Unique New York City Experiences: A visit to NYC Icon Russ & Daughters

We’re pretty unabashed brunchaholics.  We register an abnormal amount of excitement when a well-regarded restaurant moves from serving dinner only to offering brunch.  We’ve got a Google Map with a list of restaurants that we’ve saved, with enough potential suitors to secure a weekend brunch schedule through 2050.  But our favorite thing to do AFTER brunch?  Head over to Russ & Daughters to pick up bagels, cream cheese, smoked fish and any other number of goodies so we can have a second brunch for dinner.

Don’t judge.

We can’t possibly be alone, because when you step in there on a weekend, it’s packed to the gills.  (Hey, did I just pun?)  

Unique NYC Icon Russ and Daughters - Mad Hatters NYC BlogUnique NYC Icon Russ and Daughters - Mad Hatters NYC BlogUnique NYC Icon Russ and Daughters - Mad Hatters NYC BlogThe first thing you want to do when you step through the door is grab a ticket.  Then take in all that’s around you while you wait: one counter offers smoked fish, caviar and shmears.  Take a few steps down and you’ll see egg salad, tuna salad, eggplant salad and a selection of herring.  On the other side there’s a counter that offers tempting sweets like dried fruit, rugelach and babka.  Or check out the cooler where you’ll find soups and some other pre-prepared items like latkes and blintzes.  Along the wall you’ll see wire baskets holding bagels and bialys, some of the best the city has to offer.  If you’d rather have crackers with your shmear, they carry those too.

Russ & Daughters celebrated its 100th year anniversary three years ago, and it’s one of the few family establishments that is still a real family establishment (it’s currently run by the 4th generation of Russ family members).  It’s been the subject of numerous articles, books and movies, and has such well-known fans as Anthony Bourdain.

Unique NYC Icon Russ and Daughters - Mad Hatters NYC BlogUnique NYC Icon Russ and Daughters - Mad Hatters NYC BlogUnique NYC Icon Russ and Daughters - Mad Hatters NYC BlogThere’s also a great story about it being somewhat of an accidental pioneer.  Joel Russ made his daughters partners and added “& Daughters” to the store name back in the 30s.  Third-generation owner, Mark Russ Federman, moved two Latino workers from the back to the front of the store to slice fish in the 70s.  Both situations were unheard of at the time.  Family members don’t romanticize the two, saying they were just borne out of practicality.  But aren’t those the best ways to break barriers?  By simply applying reason?

In a city full of icons, one has to be careful not to bandy that title about.  But Russ & Daughters fully deserves the honor.  Standing in line while you fight the urge to order half the store, waiting patiently for your number to be called, is a quintessential New York City experience.  And whether it’s 5 degrees outside or 70, there will be people on the bench in front of the store devouring their freshly gotten goods.

Tip:  Russ & Daughters Cafe, located nearby on Orchard St, conducts a Music Nights series that is free to its patrons on the last Thursday of every month.  On those nights they offer nosh and cocktail specials in addition to the regular menu. The set starts at 8:00 pm. 

179 E Houston St

Monday-Friday 8am – 8pm
Saturday 8am – 7pm
Sunday 8am – 5:30pm

Pair it with:

Brunch at Miss Paradis

Unique NYC Icon Russ and Daughters - Mad Hatters NYC BlogUnique NYC Icon Russ and Daughters - Mad Hatters NYC BlogUnique NYC Icon Russ and Daughters - Mad Hatters NYC BlogWe fully recognize that our capacity to consume food is probably slightly (largely?) outside of normal.  But to that one person who read second-brunch-as-dinner and thought “What a great idea!”: this one’s for you.

We love that brunch in New York City rarely means the same thing from one eatery to the next.  If you’re contemplating a stop at Russ & Daughters, perhaps start your day not too far away in SoHo, at the trendy new eatery Miss Paradis.  We’re rarely fans of spots that are “trendy”, “sceney” or are the “latest obsession”.  Thanks to founder Claude Louzon and designer Philippe Starck, Miss Paradis is all of those things.  But we still go there because the food is really good.

Count on great basics like French Toast and Polenta with Eggs, but also try the dishes with international influences, like their bowl with avocado, edamame, coconut milk and toasted sesame seeds.  For vegans or lactose-intolerants, they also have Yolita, a vegan frozen yogurt.  Our perfect outing involves spending some time browsing at McNally Jackson Books across the street afterwards, then making our way to Russ & Daughters before heading home.

47 Prince St

Monday-Friday 11:45am – 1am
Saturday-Sunday 10am – 1am

– L.

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3 years ago

Oh absolutely! I was so happy to discover they now have a sitting space (we first visited in 2014, before we came to stay, and didn`t know about it then). Happier yet to find out they now operate a second location, in the Jewish Museum uptown! OK, it may not be the original but it lacks none of the smoky deliciousness of the down town joint!

Cynthia - Adventuring Woman

I can’t wait to actually eat here! Though the crowds were a bit intimidating