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.
Pudgie’s Famous Chicken's cooks boast a wide-ranging menu of poultry-anchored meals. Their signature Pudgie's Original Skinless Fried Chicken dish is crafted from fresh halal-certified chicken that arrives in an 8-, 12-, 16-, or 20-piece batch of wings and thighs flanked by sides such as coleslaw, onion rings, and mac 'n' cheese. A healthier alternative to traditional fried chicken, Pudgie’s skinless chicken contains zero grams of trans fat and less fat and cholesterol than its counterpart. Standard buffalo wings and their boneless alter egos are dressed in various sauces, such as Teriyaki, Thai Chili, or Cajun Barbecue. The restaurant also serves large groups, catering special events such as birthday parties and Lord of the Rings extras reunions.
In tandem with Pudgie’s Famous Chicken—which shares a building with Nathan's Famous Hotdogs and Arthur Treacher's—these giants of the casual dining scene unleash a three-pronged blitzkrieg on taste buds. Dating back to 1916, Nathan's humble beginnings on the Coney Island shoreline soon gave way to international acclaim when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt presented Nathan's hot dogs to the king and queen of England, a last-minute replacement for the homemade rice-krispies treats his dog devoured that morning. This brush with royalty catapulted Nathan's to the upper echelon of casual eats, and the popular chain brought Arthur Treacher's along for the ride. Named after a prominent film and television actor, Treacher's helped bring fish 'n' chips to the American masses using an irresistible secret recipe that, to this day, is still locked in a vault.
New York City looked different in 1906. The Empire State Building wouldn't begin construction for more than two decades, horses and buggies roamed the streets, and Central Park was still entirely black and white. But in that year, Marcello Raffetto opened a pasta shop that remains a staple of the Greenwich Village community to this day.
Raffetto's started small. Its pasta makers crafted ravioli and dry egg noodles until 1916, when the purchase of a roller machine and a cutting machine allowed them to create more and more varieties. The two machines continue to operate more than a century later. At the controls, customers find the fourth generation of the Raffetto family running the store. The crew seems to work magic with dough and fillings. They stuff lobster into ravioli made from tomato dough, turn spinach dough into thin linguine, and cut long sheets of lasagna. In total, more than 50 kinds of pasta emerge from the open preparation area, not to mention the family's signature potato gnocchi.
Yet for all of these choices, a trip to Raffetto's isn't overwhelming. The friendly staff happily helps patrons pick out the perfect pasta before recommending one of their 10 homemade suaces. Or maybe they'll suggest no sauce at all, telling customers that some pasta goes best with just a bit of butter.
Toting a modest selection of chocolate confections and candies, Joseph A. Fowler entered the 1901 Pan-American Exposition hoping to plant the seed for a business in his newfound home of Buffalo. The company?founded in 1910?grew with each successive generation, and more than a century later, Fowler's celebrated chocolates continue to placate palates at several retail locations. The chocolatier has become synonymous with treats such as milk- and dark-chocolate truffles dubbed truffaloes, as well as sponge candy, which boasts a molasses-like flavor and an initially hard texture that quickly melts in the mouth. Like Count Chocula?s hairpiece, all of Fowler's fine-chocolate treats are crafted from the seeds of the theobroma cacao tree and use up to 60% cocoa solids for a rich cocoa flavor.
At Juan & Maria's Empanada Stop, a bell chimes regularly throughout the day, ringing along with the festive Latin music in the background. Its sound does not indicate the time, however?it greets every 50th customer to the empanada hot spot and rewards him or her with $5 worth of complimentary Spanish cuisine. When Chilean couple Juan and Maria Contreras opened their stand in 2000, they rarely had the opportunity to use the bell, as they were serving between 10 and 20 empanadas on any given Saturday. Today they dish out a minimum of 1,000 empanadas each day, vying to beat their current record of 1,504 empanadas sold in eight hours.
Their popularity stems in part from a commitment to traditional, healthy cooking methods. Each of their empanadas is handmade and stuffed with one of 12 types of filling, including 90% lean beef and pork as well as vegetarian options. The deep fryers are filled with light salad oil, and none of the menu items include chemicals or preservatives. Juan and Maria extend the same homemade treatment to their fruit juices, which can be frozen and sold as "Juan-sicles," and their four hot sauces: green gold, red gold, spanish mayo and spanish ketchup.
Attitude accounts for a second element of the pair's success. Their mix of hospitality and cultural pride draws diners to the turquoise shop, where Juan exuberantly lists the specials to newcomers. They have hosted the Juan & Maria's International Spanish Festival for the past four years, showcasing customs from 20 Spanish-speaking countries alongside their empanadas.
Edible Arrangements’ creative staff fashions tasty gifts from fresh fruit—such as cantaloupe, honeydew, and grapes—picked at its peak ripeness. Chocolate-dipped strawberries, keepsake teddy-bear containers, and “happy birthday” balloons may be added on request to enhance arrangements. But no additives, preservatives, or temptation-inducing serpents find their way into bouquets, ensuring a healthy snack for recipients.