Best Bagel Sandwich in New York: Russ & Daughters

So I’ve fallen a bit behind on my mid-March trip recap of my time in New York. I’ve covered previously my stops at Momofuku Noodle and Momofuku Milk Bar, the grilled cheese and sweet treats at Bouchon Bakery Rockefeller, some of my Midtown Manhattan lunches from Xian Famous Foods, ‘wichCraft, Zucker’s Bagels & Smoked Fish.

While I was there during the conference, there was 1 day where I was not attending a seminar. I thought about visiting museums, or walking in Central Park and reading a newspaper and absorbing the New York energy. Instead, I decided to eat all day – a progressive dining day. I suppose I really am a food lover in that exploring food to me is an equivalent option for an experience to what I listed on a trip.

I started out with Russ & Daughters for their famous smoked salmon bagel sandwich. I considered then visiting a few doors down Katz’s for the pastrami sandwich and pickles, but ultimately I was still too freshly full from that sandwich for “breakfast” and so instead I walked to Chelsea Market and that’s where I had a progressive lunch. This was then wrapped up with Momofuku Milk for dessert, even though I was kicking myself later as I should have walked the High Line that day instead of the next, when it would end up pouring rain. Finally, in the evening, I met up with a old co-worker/friend from Chicago and we had dinner at the Todd English food hall.

Since I didn’t actually go into Katz’s, all I did was look and ponder and eventually rationalize walking away, with only these photos to show for it. Have you been there, and did I miss out?
New York Katz's Deli, of the famous pastrami and pickles New York Katz's Deli, of the famous pastrami and pickles

I loved the Russ & Daughters experience so much though that I’m going to devote this entire post to them. This specialty family-owned (four generations!) shop has been offering high-end smoked fish, caviar & New York-style specialty foods (bagels and high end cream cheese flavors, bialys, sweets like babka, rugelach and halvah, and more!) for a long time. Their byline is that they have been “Appetizing Since 1914″. Just very recently, they expanded to besides this old fashioned shop also open a Russ & Daughters Cafe
Russ & Daughters Russ & Daughters Russ & Daughters

I arrived with a singular goal in mind: to order the “The Best Bagel and Lox in New York”, per New York Magazine. When New York Magazine interviewed Anthony Bourdain and asked What’s the best meal you’ve eaten in New York?, Bourdain answered, “Bagel, nova, cream cheese at Russ & Daughters. Not just the best, but ‘ours.'”

All righty then! Will it live up to this hype?
Russ & Daughters classic bagel  sandwich, a bagel with your choice of cream cheese and smoked salmon

I knew it would as soon as I walked in and saw what I am completely sure is angelic light over the beautiful selection of cream cheeses and roe. I looked so longingly at these cream cheeses- plain, scallion, vegetable, horseradish dill, caviar cream cheese, lox cream cheese, goat cream cheese, even a tofu cream cheese… wait, back up. Caviar Cream Cheese?

Also, you see the glow of the French Trout Roe, Whitefish Roe, Wild Alaskan Salmon Roe, and Wasabi infused Flying Fish Roe calling to you like those glowing power pellets of Pac Man?
Russ & Daughters, the angelic light over the beautiful selection of cream cheeses and roe. Plain, scallion, vegetable, horseradish dill, caviar cream cheese, lox spread, tofu spread, goat cream cheese

I was fortunate in that I came here on a Tuesday mid-morning, so there was no crowd at all, only a handful of people before me. I didn’t even need to take a number, though I have heard it can be a madhouse, crowded with people desperate for the treasures and packed into this small, narrow store. I was able to stand there with no on in my way save a handful of people before me, admiring each cream cheese and smoked fish and each box and tin individually in the little store, wishing I could take them all back with me but realizing that was being greedy.

I focused. I went with the Classic, your choice of bagel with your choice of cream cheese and your choice of smoked salmon. The patient, friendly, sweet gentleman behind the counter and I talked for a while, comparing the textures and flavors of the various available smoked salmons. I have never before had the fortune to get to select from amongst Gaspe Nova, Scottish, or Irish Smoked Salmon; Norwegian Smoked Salmon; Belly Lox, GravLox or Pastrami cured salmon; loin cut smoked salmon; Wild Western Nova or New Zealand King Salmon.
Russ & Daughters The patient, friendly, sweet gentleman behind the counter and I talked for a while, comparing the textures and flavors of the various available smoked salmons as I have never before had the fortune to get to select from amongst Gaspe Nova, Scottish, or Irish Smoked Salmon; Norwegian Smoked Salmon; Belly Lox, GravLox or Pastrami cured salmon; loin cut smoked salmon; Wild Western Nova or New Zealand King Salmon.

It’s just a little deli shop, so I had to go outside and walk down towards the subway station where I had seen a little park in order to find a place to eat. There, I was in heaven as I bit into the doughy but firm bagel, the richness of the cream cheese and flavors of the smoked salmon were exquisite. I understood why running out for bagels and lox in New York is such a singular experience.
Russ & Daughters classic bagel  sandwich, a bagel with your choice of cream cheese and smoked salmon Russ & Daughters classic bagel  sandwich, a bagel with your choice of cream cheese and smoked salmon

It’s also possible to get this sandwich on a bialy instead of a bagel. They also have tomato, capers, and onions optionally, but you know it’s not really an option right, it’s a must have?
Russ & Daughters classic bagel  sandwich, a bagel with your choice of cream cheese and smoked salmon

I carefully wiped the wax paper it was wrapped in (ok, after licking all the cream cheese left behind) with napkins and folded it away to put in my scrapbook later because I already knew it was a food memory that I would always remember years later.

In fact just writing this post I am craving this sandwich pretty desperately. I considered for a while that they even ship nationally. If I’m ever in New York, this will be a must revisit for me.

They have other possible combinations you can try- I was torn between for instance the other sandwich of Daughter’s Delight, with Gaspe Nova and Wild Alaskan Salmon Roe with cream cheese on a bagel or bialy. Or the Super Heebster with Whitefish and Baked Salmon Salad with horseradish dill cream cheese and wasabi flying fish roe on a bagel or bialy… among several other options.

If you go to New York, would you visit Russ & Daughters? Have you been there before, and what did you have? Do you have a real craving for a bagel sandwich now, because I do and that’s one of my goals for this long weekend… a fancy bagel sandwich. Where do you get what you think are the best bagels in Portland?

Russ & Daughters on Urbanspoon

Other New York highlights from this trip that I have blogged about:

Coming Next Week: photos from Chelsea Market and Todd English Food Hall!

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Comments

  1. I truly believe that no city can do a diner like New York!

  2. I need to get back to NYC and I need to make sure to remember this when I go!

  3. so many NYC trips and I have walked by Russ & Daughters so many times but never stopped in for a bagel!

  4. It has been decades since I was in New York! Your sandwich looks heavenly if you are a lox fan. I’m not so much (I prefer my salmon dry smoked) but Mr. B would devour it. I could probably be persuaded to have some of that lox cream cheese though!

  5. Ugh, I wish I had known about this place when I went to NYC last month! I wanted to get a good New York bagel but didn’t know where to go so ended up with a lot of cookies instead :) As for Portland, they are not NY style bagels at all, but I totally love the pretzel bagels at Nuvrei!

  6. You had me at “smoked salmon bagel sandwich,” and YES, I DO have a craving for such a sandwich right now! Thanks a lot, Pech! ;) It looks fantastic. Luckily, I have all of the ingredients at home to make some for breakfast tomorrow (or maybe an after dinner snack tonight…!).

  7. Pech, I feel like we are turning into friends because I am now keeping up with all of your posts! This is another great review, I really like your style, good descriptions, but ultimately a real person’s experience.

    I have seen and read about Russ and Daughters, and I absolutely want to go someday! So jealous! Also, I don’t know if i have mentioned this before- but i am lactose intolerant and can’t eat cream cheese, doh! that would be extremely hard in this case!

    I like your questions that you asked at the end- I have never come across a deli like this in Portland- do we even have good bagel places? But I would love to find out if there is one! Bring on the commenters!

    • Even if you can’t eat cream cheese, they had a tofu spread that you could have had instead of the cream cheese! The closest deli I can think of is Kenny and Zuke’s in Portland but it doesn’t have all that Russ has

  8. That salmon looks divine. I love bagels.

  9. I miss New York bagels! And diners! Portland is a foodie town, but there are some things best enjoyed in the Big Apple. Lived there for 4 years and lived in the area for 32. Wish it was closer. Thank you for the bagel blog!!

    • I love bagels too – it was enough to make me get up in the morning to get them while I was there at the conference, despite the 3 hour time difference plus 1 hour daylight savings time I was facing during the trip!

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  2. […] food court meccas, could I? So as I mentioned in my last New York recap post where I basically draw little hearts all over Russ & Daughters, I had one day off from the conference. After eating the best bagel and lox sandwich in my entire […]

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