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Sep 7, 2009 04:12 PM

Russ & Daughters - Disappointment

I ate two sandwichs over the holiday weekend and was so disappointed. I asked for a lox recommendation of a less salty salmon for a bagel cream cheese and lox sandwich with tomato and onion., everything bagel. The story falls short here because dispite three attempts in asking the name of the nova he suggested; I couldn't understand.

However, whatever it was the salmon was just ok. A little different which was fun but nothing to rave about. The real problem was the rest of the sandwich. The bagels are so chewy and firm that nothing other then a slice of meat, would shoot out the back upon first bite. It can't be eaten as a sandwich, which to me is huge. The constant mess of restuffing the onion and cream cheese from the back of the bagel and back of your hand. The tomato was aweful for anytime of the year. The onion was random chunks with filmy skin.

The second sandwich was chopped liver on sesame. Image that explosion.

I know a knife and fork would solve most of this, but I and maybe the other folks huddled over the benches outside like the eat a sandwich like a sandwich.

Perhaps I miss the fun?

Russ & Daughters
179 E Houston St, New York, NY 10002

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  1. was this your first time at R&D?

    you do not go there for the chopped liver...sorry —
    and chopped liver on a bagel...NO...try the chopped herring...
    to me that is like going to Katz's for a tuna sandwich

    1. I'm sorry you had a sub-par experience. I never get the bagels there (I'm a Kossar's devotee, and a bialy girl, anyway), so I'm in no position to defend them. But I bet towards the end of the day - or over a holiday weekend - the bagels will tend to fight you, because they're not so fresh. I think Russ & Daughters' salmon, herring, and cream cheese are without peer, though. What salmon has impressed you in the past?

      4 Replies
      1. re: small h

        I am responding to the person that mentioned she is a Kossar's devotee. I guess you never ate at Kossar's years ago. The bialy's now are tasteless in my opinion. Years ago, you could walk by the store and smell that wonderful scent of baking - not anymore. They never seem to be fresh at a time or day you go by. Russ & Daughters also is not the way it used to be,

        1. re: mstropicana

          I'm fortunate enough to live 7 minutes from Kossars, by foot. So I can tell you with certainty that there are most definitely times when you can walk by and smell the bialys baking. Here's hoping you luck out on your next trip - I know how frustrating it is to miss something you remember so fondly. And if you can point me to a better bialy in Manhattan, I'm all ears.

          Also? Nothing is the way it used to be. I sure as hell am not.

          1. re: mstropicana

            My family was in town last weekend for The New Yorker Festival, so I made a trip to Russ & Daughters and Kossar's to stock the house for their stay. Everything was amazing, especially the wonderful goodies from Russ & Daughters: salmon, herring, chubs, cheeses. The only reason that it's "not the way it used to be" is because we all change, and our minds play tricks on us; Russ & Daughters is as great as ever.

            1. re: mstropicana

              I can tell you for certain, they have been baking fresh on Saturday nights, after sundown.

              The Bialey's taste slightly different, and a little more dulled with an English muffin consistency in some bites, but not enough to detour anyone. It's still Kossar's. Anything with onion, and salt is tasty.

          2. While I happen to like R&D bagels, they do get a bit chewy toward the end of the day. Generally, I purchase the salmon of my choice, cream cheese, etc separately and fix it all myself and have yet to be disappointed.
            If you do want them to make the sandwich, you can specify which salmon you'd like and they are pretty accomodating... they'll even cut it in 4 pieces if you ask.

            And chopped liver on a bagel? Really? I wouldn't... better to have that on rye or crackers. It is messy, and R&D excels in other areas as pbjluver stated. Herring, whitefish, their cream cheese is delicious.

            1. Just a technical suggestion - I find it much easier to eat a bagel and lox sandwich open faced. I also put the onions under the salmon to help it stay secure while eating.

              35 Replies
              1. re: michele cindy

                Michele - glad to see your still around. How are you?

                I understand about the open face which is the way to go but its served like a sandwich and I think should be eaten like a sandwich. The whole experience was certainly not up to the hype reported by most on this board. I always assume I'VE missed something, but I know I could go to my quasi Jewish Deli in the heart of south jersey and have a better lox and begal sandwich. All that about late in the day and hard to eat bagels in just silly.

                  1. re: shoeman

                    i don't know about the quasi-Jewish S.Jersey place you speak of, nor do i doubt that you got the bagel and tomato part on an off day...but the fish quality at Russ&D is best i've had anywhere (including Vancouver, Norway, and other havens of topnotch fish smoking)...i think it's so good that i prefer to eat it by itself, without any bread to detract from the salmon...

                    there are also happy to give you tastes of their various salmons so you can choose the one that best suits your palate...

                    1. re: Simon

                      I can't contest the quality of R&D and have happily been coming to the store since the 1970's--but I do think that some of the counter folks will take the easy way out and not cut the salmon with the care it deserves...And I don't think a customer should need to remind the counter person that salmon should be sliced thin, etc...

                    2. re: shoeman

                      <All that about late in the day and hard to eat bagels in just silly.>

                      And yet that's just what happened to you. So it may be "silly," but it's true.

                      1. re: small h

                        Yes... even the best bread goes stale :)

                      2. re: shoeman

                        ya that place is just good for DIY components, and not to be eaten out-of-hand like that. with you michele, on the open face; only way to do this sorta food.

                        1. re: bigjeff

                          Hence my disappointment....everyone raves about picking up a lox sandwich and eating it on the benches outside. Aweful experience.

                          1. re: shoeman

                            .....who eats lox
                            on a bench??
                            ....on houston street
                            ON LABOR DAY??


                            1. re: 12jenny

                              With all due respect 12jenny-I do!!!! Its one of my favorite routines in the world. I buy a little of this and a little of that then take my treasures out to the bench on Houston and pig out!!! My faves on a bagel are the lox, herring and yes-chopped liver!! I know people walking by all stare cause they are so jealous of my mini picnic.

                              1. re: UES Mayor

                                I sit on those benches to eat their bagel & lox too, the only option as I don't live in the city anymore. I like sitting in front of American Apparel stuffing my face, frankly. But I've never been to R&D past about 10:30am, so I can't vouch for what happens in the afternoons.

                                1. re: hollerhither

                                  There is another option. You can sit in the little park on 1st & 1st. Going east, there's a playground with benches on the corner of Houston & Norfolk.

                                  Afternoons are fairly quiet at R&D. We were there yesterday at 4 p.m. and were waited on immediately.

                              2. re: 12jenny

                                Eating a lox sandwich while benching? Oy!

                              3. re: shoeman

                                I would say that is not the native way to do it. Lox sandwiches are a waste to me. To truly appreciate Jewish appetizing at a place like Russ and Daughters, you need to buy the components separately. Buy some Lox, some Sable, maybe some Nova or sturgeon and chopped Herring. Buy bagels somewhere else and go home and construct an Open faced sandwich.

                                The thing about good smoked fish is you want it sliced thin and you want it open faced. The two sides of the bagel block the sensory experience of the fish on your tongue, you get too much bagel. Plus the amount of fish is too much, it sort of congeals in your mouth and you dont get the texture of individual slices. Plus doing it this way enables you to eat two different types of fish on each bagel half. Get some good quality butter, smear away and put Sable on the bottom half and Belly Lox on the top. Doesn't get better than that.

                                1. re: MVNYC



                                  When my father-in-law, may his memory be as a blessing, would stay with us while my mother-in-law went out of town to visit the mishpocha, we would have R&D Fed Ex us matjes herring, nova, sable, and pickles to Northern California, to go with the Fed Ex'd bagels from H&H and you never saw such a happy alter kocker in all your life.

                                  Chicken liver you get that day from your Aunt Ruth. Accept no substitutes.

                                  I have never in all my days had a bagel that was close-faced. Sounds like the goyische kop version of a bagel to me.

                                  But what do I know?

                                  1. re: snarkygirl

                                    I'm not a goy, and I've enjoyed both open and close-faced bagels. From a textural and flavor point of view, lox can work in a variety of combinations.

                                  2. re: MVNYC

                                    Thank you for nailing that debate perfectly. It does need openface for it to work. Textural components are magnified dramatically; BTW the cream cheese at R&D is Ben's cream cheese, local product that has nothing in it but cream and a little salt and clabberer, no thickeners, no drek, nothing. My way is bagel bottom only sesame or plain, cream cheese, a little too much, tomato, one thick perfect slice, salmon belly first choice but many worthy choices generally cured not smoked, topped with thick slice of vidalia onion, wonderful. Had a R&D order that was shipped to Martha's Vineyard about a month ago, No faults, was great, great mislinis on side as well.

                                    1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                      Delucacheesemonger... I agree! Open faced bagel with a schmear and a single layer of smoked salmon. Mmmmm....

                                      And thanks for the heads up about the cream cheese... One can also procure it at Balducci's in Scarsdale, though the salmon there isn't *quite* the same :)

                                    2. re: MVNYC

                                      MVNYC, why limit yourself to two different types of fish? when faced with a good bagel, not only do i go halves, i even go halves on the halves! so i can have 4 different experiences, a mix of garnishes, etc.

                                      1. re: bigjeff

                                        I am not going to lie, I can get to four kinds of fish on four bagel halves.

                                      2. re: MVNYC

                                        @ MVNYC (or anyone else who might have an opinion on the matter): So, if I were to get the salmon/sable and cream cheese at Russ & Daughters to construct my own back at my place, where, ideally, should I get the bagels? Also, does R&D sell the onion (i.e. can I ask them to shave me a few slices to take home with my salmon)?

                                        1. re: ulterior epicure

                                          Sure you could get them in Montreal at St Viateur, but the bagels at R&D are fine, way better than fine. You need good hot coffee and lots of it, thus home is the place.

                                          1. re: ulterior epicure

                                            The bagels at R&D are good and would be convenient as you are already down there. The. key to any bagel is to get it as fresh as possible, bagel quality deteriorates very quickly. If you can get to a place that bakes their bagels on premise they ideal thing is to get whatever bagel is fresh out of the oven. By the time you get home, it should have cooled off.

                                            As to the onion, I suppose they would sell you some shaved onion slices but you could just as easily and more afford ably buy a red onion and shave it thin for your spread. Personally I don't add the onion or tomato as they seem to just get distract from the sublime fishy goodness. Then again I also seem to think the same thing about cream cheese so I understand I am a bit weird. However those I usually eat with do like these things so I make them available. To all those cream cheese devotees I would recommend trying their next sandwich with butter instead. It is really good.

                                            More to the point, Jewish appetizing is really the type of thing you buy at the store and then assemble yourself at home. It comes out much better that way and you can really do it how you would prefer. I tend to think of Russ and Daughters more as a store and less as a deli/restaurant. You go in, buy your ingredients and fix em at home.

                                            1. re: MVNYC

                                              Very wise advice, MVNYC. Re: preserving bagels, my mother has always said to never store bagels in plastic bags. Paper is OK for a couple of hours or half a day. After that, you have to eat 'em or freeze 'em. I think Mom is right. I once had a bag of H&H bagels literally deteriorate in an afternoon, I believe from being stored in a plastic bag. Of course, it was also hot outside, so that was a factor too.

                                              And I completely agree with you about assembling lox & bagels, etc. and related food at home. To me Russ & Daughters is absolutely a store and not a restaurant.

                                              Can't say I'd eat a lox sandwich with butter instead of cream cheese though. To me, the key is the right balance between the cream cheese and lox. I like Temp-tee whipped cream cheese or a thin layer of Philadelphia or something similar.

                                              1. re: Gigi007

                                                Prefer butter w/lox. Lox deserves the stage (essentially) to itself. Less is more regarding other ingredients if the lox or nova is right.

                                                1. re: addictedtolunch

                                                  Right, the Lox deserves the stage. To those who find Lox with butter revolting, I ask how different is cream cheese from lox in terms of how they are made? Basically both are churned cream only the cream cheese requires fillers to maintain its consistency. Secondly if you were cooking a fish, which goes better cream cheese or butter. Butter and fish have a natural affinity towards one another.

                                                  The cream cheese overwhelms the lox to me, sweet butter compliments it. Then when it comes to sable? The cream cheese completely destroys the delicate smoky fish flavour.

                                                  1. re: MVNYC

                                                    I make a fresh salmon wrapped in phyllo with a scallion and cream cheese filling that is really tasty. For me, it's inbread salmon/cream cheese, even when broiling I don't use butter on salmon, I use olive oil, soy sauce anything but butter.

                                                    1. re: MVNYC

                                                      @ MVNYC: Good logic. I guess I need the slight tang from the cream cheese to check the fat in the salmon? Butter is just too cloying to me.

                                                      I agree that butter - melted, cooked, browned - and fish is a wonderful combination. But in semi-solid form, I just can't abide the coupling.

                                                      But, to each his own. It's what makes this world go around (or, at least, interesting).

                                                2. re: MVNYC

                                                  Right, right - I never thought of R&D as anything but a marketplace.

                                                  I do like the taste of cream cheese and onions with my salmon and carbs. Personally, the combination of butter with cold cuts (whether fish or meat) is absolutely repulsive; since childhood, it has repeatedly invoked the gag response. But, I realize I many be strange in this respect.

                                                  1. re: ulterior epicure

                                                    I don't think you're strange, u.e. I have the same thoughts about butter w/ fish or meat on a sandwich. It doesn't appeal to me at all.

                                                    1. re: ulterior epicure


                                                      I'm with you about butter with cold cuts. Feh! With smoked salmon, it's always cream cheese (my preferred bread product on which to place them is pumpernickle). I always plate smoked white fish, sable, and kippered salmon rather than putting them into a sandwich, but I do put butter on the accompanying bagel, bialy, or pumpernickle bread.

                                                      And, btw, with reference to R&D, "small shop" is a better description rather than "marketplace," which, to me, connotes a place that's fairly large.

                                                      1. re: RGR

                                                        I prefer scallion cream cheese with salmon over onions. It's more subtle. As for butter, I agree feh! (reminds me of a story... many years ago I once had a 20.00 bet that "feh" was a real word...then that , same night coincedentally on MASH Hawkeye uttered the word "feh"! And I won the bet.

                                                        1. re: RGR

                                                          @ RGR, when I was a wee tot, my ma buttered my ham sandwiches, and it made my stomach churn. When in France, I always have to make sure I ask for my baguettes unbuttered. Once, I ordered a simple Brie baguette, and it came generously buttered; it was repulsive to me.

                                                          1. re: ulterior epicure

                                                            my favorite bagel sandwich is a poppy seed bagel, cream cheese, and baken salmon and lox on one side and baked salmon and sturgeon on the other, eaten open faced of course. looking forward to it for break the fast.

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