Upper East Siders hankering for a bissel of mouth-watering sable have reason to rejoice today. On Tuesday, Russ & Daughters, the legendary appetizing shop and restaurant, opened the doors to a long-awaited 70-seat kosher restaurant in the Jewish Museum on Fifth Avenue and 92nd Street in Manhattan.
Museum director Claudia Gould proposed a partnership three years ago, according to Niki Russ Federman, co-owner with her cousin Josh Russ Tupper, of the family business. “We get approached all the time with different ideas and pitches, and we say ‘no,’ ” Russ Federman said. “But as we had this conversation [with the Jewish Museum] we realized it was a great shidduch (match). We had to say yes to this one.”
Russ Federman continued: “Russ & Daughters is 102-year-old institution, the Jewish Museum is a 112-year-old institution. They both are organizations that have maintained traditions and are also evolving and staying contemporary. And we attract Jews and non-Jews across generations, we’re both destinations. And we also have a strong base of customers who live in this area who don’t always want to schlep to the Lower East Side,” the location of the original Russ & Daughters appetizing shop.
What sets this restaurant apart from the Russ & Daughters Cafe on Orchard Street, which opened in 2014, and its established retail counter around the corner, is its kosher certification. While diners at the Orchard Street spot can have a schmear with their chopped liver, the menu uptown is dairy only and supervised by National Kosher Supervision, under the auspices of Rabbi Aaron Mehlman.
“Our food is primarily kosher style, primarily dairy,” said Russ Federman. “If anything, as we’ve evolved, Russ & Daughters and appetizing have gone from being just Jewish food to being iconic New York food. Our base of customers has become diverse. Being kosher is part of it—it extends our connection to our customers, it makes a wider base of customers.”
In addition to fish, Russ & Daughters is now making all its own kosher-certified bagels, bialys, babkes, and other baked goods under kosher supervision. Russ & Daughters is also in the process of expanding to Brooklyn.
There’s no doubt it’s all delectable—I mean, have you ever eaten their lox? But for devotees of Doreen Parsley and the Twinkle Twins (who feature in the superb children’s book What Pete Ate From A to Z), there’s extra incentive to check out this new arrival: a 20-foot mural by the sometimes whimsical, sometimes poignant illustrator and writer Maira Kalman. To eat a bagel while beholding her brilliance sounds heavenly.