NYC Food Adventures: A Bagel with Cream Cheese and Lox

Notes from a New York City Foodie Trip

A visit to Russ & Daughters and Pick a Bagel

Among the many food items New York City is known for are bagels. The claim is that New York City tap water makes both bagels and hot dogs particularly delicious. My husband and I are not huge bagel eaters, as we try to watch our carbs, but we had to try one while in the City. And it had to be an everything bagel (though we ended up getting plain) with cream cheese and lox, as that’s probably the most popular bagel combination among New Yorkers.

There are a plethora of places where to get bagels in NYC, but among them Russ & Daughters holds special distinction. The small deli has been at its current location on Houston St., a block away from Katz’s deli, for over a hundred years – though in recent years they’ve open a few other branches. It specializes in smoked fish and caviar, though they also have some spreads, soups, salads and baked goods. I had read in several places that their bagels weren’t particularly good, and we had just had lunch at Katz’s and weren’t particularly hungry, so we stopped by to pick up some lox and cream cheese for later.

salmon

The genius of great lox, I was to find out, is not only how it’s cooked, but how it’s sliced. The knife skills of the cutter were phenomenal. He chose the best part of the fish from where to hand cut paper thin slices of salmon. The cutter offered Mike a taste of the salmon of his choice, and he decided on the Norway, a strong tasting lox that he loved. Still, he decided to get a 1/4 lb of the Gaspe Nova ($14) to take home, as that’s the one Russ & Daughters is best known for. We also got 1/4 lb of scallion cream cheese ($3.50) as they’re also known for it.

It wasn’t until our last morning in NYC that we were able to actually get some bagels to eat with the cream cheese and lox (just cream cheese for me, as I don’t like lox). We got the bagels at Pick A Bagel, which seems to be a chain, with a location a few blocks away from our hotel.

The plain bagels ($1.75 each) were good. I liked them, they had a nice chew and good flavor. Mike thought they were just average – then again, he doesn’t particularly like bagels, so maybe that’s at play. We ate the bagels untoasted, as this seems to be the most common way to do it in NYC. I feel that most of the bagels we get here need to be toasted to be really edible, but this one really didn’t need it. We also got a bialy ($1.75), which is an unboiled bagel topped with onions. I had it after we got home and I did enjoy it, but again, I didn’t think it was particularly remarkable. Still, I did like the chewiness and not needing to toast it.

I wasn’t as enthusiastic about the scallion cream cheese from Russ & Daughters. It was fine, but it wasn’t special. Other than the scallions, I can’t say it was better than Philadelphia. Mike, however, raved about the lox. He thought the Gaspe Nova was absolutely delicious. It did, indeed, have a mild flavor, but he didn’t mind at all. While the two types of lox he tasted were different, he isn’t able to find a favorite, he’d like them both again. And he does think these may very be the best lox he’s ever had – indeed, he thinks it’s very unlikely he could find a better lox, at least outside NYC.

So now you know, if you’re in NYC and you love smoked salmon, get some lox from Russ & Daughters. You can also order it online, but the shipping fee through Goldbelly is $55 for a pound of lox, on top of the $56 for the salmon!.

You might also try a different place for bagels, feel free to comment below on what your favorites are.

Russ & Daughters
179 E Houston St
NYC
212-475-4880, x1
M-Su 8:00AM - 4:00PM

Pick a Bagel
891 8th Ave 
New York City
(212) 582-8333






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