Russ and Daughters Cafe – The Best Bagel of My Life

I mean, I really had a great eating weekend over July 4th.

And it didn’t involve any grills.

It did, however, involve this:

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Yep, the venerable Russ and Daughters Cafe.

The world-famous, decades old smoked fish emporium recently opened up a cafe around the corner from its teensy, temptation filled store. The cafe is open all day, offers the sandwiches that it always offered from the store, but now includes an expanded menu (including a full liquor list and a MEAN looking Bloody Mary), and ample seating.

It doesn’t take reservations but it is worth. the. wait.

20140705_112459 The cafe is done like an old-fashioned soda shop – a white counter in front with tables in the back, very comfortable stools with low backs so you don;t have to hunch over, and soda jerks in white jackets offering homemade egg creams (Fox’s U-Bet is the superior chocolate syrup on offer).

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LEO

This lox, eggs, and onions isn’t my favorite version in town, but it is excellent. Of particular note, the eggs are extremely creamy – no burnt or rubbery edges here. The eggs might be done by Daniel Boulud in the back – that’s how delicate and buttery they are. The lox isn’t super salty, but it is smokier than I prefer. The eggs ar sweet and soft and the brightly dressed salad alongside is a zingy counterpart. If you like a smokier lox, this would be your ideal version of the dish!

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Super Heebster

So good that I immediately texted the newest dad on the block and told him that when his son is ready for whitefish salad, he must have this iteration first. This is the single best bagel I have ever had. Creamy, mild whitefish salad mixed with baked salmon salad, spread atop horseradish cream cheese and topped with wasabi infused fish roe, all on a thin slice of toasted bagel. This is creamy, spicy, verdant, and hearty. The cream cheese really makes it – without it, this might seem too fishy. With it, it’s a perfect amalgam of everything Jewish comfort food. I’m not usually a fan of fish roe, but this is incredibly light and not at all bitter just a small, pleasant sting of wasabi. This is just perfect. Please get 2 of them.

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Chopped salad with whitefish and buttermilk dressing

The perfect way to round out your somewhat heavy and indulgent meal. Flaky, mild whitefish, lemony avocado, super sweet beets (those are really the standouts), and even some cruncy matzo. The apples and eggs are almost unnecessary, but the hit of fragrant dill really brings this salad to another level. This salad is excellent and I would order it again in a heartbeat.

20140705_120521 Blintzes with sour cream and compote

Mhm. Mhm, mhm, mhm. Get these for SURE. They simply must be deep fried – how else could they get so golden and crispy outside while remaining creamy inside? They are like cheesecake – sweet, rich, super creamy…paired with tangy sour cream and that sweet compote, it is great for either dessert or breakfast. I love dishes like that – sweet enough to end a meal but not a total sugar bomb.  20140705_120525

 Bread pudding

The best I have ever had. Others need not apply. This is the now and future king of bread puddings. Studded with sweet, sticky, juicy apricots, the top layer tastes deep fried and sugary. The inside is almost soft enough to eat with a straw, but isn’t at all liquidy. It’s just super soft and vanilla-y and creamy, and delicious.

Russ and Daughters is AWESOME! The staff couldn’t be more delightful or attentive (one server actually tried to replace one dish that we didn’t like – we told him that it was our fault, not theirs – it just wasn’t our cup of tea – and he was terribly distraught. Love him), the prices are high but fair, and the food is the best. Updated versions of all your favorite deli classics.

I’ll see ya around a Super Heebster.