Address: 179 E Houston Street
What we ordered:
- Sesame bagel w/ plain cream cheese & New Zealand smoked salmon
- Whole wheat bagel w/ goat cream cheese
Cost (post-tax, pre-tip): $18.51
We kept her outside because of lack of room. A siren went by which woke her up, and after that she was fussy and needed to be rocked.
Ryan’s Report Card (1-10): 7
Russ & Daughters has been around for over 100 years, since 1914. It’s “appetizing” which as a noun means foods that one eats with bagels (think smoked salmon, cream cheese, etc.)…the things you learn when Googling a restaurant!
R&D is a small shop that’s jam-packed with goods. Half of the store is bagels, various smoked fishes and spreads, caviars, cream cheeses, and Jewish delicacies, while the other half was filled with chocolates, coffee beans, baked goods, and the like. We somehow were able to resist buying babka, mostly because we read beforehand that they don’t make it in-house.
Normally they are packed inside and go by the ‘take a number’ approach, but we went at 9:30am on Martin Luther King Jr. day so there weren’t many customers yet and they weren’t using numbers. Still, the store is so narrow inside that we didn’t even try to get Ryan’s stroller in and Rob stayed outside with her reserving one of their 2 benches for us while Melissa ordered inside. As you can see by the menu, these aren’t cheap bagels – a bagel with cream cheese will run you $3.50/$4 while one with smoked salmon will cost you $10-14 depending on the type. Of course Rob wanted one of the more expensive ones. 😉
The packaging here is thoughtful, from the brown paper bag touting their history to the cute fish-adorned wrappers for the bagels themselves. The “king” refers to the salmon.
First up is Rob’s sesame bagel with plain cream cheese & New Zealand King salmon. They are definitely known for their smoked salmon here – most reviews note that their bagels alone are not the main draw here and we definitely agree. Our bagels both tasted like they were a day old, as they were pretty hard and almost too chewy. They were honestly very disappointing given how famous R&D is. They’re also very small bagels, especially for the price point. The smoked salmon was by far the highlight, and they gave a reasonable portion of it (along with a LOT of cream cheese). The salmon was so tender that when you bit into it, it came right off…cheaper lox has a very different pull.
Melissa got a whole wheat bagel with goat cream cheese, which is the more expensive sandwich at $4…but she was definitely intrigued by the goat cheese variety. It was definitely very goat-y, as advertised, which she really liked but Rob thought was too much. They definitely do not skimp on the cream cheese here. Even so, cream cheese can only do so much and can’t overshadow how hard and disappointing these bagels were.
Overall, Russ & Daughters is a historic spot in the LES so it really pains us to give it such a poor review, but these bagels were really hard and really pricey. Probably won’t be rushing back here ourselves, but it’s a spot that we would probably still recommend for a tourist just for the experience itself.