Must-See Lower East Side
by Chris Wallace, 03/18/2014
Katz's Delicatessen. Photo: Julienne Schaer
Russ & Daughters, the high temple of smoked and pickled fish, stands in the very neighborhood where, more than a hundred years ago, its founder Joel Russ stood selling Polish mushrooms from strings slung over his shoulder as well as herring in barrels, later from a pushcart. The shop offers worshipers a wide and uniformly delectable selection of herring, sable, caviar and more. (Among its faithful are Calvin Trillin, the New Yorker contributor who has reflected frequently on his passion for the institution, and Louis C.K., who turned a scene from his hit show Louie into a paean to the store.) There are more than a dozen types of smoked or cured salmon available here and nearly that many varieties of cream cheese, as well as nuts, sweets, bagels and dried fruits—all of them often much better than anywhere else around.
Just one block away, Katz's Delicatessen screams with tradition as loudly as Meg Ryan did with delight while eating there in When Harry Met Sally.... (Go ahead, sit in her seat, have what she had.) The classic New York deli serves the Platonic ideal of the Reuben, be it pastrami or corned beef, along with specialties including salami, knishes, matzo ball soup and other savory treats.