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Monday, September 09, 2013

Jewish Food Tour of New York: Katz's Deli, Russ & Daughters, Yonna Shimmel's Knish Bakery and bagels galore

reuben corned beef sauerkraut pickle at katz's deli nyc new york usa jewish food lower east side les

It seemed fitting that our first meal in New York City was at Katz's Deli. Before we hit up Momofuku for fried chicken, before we joined the crazy 6.45am queue for Dominique Ansel's infamous cronut, before all of that, we made our way into one of the city's most iconic eateries, Katz's Deli.

Katz's Deli has long been a part of New York's history, established in 1888 and famous for its World War II campaign to "send a salami to your boy in the army". However it was the "I'll have what she's having" scene in the movie When Harry Met Sally that cemented Katz's Deli forever in public consciousness.

dining room at katz's deli nyc new york usa jewish food lower east side les
Katz's Deli dining room

The dining room is long and cavernous. We are lucky to find no queue at 9pm on a weeknight, but when walk past later on Friday night and throughout the weekend, the queue is regularly 30 people deep. The walls are covered with celebrity photo endorsements but it's the mix of people that's most inspiring, a haphazard crowd of families, tourist, couples and workmates all chowing down on sandwiches, deli meats and pickles.

deli servers at katz's deli nyc new york usa jewish food lower east side les
Deli servers

The most important thing to remember at Katz's is to never lose your ticket. Each person is handed a white paper ticket for servers to record your order as you go. The total is then tallied up by the cashier by the exit. If you lose your ticket, you'll be charged US$50.

The army of servers at the counter are friendly but efficient, wearing a mix of white paper hats or baseball caps. If you order the corned beef or pastrami, they'll usually hand you a slice on a plate for you to snack on while your sandwich is prepped. Too much awesome.

katz's reuben corned beef sauerkraut pickle at katz's deli nyc new york usa jewish food lower east side les
Katz's Reuben US$17.45

And you have to order the corned beef while you're here. The chunky slices are the fattiest, softest and juiciest pleasures of corned beef you'll ever know. Get it on a Reuben sandwich and rejoice in the magical harmony of tender corned beef, salty sauerkraut, Russian dressing and the stretchy satisfaction of molten Swiss cheese.

tongue sandwich with matzo ball soup at katz's deli nyc new york usa jewish food lower east side les
Katz's tongue half sandwich with matzo ball soup US$14.85

Katz's serves up pastrami, roast beef, brisket and beef hot dogs, but don't forget their cold tongue, a specialty that's cured in-house.

tongue sandwich at katz's deli nyc new york usa jewish food lower east side les
Katz's tongue sandwich

You can specifically ask for the centre or tip of the tongue - it's all good. The tongue is sliced thinly, piled high between two slices of soft bread spread generously with mustard.

matzo ball soup at katz's deli nyc new york usa jewish food lower east side les
Matzo ball soup

And don't forget the matzo ball soup. The matzo ball is humungous, made from a mix of matzo meal, eggs, water and fat, and boiled until it becomes a large spongy dumpling. Biting into the fluffy matzo ball, plump with chicken soup, is enormously comforting. In a big city like New York, sometimes you need a little grandmotherly love.

salami counter at katz's deli nyc new york usa jewish food lower east side les
Salami counter


Russ & Daughters

russ & daughters smoked fish nyc new york usa jewish food lower east side les

On the next block is Russ & Daughters. If you love smoked salmon, this shop has been sent from the gods. Established in 1914 by Joel Russ, an Eastern European immigrant to the US, Russ added the unusual "& Daughters" to the shop name when he made this three daughters partners in the business in 1933.

whole smoked whitefish at russ & daughters smoked fish nyc new york usa jewish food lower east side les
Whole smoked whitefish

There's a fantastic sense of old world charm about the place when you step in here, with goods piled high on every available shelf space, and black and white photographs displayed with pride. They've got every kind of pickled and smoked seafood you can think of in here: salmon, whitefish, sturgeon, mackerel, trout, sable and six kinds of caviar.

service counter at russ & daughters smoked fish nyc new york usa jewish food lower east side les
Russ & Daughters service counter

The staff are all dressed in crisp white coats, attending to customers as their ticket number comes up on the screen. Sometimes the shop gets so crowded you can barely see the counter.

pickled lox smoked herring fillets swedish matjes fillets schmaltz fillets rollmops at russ & daughters smoked fish nyc new york usa jewish food lower east side les
Pickled lox, smoked herring fillets, Swedish matjes fillets, Schmaltz fillets and rollmops

We marvel at the pickled herrings, rollmops, chopped liver and tongue but the centrepiece of everything here has to be the smoked salmon.

smoked salmon at russ & daughters smoked fish nyc new york usa jewish food lower east side les
Smoked salmon

Whole sides of smoked salmon glisten in a massive display in the middle. Gaspe Nova, Scottish, Irish, Norwegian, New Zealand King, Wild Western Nova, belly lox, gravlax, pastrami-cured, oak smoked and loin cut smoked salmons beckon. That's 11 kinds of salmon to drop your jaw over, as you start to notice the subtle differences in colour between them all, and the way the ribbons of fat swirl in mesmerising patterns.

smoked salmon and cream cheese bagel at russ & daughters smoked fish nyc new york usa jewish food lower east side les
Old-fashioned belly lox mini bagel with cream cheese and tomato US$7.75

You can order your salmon by the pound, but if it's lunchtime, you may as well get it on New York-style on a bagel. The salmon is all sliced carefully by hand, draped carefully into your bagel of choice and then combined with cream cheese and fresh tomato if you prefer.

oak smoked salmon and cream cheese bagel at russ & daughters smoked fish nyc new york usa jewish food lower east side les
Oak smoked salmon bagel with cream cheese and tomato US$12.25

Suze had the mini bagel with belly lox, distinctly salty and fatty on its own but less noticeable when eaten with the bagel and cream cheese. After sampling a couple of different salmon - the staff are happy to help you find your perfect smoked salmon - I settled on the oak smoked salmon, one of the stronger heavier smoked salmons available.

The salmon itself is wondrous, far removed from the cryovacced versions you find in the supermarket. The flesh is plump and fatty, silky in texture, firm to the bite and seductively smoky.

oak smoked salmon at russ & daughters smoked fish nyc new york usa jewish food lower east side les
Oak smoked salmon


Yonah Shimmel Knish Bakery

yonah shimmel knish bakery nyc new york usa jewish food lower east side les
Yonah Shimmel Knish Bakery

For a real step back in time, continue along East Houston Street to Yonah Shimmel Knish Bakery. The Lower East Side is filled with Jewish treasures, but this is one of the classics.

knish and potato latke vintage sign at yonah shimmel knish bakery nyc new york usa jewish food lower east side les
Knish and potato latke

First opening in 1910, the shopfront looks like it hasn't changed anything since then. The faded yellow sign above the door is half the charm. We walked past one day just as an elderly gentleman in his 80s stopped outside. He looked up, clasped his hands to his heart and said with disbelief "It's here! It's still here!" as a flood of childhood memories seems to prompt a huge smile across his wrinkled face.

mushroom knish at yonah shimmel knish bakery nyc new york usa jewish food lower east side les
Mushroom knish US$3.50

What's a knish? Imagine a hunk of mashed potato encased in a baked dough and you're halfway there. Brought to the US by Eastern European immigrants, it's a hearty snack or side dish, sometimes pepped up with onions, red cabbage, sauerkraut, mushrooms or ground meat.

cherry cheese knish at yonah shimmel knish bakery nyc new york usa jewish food lower east side les
Cherry cheese knish US$4

We had the plain knish and a potato latke too, a potato pancake made from grated potato, flour and egg. For dessert, it was onto the apple sweet knish, a parcel of ricotta and apple wrapped in a thin layer of pastry. Blueberries and cherries are available too.

red cabbage knish at yonah shimmel knish bakery nyc new york usa jewish food lower east side les
Red cabbage knish US$3.50


Murray's Bagels

murray's bagels nyc new york usa jewish food

And how can you celebrate the wonders of Jewish food in New York without partaking in a bagel? Or three? We wandered into Murray's Bagels on our way to the Union Square Greenmarket.

Murray's Bagels may have only started in 1996 but it's the start of a second life for owner Adam Pomerantz, who switched careers from vice president of Merril Lynch to apprentice bagel baker before building up the business to what it is today.

wholewheat bagels at murray's bagels nyc new york usa jewish food
Wholewheat bagels

There are two Murray's Bagels outlets - one in Chelsea and one in the West Village. There are thirteen different bagels to choose from, each costing US$1.15 each or US$13.80 for a baker's dozen.

sesame bagels at murray's bagels nyc new york usa jewish food
Sesame bagels

There are are all kinds of flavoured cream cheeses to choose from (sun-dried tomato and basil, maple raisin walnut, kalamata olive, jalapeno and strawberry to name a few) plus tofu cream cheese for all the vegans in your life.

hebrew national salami and omelette bagel at murray's bagels nyc new york usa jewish food
Plain bagel with Hebrew National Salami and omelette US$5.25

Lex is all over the breakfast bagel, an omelette combo with slices of the intriguing Hebrew National Salami - a kosher salami made from beef that tastes more like ham than salami.

tomato and scallion cream cheese bagel at murray's bagels nyc new york usa jewish food
Plain bagel with tomato and scallion cream cheese US$5.15

I stick with the plain bagel with fresh tomato and scallion cream cheese. If there's one thing we notice about Americans and bagels, it's the generosity of cream cheese. They like to slather it on like nobody's business!

There's plenty of seating inside and the place almost has a Starbucks feel with patrons settled in with laptops on nearby tables. They also do sandwiches, salads, soups and pastries.

tomato and scallion cream cheese bagel at murray's bagels nyc new york usa jewish food
Plain bagel with tomato and scallion cream cheese 


Ess-a-Bagel

ess-a-bagel nyc new york usa jewish food bagels

The Murray's Bagel was good but my favourite bagel was from Ess-a-Bagel. If you don't understand the joy of a New York bagel, Ess-a-Bagel will finally bring you enlightenment.

service counter at ess-a-bagel nyc new york usa jewish food bagels
Ess-a-Bagel service counter

We visit the smaller Ess-a-Bagel outlet in Midtown on 2nd Avenue - there's a bigger one in the Gramercy district at 359 1st Avenue. It's a little intimidating at first - the place is busy, and staff expect you to rattle off your order immediately like a well-seasoned local.

Don't let that put you off though. Choose your bagel from the list of varieties taped to the glass partition looking into the bakery, and then select your preferred cream cheese, mixed spread or smoked fish to have on top.

onion bagel with salmon spread at ess-a-bagel nyc new york usa jewish food bagels
Onion bagel with salmon salad spread US$7.95

Lex gets the onion bagel with salmon salad spread, a mixture of tinned salmon and cream cheese that's surprisingly fluffy.

plain bagel with lox spread at ess-a-bagel nyc new york usa jewish food bagels
Plain bagel with lox spread US$3.95

Suze orders the plain bagel with lox spread, a thick layer of cream cheese studded with chunks of smoked salmon. The plain bagel is mindblowingly good, exhibiting an audible crunch as you bite through the crisp outer crust; the inside is soft but slightly chewy.

whole wheat everything bagel with lox and cream cheese at ess-a-bagel nyc new york usa jewish food bagels
Whole wheat everything bagel with lox and cream cheese US$10.75

I went for gold with the whole wheat everything bagel with lox and cream cheese. The wholewheat bagel is much chewier, and there's a bounty of onion, sesame seeds and poppy seeds plastered across the surface.

Bagels with black coffee for breakfast. Welcome to New York, New York!

whole wheat everything bagel with lox and cream cheese at ess-a-bagel nyc new york usa jewish food bagels
Whole wheat everything bagel with lox and cream cheese


Ess-a-Bagel
359 1st Avenue, New York City, New York, USA
Tel: +1 (212) 260 2252

Opening hours:
Monday to Friday 6am - 9pm
Saturday and Sunday 6am - 5pm
Ess-a-Bagel on Urbanspoon


Katz's Delicatessen
205 East Houston Street, New York City, New York, USA
Tel: +1 (212) 254 2246

Opening hours:
Monday to Wednesday 8am - 10.45pm
Thursday 8am - 2.45am
Friday 8am - Sun 10.45pm non-stop
Katz's Deli on Urbanspoon


Murray's Bagels
500 6th Avenue, New York City, New York, USA
Tel: +1 (212) 462 2830

Opening hours:
Monday to Friday 6am - 9pm
Saturday and Sunday 6am - 8pm
Murray's Bagels on Urbanspoon


Russ & Daughters
179 East Houston Street, New York City, New York, USA
Tel: +1 (212) 475 4880

Opening hours:
Monday to Friday 8am - 8pm
Saturday 8am - 7pm
Sunday 8am - 5.30pm
Russ & Daughters on Urbanspoon


Yonah Shimmel Knish Bakery
137 East Houston Street, New York City, New York, USA
Tel: +1 (212) 477 2858

Opening hours:
Sunday to Thursday 9am - 7pm
Friday and Saturday 9am - 9pm
Yonah Schimmel's Knish Bakery on Urbanspoon

>> Read the next USA 2013 post: Brussels sprout pizza + Big Gay Ice Cream
<< Read the first USA 2013 post: Cronuts at Dominique Ansel Bakery, NYC


Related Grab Your Fork posts: 

USA 2013
Austin - BBQ tour - Franklin, Ruby's, Green Mesquite, Salt Lick & La Barbecue
Austin - Gourdough's bacon donut, Hoover's, Whole Foods and Biscuits + Groovy
Chicago - Deep pan pizza, Al's #1 Italian beef & Cheesecake Factory
Kansas City - BBQ: Gates, Oklahoma Joes & Arthur Bryant's

LA - Animal Restaurant
LA - Boiling Crab
LA - Bouchon Bistro and Bouchon Bakery
LA - Donut tour of LA's best: Randy's Donuts, Bob's Doughnuts & The Donut Man
LA - In-N-Out, Roscoe's Fried Chicken & Waffles, Kogi food truck & Pink's Hot Dogs
LA - Mexican: Loteria Grill, Tamales Liliana's & El Flamin Taco
New Orleans - Willy Mae's fried chicken, Felix's Oyster Bar & beignet

NYC - Cronuts at Dominique Ansel Bakery
NYC - Doughnut Plant, Carlo's Bakery, Baohaus, Lobster Joint & Clinton St Bakery
NYC - Jewish food tour: Katz's Deli, Russ & Daughters, knish and bagels
NYC - Momofuku Noodle Bar fried chicken, Ssam Bar & Milk Bar
NYC - Motorino brussels sprout pizza, Best Pizza and Big Gay Ice Cream
NYC - Shake Shack, Tom Colicchio's Craftbar and Union Square Greenmarket

31 comments - Add some comment love

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posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 9/09/2013 12:39:00 am


31 Comments:

  • At 9/09/2013 1:03 am, Anonymous chocolatesuze said…

    remember that time when we bought half a kilo of salmon for a 'snack'? yeah. what i wouldnt give for a snack of smoked salmon right now

     
  • At 9/09/2013 8:04 am, Blogger Sarah said…

    Such a fantastic post! I love the story about the old man outside Yonah Shimmel Knish Bakery!

    BTW I'd never heard of a knish before reading this post, and now I totally want to get into the kitchen and rustle one up! Double doughy win! :)

     
  • At 9/09/2013 8:15 am, Anonymous Hannah said…

    Whyyyyy did I only re-fall in love with bagels once arriving in Kansas City AFTER New York? Why? ALL THOSE WASTED BAGEL OPPORTUNITIES WHYYYYY.

     
  • At 9/09/2013 8:38 am, Blogger gaby @ lateraleating said…

    You guys managed to hit all the classics, congratulations! :)

     
  • At 9/09/2013 9:07 am, Anonymous angela@mykikicake said…

    I also went to Katz's but can't say I enjoyed it. Got halfway through my mega sandwich and had a meat coma. Those Russ & Daughters smoked salmon bagels though look a lot more like my style. Yum!

     
  • At 9/09/2013 9:18 am, Blogger Tina @ bitemeshowme said…

    So much deliciousness in one post! How you guys managed to eat all of that, I still have no idea.. haha and omg to the plenty of flavours of bagels available. My favourite was the one with everything on it - seeds, onion chips, who else knows what! haha

     
  • At 9/09/2013 9:37 am, Blogger thesuzchef said…

    Ooh, I would smash a smoked salmon bagel right now... I was in NYC in winter, and would kick K out of the apartment to get me a bagel for breakfast before I'd emerge from the warmth of bed. Happy food memories!

     
  • At 9/09/2013 10:17 am, Anonymous Amanda @ Gourmanda said…

    The Katz deli is definitely going to have to be on the to go list - I love Reuben sandwiches, and to have one where Meg Ryan had an orgasm...wow! ;)

     
  • At 9/09/2013 10:50 am, Anonymous Elaine said…

    I went to Katz's on my first trip to New York and had the chopped liver sandwich. Fantastic! A Jewish New Yorker friend took us to to the Knish Bakery after a visit to the Tennament Museum (which was both sad and amazing). The food at Schimmel's was amazing and so cheap (but the owner did remind us of the soup nazi epsiode from Seinfeld!) If only we had places this good in Sydney.

     
  • At 9/09/2013 1:24 pm, Anonymous Katie said…

    So sad I missed Ess-a-bagel and Murray's Bagels on my trip. Nonetheless, Russ & Daughters gave me a taste for New York bagels!

    And aren't the knishes the craziest card-fest? We had them on a rainy day and they were perfect for the weather, but so. filling.

     
  • At 9/09/2013 3:48 pm, Blogger Ramen Raff said…

    Can't wait to try that awesome reuben from Katz!

     
  • At 9/09/2013 5:39 pm, Blogger Karen Ng said…

    Wow, that's a lot of bagel eating going on there!

     
  • At 9/09/2013 7:15 pm, OpenID marleyzelinkovasmith said…

    LOVE Russ & Daughters. As well as many smoked salmon bagels, I also bought a t-shirt which says "LOX ET VERITAS" - Salmon and Truth!

     
  • At 9/09/2013 9:27 pm, Anonymous pigflyin' said…

    out of all the things new york new york, there is nothing that I missed the most than the jewish food in NY. They start to loose their gloss as soon as they leave NYC and move west.

    There is nothing to replace these 2 places and their half sour in my book.

    and what's even better (or worse) they are 5 step from one shop to the next!

    Thanks for bringing back the memory!

     
  • At 9/10/2013 10:05 am, Blogger Jacq said…

    Mmm seeing all your photos is making me crave a bagel for breakfast! I wish they had places like this in Sydney

     
  • At 9/10/2013 11:37 am, OpenID nessyeater said…

    Bagel overload! My eyes are on the smoked salmon bagel :P

     
  • At 9/10/2013 3:53 pm, Blogger Alison said…

    Off all the USA posts so far this one has been my favourite. It really made me feel like a New Yorker for a little while! So many wonderful bagels and lox and knishes and dishes, reubens and pickles and hams and tongues - mine is hanging out now.

     
  • At 9/10/2013 11:12 pm, Anonymous Cindy (A Foodie's Joy) said…

    I can't believe it but my very first meal when I arrived in NYC on my recent trip was also at Katz's Deli. I had their pastrami! :)

     
  • At 9/11/2013 2:21 am, Blogger cquek said…

    Those were definitely a favorite of mine.

     
  • At 9/11/2013 7:30 am, Anonymous john | heneedsfood said…

    I swear, I've never eaten so many bagels in my life. Staying in New York does that to you and you can't help but do the rounds and find the best ones. I tried Murray's a few times but couldn't help but cross the river and get my favourite Brooklyn Bagels in Williamsburg. I even a have a stash in the freezer for breakfast!

     
  • At 9/11/2013 9:39 am, Blogger Next Stop: Food said…

    OMG I WANT A BAGEL NOW!! hahaha!
    They look so good! :D

    Katz is another on the list bwahaahha!

    - Cassie

     
  • At 9/11/2013 1:03 pm, Anonymous Martine @ Chompchomp said…

    I am figuring most Jewish are not gluten free? It all still looks uber delicious though.

     
  • At 9/11/2013 4:08 pm, Anonymous Daisy@Nevertoosweet said…

    I'm still so sad I didn't get to try Kat's deli last time I went to New York, we were so busy shopping and eating it simply slipped my mind #failblogger but it looks so good and I can't wait for the chance to go back!

     
  • At 9/11/2013 6:26 pm, Blogger Gourmet Getaways said…

    I would love to visit Katz... I wonder if the "when Harry met Sally" moment gets repeated there very often ;)

    The Reuben sandwich had me at hello...
    wrong movie, but still true.

    I am a smoked salmon machine, I love how much smoked salmon featured in this story. YUM

     
  • At 9/12/2013 10:10 am, Anonymous Shez said…

    Oh! Bagels and smoked meats and fish and cream cheese! But most of all, the giant pickle that came with your Katz Deli sandwich! I love pickles so much.

     
  • At 9/12/2013 4:15 pm, Anonymous gastronomous anonymous said…

    I am loving all your US posts! so much good food and that bagel.. I WANT!!!!

     
  • At 9/12/2013 10:25 pm, Anonymous Trisha said…

    I want EVERYTHING!!! But Katz's Reuben still takes first prize... it's unbeatable!

     
  • At 9/14/2013 3:16 am, Anonymous currybadger said…

    My old boss was obsessed with new york bagels. One time he even held bagel day for us, but these bagels look better then what we had.

     
  • At 9/14/2013 8:53 pm, Anonymous Chris @ MAB vs Food said…

    That Reuben sandwich caught my attention straight away. That looks amazing with all that corned beef and melted cheese!

     
  • At 9/15/2013 10:44 pm, Anonymous Christina @ The Hungry Australian said…

    I want all those sandwiches and bagels. What a feast you had, Helen, and what an amazing trip!

     
  • At 9/19/2013 10:38 am, Anonymous Sara - Belly Rumbles said…

    Ahh Katz and Russ & Daughters. Love them both.

    Did you know taht Katz still send a salami to your boy in the army. They do, or girl :)

     

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