After peddling smoked fish, caviar, and other “appetizings” for a full century out of their iconic Lower East Side shop (at 179 E. Houston Street), the family behind Russ & Daughters (yes, they’re ancestors of the founders) decided to go into the restaurant biz. And though it seems odd to say this about a company this old: they were an overnight success! One so huge that within less than a year they had branched out from their downtown restaurant to create this winner in the elegant, gleaming white basement of the Jewish Museum. I can think of few better places for a midday “reset” after a morning of high culture on Museum Mile, because the food here is restorative: bright pink borscht so flavorful it would make your bubbe kvell, the silkiest of smoked salmons lazily draped over a cream cheese-laden bialy, deviled eggs, pickled herring, beet salad, and to top it all off, sinful halvah-flavored ice cream.
- Pauline Frommer