Packed to the gills with eager post-brunchers looking to fill that teeny extra space in their tummies, the Russ & Daughters Appetizers fish shop is THE place to be on a lazy Sunday afternoon. The Jewish deli’s iconic green and red neon sign, with two fish flapping a happy hello, welcomes you to sweet and savory delectables that are absolutely worth braving the crowds for.
Right on the outskirts of East Village and just before the Lower East Side, this “appetizing” shop is named for the four generations of the Russ family who have faithfully served customers for 100 years. Squeezing down the space’s single aisle, you raise both hands to part case after case of savory smoked fish, cheeses, and caviar on your left, and babka, dried fruits, and chocolate goodies on your right.
The “appetizers” in the name doesn’t mean everything in this Jewish deli is just an appetizer. When used as a noun, according to Russ & Daughters, it most closely means “the food one eats with bagels.” As you enter, you’ll grab a number, ensuring you’ll soon have your hands on the classic Gaspé nova lox—what many call the best in the city. And don’t leave without picking up some pickled herring—another must—and wasabi roe caviar. The latter is great for sammies.
But wait—you need something sweet, too. Shimmy to the other side of the aisle to fawn over mouthwatering dried fruits. The strawberries and pears have a particular zing achieved through a natural drying process. And the airy, layered chocolate babka is a must try.
When you come to Russ & Daughters, you think you’re just popping in for a small bite, but you leave with your arms full. And that’s the mark of a real classic.