If you’ve been to any of our champagne parties (if not, be sure to sign up for our mailing list so you don’t miss the next one!), you know comparing someone’s personality to a glass of bubbly is the highest compliment Taste Collection has to offer. Greta Rolli is as gorgeous as she is effervescent and her inner brightness paired perfectly with the luminous, white aesthetic at our latest destination: the iconic Russ & Daughters cafe.
As neighbors of Russ & Daughters in the historic Lower East Side, we’re proud to share a zip code with a fellow female-forward business that essentially paved the way for us to open our doors over a century later. After starting his brand in 1914, Joel Russ became a pioneer when he made his three daughters full partners in 1935; Russ & Daughters was the first business in the United States to have “& Daughters” in its name.
Four generations later, Russ & Daughters maintains a daily line-out-the-door in a country where only 1% of family-owned businesses make it to the fourth generation. Their success is extraordinary by any contemporary restaurant’s standards; such success then multiplied by a century is unheard of! People continuing to queue from when Joel Russ first peddled schmaltz herring out of a pushcart to now, as they eagerly anticipate the “table ready” notification on their smartphones, says one thing about his food: it’s pretty damn good.
In terms of what we ordered, our choices were inevitably influenced by the fact that 75% of our group was vegetarian; the majority of this food being polished off by only two meat-eating models proves exactly how delicious it was.
Potato Latkes (w/ applesauce & sour cream). Because Russ & Daughters prides itself in its fishmonger origins, it’s only fair that the majority of its offerings are seafood-based. However, latkes are as authentic to Joel Russ’ roots as the pickled herring and these latkes were perfect; crispy on the outside but mouth-wateringly moist in the middle.
Bissel of Caviar (hackleback w/ blini & creme fraiche). The quality of fresh fish is unparalleled at Russ & Daughters and the caviar exemplifies this standard as it almost looks too elegant to eat. This qualm proved nonexistent for our models as they knocked this dish back like frat boys taking jager shots. When the food is this amazing, all decorum leaves the table.
Chopped Liver (w/ matzo & pickled red onion). Though chopped liver gets a bad rap from its colloquial connotation, this proved to be far from true as our two models devoured every last bite of this dish. Paired with matzo, this plate brilliantly elevates chopped liver to a level reminiscent of pate; all the while remaining firmly rooted in its traditional Jewish identity.
Matzo Ball Soup (w/ chicken & vegetables). This dish is the one truly “model-friendly” choice as models are often advised to stick to broths, but the matzo balls lent this soup the substance dieting models crave, in addition to being rich in flavor. This is the kind of soup that sates your soul instead of leaving you hungry for more.
Fish Sticks (gaspe nova w/ shissel rye crust). A personal favorite, this plate is another example of what Russ & Daughters does so well; commemorating its heritage while bringing Joel Russ’ sensibility to the 21st century. These fish sticks are made with Russ & Daughters’ famed Gaspe Nova salmon instead of generic frozen faux-fish. This high-quality and unexpected filling is then mixed with scallion cream cheese before being crusted in shissel rye bread that is made in-house as one of the Russ & Daughters’ bakery offerings. The result? Fish sticks like you’ve never tasted before in your life.
The Hattie Platter (smoked whitefish, kippered salmon, gaspe nova, & sable). The beautifully vibrant and discernibly fresh quality of the fish makes this selection irresistibly photogenic (which might drive you crazy as your one friend insists on “one more picture” before permitting you to dive in). If nothing else, the platter is a perfect choice to fully experience the Russ & Daughters phenomenon as it proudly demonstrates what this restaurant has built its name on for the last 100 years. This dish is also the perfect food for sharing; be it for your next birthday party or just a girls’ brunch, as the platter paired with a few drinks will make for a most-memorable meal. Bubbles were obviously a given for the Taste Girls, but the build-your-own Bloody Mary list proved to be equally tempting (for the women who like their liquor).