This 100-Year-Old NYC Resto Is So Charming

Photo: Courtesy of Tasting Table.
"You got time for such a long lunch, kid? Don't you have a job?"
Mark Russ Federman swivels beside me at the counter, pours himself some hot tea and grins. His grandfather founded New York's most glorious appetizing store, Russ & Daughters — a wonderland of fish and caviar — 100 years ago on the Lower East Side.
His daughter, Niki Russ Federman, and nephew, Josh Russ Tupper, now run the place, and the duo recently opened a marvelous new outpost on Orchard Street. Between the dining room and counter, a new slicer, trained by rock-star lox slicer Herman Vargas, is carving gorgeous filets of smoked and cured salmon. On the walls, there are replicas of the hand-stenciled lightbox signs that went up circa 1950 at the original shop.
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Many of the dishes at the sit-down café are lovely: a ramekin of creamy chopped liver with pickled onions and a stack of crisp matzo that's been roasted with butter and salt ($9). A warm, peeled potato with salty (but not too salty!) schmaltz herring and a shot of extremely cold Icelandic vodka ($12).
The cheese blintzes with a dollop of blueberry compote and sour cream ($8) are good, too. Soft but not soggy. Plump but not overstuffed. You could have a very long lunch here, indeed.
There are a few tourists today, drawn to the neon on the Allen Street façade, but mostly it's New Yorkers in the house. Old timers eating their scrambled eggs with lox ($15) and scruffy LES kids who understand the healing powers of smoked sturgeon with toasted bialy ($22).
"Whoa. Did you go home last night?" The woman behind the bar asks the girl who just sat down.
The girl shakes her head. Then she orders potato latkes with salmon roe and crème fraîche ($14). Things are looking up!
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Photo: Courtesy of Tasting Table.
Russ & Daughter's Cafe is the new outpost of the 100-year-old appetizing store on the LES. It's an ode to the past, but it's sleek and modern too, with a gleaming white counter and dining room.
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Photo: Courtesy of Tasting Table.
On the walls, there are replicas of the hand-stenciled lightbox signs that went up circa 1950 at the original shop.

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Photo: Courtesy of Tasting Table.
Naturally, there are boards of smoked salmon with fixings. Choose between a bialy or a bagel.
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Photo: Courtesy of Tasting Table.
A delicious, warm potato with schmaltz herring and a shot (of cold Icelandic vodka!).
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Photo: Courtesy of Tasting Table.
This year, Russ & Daughters turns 100 years old.
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Shrubs, made with vinegar, are refreshing and beautiful.
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Photo: Courtesy of Tasting Table.
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Photo: Courtesy of Tasting Table.
A charming, hand-painted sign hangs in the dining room.
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Photo: Courtesy of Tasting Table.
"We bake matzo with butter and salt, and make super-matzo," says Josh Russ Tupper, referring to the wonderfully crisp sheets that accompany the chopped liver and pickled onions.
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Photo: Courtesy of Tasting Table.
An old bag from Russ & Daughters is a little piece of NYC history.
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Photo: Courtesy of Tasting Table.
Latkes with wild salmon roe and crème fraîche.
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Photo: Courtesy of Tasting Table.
The view from the street.
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Photo: Courtesy of Tasting Table.
Lox, eggs and onions served with shissel rye bread.
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The finishing touch on the egg cream: seltzer.
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Photo: Courtesy of Tasting Table.
Neon herring.
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Photo: Courtesy of Tasting Table.
A brightly colored beet shrub — sweet, sour, and a little boozy.
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Photo: Courtesy of Tasting Table.
The counter is beautifully designed.
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Photo: Courtesy of Tasting Table.
Take a moment to admire the signs.

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