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Best Smoked Salmon

  • Russ & Daughters

    179 E. Houston St., 212-475-4880

    This should come as no surprise to fans of what generations of New Yorkers aptly call “appetizing,” but Russ & Daughters is Sunday Brunch Central. If the 92-year-old Lower East Side landmark were stripped of its mouthwatering and nose-tingling trappings—the retro-quaint displays of halvah and licorice, the bins of fresh bagels and bialys behind the counter, the herrings and cream sauces, the proprietary cream cheese—would its ravishing smoked salmon still taste as delicious? We think so. In fact, we know so, having subjected the cool-under-pressure counter help to all sorts of niggling questions and demands for samples. Depending on your mood (and sodium tolerance), there’s a smoked salmon here for every taste: Mild, silky Gaspé. Complexly flavored Scottish. All-purpose Norwegian. Lightly smoked and relatively lean wild Pacific King. For our money, though (and this stuff ain’t cheap), the quintessential smoked salmon—the only kind that your exacting Jewish bubbe considers the real deal—isn’t even smoked. It’s simply brine-cured salmon, a.k.a. lox, and its righteous, unabashed saltiness fairly cries out for a bagel and a schmear of cream cheese, which is, after all, what “appetizing” and Sunday brunch are all about.

From the 2006 Best of New York issue of New York Magazine