Brunch at Russ & Daughter’s Cafe & Morgenstern’s Finest Ice Cream

At the counter
Inside the open kitchen
Concord grape soda (left) and beet shrub (right)
Menu; At the counter bar; The open kitchen; Our soda and shrub

Most New Yorkers know Russ & Daughters, amongst a couple of more restaurants/food establishments, are a New York institution. The original store on East Houston Street, is essentially a take-out shop where their patrons of many stripes come mainly for their famous smoked fish (most order the mind blowing, bagel with cream cheese and lox but there’s numerous smoked fish sandwiches they offer).

When the owners started talking a few years ago about the possibility of opening an actual sit-down restaurant, many rejoiced and waited until the moment Eater and many other prominent food media started to inform the public that Russ & Daughter’s Cafe is finally opened about two months ago. New Yorkers and tourists waited on lines to gain entrance to this restaurant and most notable lines were for brunch. I even attempted to have brunch once with a friend but we bailed because we didn’t have the patience to wait for almost an hour for a table.

But this time, I really wanted to dine at Russ & Daughter’s Cafe because I read on her Twitter and even on her blog that my old friend, Robyn Lee of The Girl Who Ate Everything is actually moving to Taiwan?! It seems appropriate to eat at a soon-to-be-iconic restaurant before you say “goodbye” to New York City.

We re-established contact via e-mail and set a date to meet at the aforementioned place on a beautiful, summery weekend afternoon. Unsurprisingly, there’s a wait but since we had so much to catch up on life that we didn’t mind talking for nearly 40 minutes (with a few moments trying to get updates with the host to get a table).

When we finally got a table, we took a while flipping the booklet of drinks. We had the sweet Concord grape soda ($5) and I had the earthy sweet yet sour beet shrub ($6). (Shrubs are vinegar-based drinks that are palatably acidic).

Smoked whitefish chowder

We started with a smoked whitefish chowder ($10) topped with crushed matzo that was delicious. Not too thick but rich chowder that’s loaded had a good amount of meaty, smoked whitefish and an assortment of root vegetables.

Super Heebster

The Super Heebster ($10), a whitefish & baked salmon salad, wasabi infused fish roe, horseradish dill cream cheese on bagel toast was very delicious but quite small on the scale of serving size. These halved toasts aren’t any bigger than your average English muffin combined, but there’s very high quality fish used in the salad and also the expensive real estate I’m sitting on.

Herring sampler

The herring sampler was a better plate of fish since there were more fish to eat between the both of us. There were four different kinds of herring – fatty, one pickled with cranberries (the most interesting of the bunch), roll mops, and their regular pickled herring. It’s served with slices of pumpernickel, diced beets, sour cream, and raw onions. These were delectable.

Kasha varnishkas

The hearty serving of kasha varnishkas ($6) containing of fluffy, bowtie egg pasta with buckwheat groats (kasha) and caramelized onions.

Morgenstern's Finest Ice Cream
Cones and cups and toppings

We were technically full but craved ice cream because it was a humid, summer afternoon, we ended up walking over to a new ice cream parlor, Morgenstern’s.

This ice cream parlor kind of transports you to the olden days of saddling up the bar and eat your ice cream or drink milkshake, except it’s very modern with the white decor, mirrors on the wall across the bar, and touches of glass for the display area.

The ice cream flavors run the gamut from the classics of vanilla and three different types of vanilla to the unusual ones like Fernet black walnut or banana-durian.

Salted caramel pretzel sundae

We sampled a few flavors but settled on splitting the Salted caramel pretzel sundae ($13). This sundae was the saltiest caramel sundae I’ve ever had and I mean this in a good way since I do like salty caramels very much.

The ice cream’s texture was great. Super smooth and creamy but it’s not very rich that the fat coats your tongue in a gross way. There were cubes of caramel cake underneath the scoops of ice cream, broken up crunchy, salted pretzels, soft whipped cream, and caramel sauce drizzled on top. It’s one of my favorite sundaes I’ve eaten in a long time and it is a substantial sundae.

To view more photos of this entire meal, please CLICK HERE or view the gallery below:

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Russ & Daughter’s Cafe

127 Orchard St
New York, NY 10002
Phone: (212) 475-4881

Morgenstern’s Finest Ice Cream
2 Rivington Street
New York, NY 10002
Phone: (212) 209-7684


I shoot, eat, and drink. My full time job is a hospital administrator. Moonlighting as a freelance photographer and food and travel writer.