • On the walls, there are replicas of the hand-stenciled lightbox signs that went up circa 1950 at the original shop.

  • Naturally, there are boards of smoked salmon with fixings. Choose between a bialy or a bagel.

  • This year, Russ & Daughters turns 100 years old.

  • Shrubs, made with vinegar, are refreshing and beautiful.

  • A family portrait.

  • A delicious warm potato with schmaltz herring and a shot (of cold Icelandic vodka!).

  • An old bag from Russ & Daughters is a little piece of NYC history.

  • Niki Russ Federman, fourth generation owner of Russ & Daughters.

  • Latkes with wild samon roe and crème fraîche.

  • Josh Russ Tupper, fourth generation owner of Russ & Daughters.

  • The view from the street.

  • Lox, eggs and onions served with shissel rye bread.

  • A charming hand-painted sign hangs in the dining room.

  • The finishing touch on the egg cream--seltzer.

  • Neon herring.

  • The café is bustling at lunchtime.

  • The Allen Street façade (the entrance is on Orchard Street).

  • "We bake matzo with butter and salt and make super matzo," says Josh Russ Tupper, referring to the wonderfully crisp sheets that accompany the chopped liver and pickled onions.

  • A brightly colored beet shrub--sweet, sour and a little boozy.

  • The counter is beautifully designed.

  • Take a moment to admire the signs.

  • 1/23
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Russ & Daughters Café 127 Orchard St. New York NY 10002

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