Pastrami Sandwiches. Bagels and Lox. Knishes. What more could you want?
Katz's Delicatessen, Russ and Daughters Appetizers, and Yonah Schimmel Knish Bakery are serving Jewish staples all within 2 blocks on East Houston Street.
Even if you haven't watched When Harry Met Sally, you would have to be living under a rock to not know about Katz's deli. Open since 1888, Katz's has become one of the most iconic restaurants in New York City.
When you walk in for the first time, you are bound to be overwhelmed. Photos of celebrities on every wall, lines of hungry tourists, and a guy shoving a ticket in your face — its definitely a New York experience. No matter whether you go at 2 a.m. or 2 p.m., it will always be challenging to find a seat.
Once you walk in, you grab a ticket and get in one of the many lines. After waiting what feels like an eternity, you give your meat cutting-master your order and your ticket. When they start cutting the meat, you will subconsciously start to drool. It's okay, everyone does it. Don't worry though, because they will give you a little appetizer while you wait.
Save yourself the disappointment and get the classic pastrami sandwich (or a reuben if you aren't kosher) and pickle. Sure, you might want to stand in the hotdog line or get some fries, but save your stomach real estate and money for what Katz's is best at. I once made the mistake and ordered the chopped liver. Immediate food envy.
Check it out at 205 E Houston St.
Russ and Daughter's
Russ and Daughters is New York's mecca for Jewish appetizers. Once you walk in, you are punched in the face with nostalgia. Since 1920, Russ and his daughters have offered a vast array of smoked and cured fish, spreads, and dried fruit. Tourists swarm the appetizer shop to try one of their famous bagel sandwiches.
The shop is divided into two sections. On the left is the main food counter. Filled with cured fish, cream cheese spreads, whole smoked salmon, this is where clerks will take your order and prepare your food. On the right, there is a separate area to order coffee and snacks. Immediately you should grab a number, since there is guaranteed to be a wait. Thankfully, the decor and whole cured fish will keep you entertained.
You cannot go wrong with any type of fish here. For my first time, I kept it simple and ordered an everything bagel with scallion cream cheese and Norwegian smoked salmon ($11.00). Each component is well done and worth the hype. Next time I will be sure to add red onion, capers, and tomato to fully get the traditional experience. Although the whole smoked fish are what made Russ and Daughters famous, do not sleep on their white fish salad. Some of the best I've had in the city.
The success of the appetizer shop led to the opening of a Russ and Daughters cafe on Orchard Street, close to where the original appetizer shop was 100 years prior. There, you can order the same Jewish classics and sandwiches, but can take a photo of the impressive spread for instagram instead of getting takeout.
Yonah Shimmel Knish Bakery
Probably the most overlooked of the Jewish trinity on East Houston Street, Yonah Shimmel Knish Bakery is the oldest family owned and operated knish bakery in all of America. The simple Jewish snack food has been loved by New Yorkers for over a century.
If you have never tried a knish before, imagine a softball shaped mashed potato pastry. It is a potato based filling wrapped in a thin layer of dough, baked to perfection. Classic versions can mix in kasha, cabbage, or spinach within the potato filling, while more inventive knishes might be pizza or jalapeño flavored. Have a sweet tooth? They also offer fruit or chocolate fillings. However, I'm not sure you would want to eat those with the traditional mustard dipping sauce...
Inside, there is one small counter that hosts all the knishes, a microwave, and lots of Jewish-pun signs. If you decide to eat there, you can either choose the standing counter or the seats in the back. With each Knish costing around just $4.50, there is a card minimum of $10.00. However, that just means you get to try more flavors. They also serve additional eastern European staples like borscht, latkes, and kugle. Yonah Schimmel's is the perfect place to visit when you need a hearty snack that will power you through the rest of a cold New York winter day.
Check it out at 137 E Houston St.
Know any other restaurants serving up Jewish staples? Let me know!