For more than a century, the Russ family has run one of the Lower East Side’s most prominent Jewish delis. On Houston Street, the deli specialises in all manner of foodie delights, but most notably fish. It attracts a constant stream of shoppers picking up something to put on the menu for dinner. Essentially this is one of the ‘go-to’ spots in NYC for Jewish comfort food.

We’d visited the shop on a previous visit but didn’t want to go to the trouble of preparing something at our apartment. This time, we were delighted to discover a cafe had opened, on Orchard Street (still in the Lower East Side). Hankering for some smoked salmon, we wandered in for a late lunch.

And promptly found ourselves in a queue. Greedy Girl supposes that’s the reality of most decent spots in the city – everyone wants to go there.

The cafe is long and thin, with larger tables and booths at the back, bar seating and tables suitable for two at the front. We’d been warned the wait could be anything up to half an hour; with the sun beating hard outside, we opted to sit in the air-conditioning and hope the wait list cleared quickly. It did – we were sitting down contemplating the menu less than 15 minutes later.

For fish lovers, this is absolutely the place to come. No less than London’s Sunday Times called it ‘the Louvre of lox’; its Twitter handle is @loxpopuli. Our table was close enough to the front door to see a swag of people check out the menu as they wandered past. One gentleman wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with a brand name Greedy Girl didn’t recognise, followed by the line: ‘seriously salty pig snacks’ read the menu but then kept on walking. This perhaps wasn’t the best spot for him.

The cafe opened in May 2014, on the 100th anniversary of the original store on East Houston Street. While reservations are available for dinner, for the rest of the day it’s first come, first served. There are very, very few options for people who don’t eat fish – but if you love salmon, caviar, sturgeon or herring, you’ll find a lot to your liking. A note about ‘lox’ – this is salmon that is cured in a sugar rub, or a brine. Nova is cured salmon that is then cold-smoked and then there’s also hot-smoked salmon.

We decided to start with potato and caramelised onion knishes, served with a decidedly hot mustard. This kind of dish is probably better for a cool day; they were tasty but a bit heavy and the onion in the mix was far from caramelised. Still, it wasn’t a bad way to begin.

NYC Jewish comfort food

Potato and caramelised onion knishes

We then shared a classic ‘board’ of Nova smoked salmon with capers, tomato, red onion and cream cheese (pictured at the top of this post). Diners can choose to have it with a choice of bagels and breads. We took the Shissel rye. When we’ve had this at home, we’ve never considered adding tomato. Greedy Girl created her open sandwich from the ingredients and incorporated a slice of tomato but soon removed it to eat separately. Gluttonous husband decided he’d try some different combinations. The tomato, he pronounced, worked well just with a little cream cheese.

We also shared another plate – a ‘Lower Sunny Side’. This was two runny fried eggs with the Nova smoked salmon and potato latkes. The latkes were good, although a bit thick for Greedy Girl’s taste. She prefers gluttonous husband’s rosti – flatter, crisper. Still, this was a lovely combination. The smoked salmon here is divine and the eggs were perfectly cooked.

NYC Jewish comfort food

‘Lower Sunny Side’

We’d have been happy to finish there, but opted to try something sweet. We chose blintzes with blueberry compote and sour cream. These were ideally presented for sharing (as you can see from the picture, below). Dusted with a little powdered sugar, they were filled with ricotta and were very substantial. Greedy Girl and gluttonous husband agreed they didn’t want to eat a whole serving alone.
NYC Jewish comfort food


Done! Gluttonous husband drained his Kirin beer (there’s a decent drinks menu but not a huge array of beers), Greedy Girl downed the last of her water and we headed back into the sunny afternoon.By this stage it was after 3pm and the cafe was still full.

This is a treat and a nice variation for lunch on the ubiquitous Mexican eateries and burger or salad offerings around the city.

Russ and Daughters Cafe

The Foodie World star rating
127 Orchard Street, NYC (Lower East Side)
Russ & Daughters Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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