Russ & Daughters Cafe
127 Orchard Street (Delancey Street)
City: New York, NY
Phone: (212) 475-4881
Site: Visit the restaurant site
Cuisine: Eastern European
2nd Cuisine: Seafood
Area: Lower East Side
I didn't think Russ & Daughters could top Russ & Daughters, but it has with its new café. The space is an instant crowd pleaser with an immaculate white bar and Carrara marble tiled floors to match. Behind the bar are shelves filled with cans of sardines, jars of olives and dried fruits reminiscent of the original R&D. Little signs boast caviar, bialys, Schmaltz herring, chubs and more.
The restaurant, while new, manages to incorporate a bit of that Old World charm. Maybe it's the location, on Orchard Street, which still has plenty of city grit. Or, maybe it's the slightly arched ceilings and stainless steel-rimmed tables that make you feel like you are sitting in a retro Silk City diner. All I know is I instantly felt right at home. Having a staff that is super friendly and knowledgeable about the menu also helps. Another nice thing is you don't have to bust the budget to be part of the crowd. A bowl of homemade matzo ball soup will set you back eight bucks or you can drop a few hundred on a nice selection of caviar. Something tells me this was all by design.
As for the food, I relied on a recommendation from Dimitri, who was working the bar (and the perfect host), for my impromptu dinner. It began with something called Shetl. What arrived was a small wooden cutting board topped with slices of smoked sable, a delicate white fish, serve with goat cream cheese, tomato, red onion and capers. I layered each onto the end of a toasted bialy and took what what had to be one of my most memorable bites ever. If food could give you goose bumps, this can. My next bite, into a crispy deep-fried potato pancake slathered with applesauce and sour cream, was a close second. I washed it down with a potent Bloody Mary made with dill-infused vodka and served with a steel straw.
Other menu items include the Pastrami Russ made with pastrami-cured salmon, the Mensch served with sturgeon and butter, and the “Heebster,” a whitefish and salmon salad with horseradish dill cream. All can be eaten on a bagel or bialy. There’s also “Eggs Benny” and homemade soups, like mushroom barley and borscht.
I left Russ and Daughters Café feeling glad I live in New York and have great places like this to visit. But please, let's just keep this our little secret. I'd still like to get a seat at the bar!
Review By: Thomas Rafael