Russ & Daughters
It took Joel Russ ten days to travel from Germany to Ellis Island by boat in 1907, and that was the easy part. The 22-year-old Russ had arrived in America to help support his older sister's family, which he began doing by selling strings of Polish mushrooms, carrying them on his shoulders until he had saved up enough money for a pushcart. Next, he upgraded to a horse and wagon, and by 1914, he had enough funds to open a store. Dubbed "Russ's Cut Rate Appetizers", the store specialized in selling the cold appetizers known in Yiddish as "forshpayz": among them salt-cured salmon and herring. In 1920, he moved to East Houston Street, where the shop still stands today. During this period, he also became the father of three daughters who began working in the shop after school and on weekends, and in 1933, the store was renamed Russ & Daughters––widely regarded as the first business to ever use "& Daughters" in its name.
Nearly 100 years later, the shop is owned and staffed by fourth-generation Russ family members, and has been recognized by The Smithsonian Institute as "a part of New York's cultural heritage". One of the last traditional appetizing stores on the Lower East Side, the business is considered by most to be much more than a beloved grocery: it's a preserver of the culture of the city's Eastern European Jewish Immigrants. Smoked and cured salmon is still sliced by hand, while bagels are rolled by hand and baked in an old-fashioned revolving oven. When ¬New York Magazine asked world-traveling chef Anthony Bourdain to name the best meal he's ever eaten in New York, the Travel Channel host said simply, "bagel, nova, cream cheese at Russ & Daughters. Not just the best, but 'ours'."
Beyond the traditional bagel toppers, today's customers find gourmet delights such as cinnamon or chocolate babka, homemade chopped herring salad with granny smith apples, and handmade macaroons dipped in dark chocolate. Russian-style blini's make the perfect vessel for any of Russ & Daughter's high grade, hand-packed caviars, which are still sourced the old-fashioned way: by waiting patiently next to the fish's nests.