July 16, 2019
HOW AN ICONIC NEW YORK CITY EATERY OPENS A SECOND OUTPOST AFTER NEARLY A DECADE
After years of only one location, spots like Russ & Daughter and Katz's have opened new locations. Many of them in food halls.
By Nicholas Rizzi - Commercial Observer
Katz’s Delicatessen has been open at 205 East Houston Street in the Lower East since 1888, serving up famous giant pastrami sandwiches and being immortalized in films like “When Harry Met Sally.”
And for nearly 130 years, the only way to taste the same sandwich Meg Ryan seriously enjoyed at Katz’s was to wait on their punishing line—which can sometimes snake out the door—and figure out the ticket ordering system. (A lost ticket is a $50 fine.) That is, until 2017, when the eatery opened up its second location ever, dubbed A Taste of Katz’s, at the DeKalb Market Hall in Downtown Brooklyn.
“We have a lot of regulars right over the bridge in that area,” said Jake Dell, the owner of Katz’s who started running operations in 2009. “It was just sort of a natural extension to be able to say, ‘Let’s bring the food just a little bit closer to you.’ ”
Katz’s is one of a growing number of iconic New York City institutions that have started to expand to new locations in recent years, many by opening stalls in food halls.
These include the 120-year-old Downtown Brooklyn Middle Eastern market Sahadi’s Industry City outpost, famed Staten Island pizzerias Denino’s and Joe & Pat’s (one of the only reasons some New Yorkers ever took the ferry) slinging pies out of Manhattan storefronts and the East Village’s famed Ukrainian eatery Veselka gearing up to open a stand in The Market Line food hall in the Essex Crossing development next month.
“I’ve been aware for several years of the growing trend of food halls opening up around Manhattan and I had a pretty strong feeling that the more popular aspects of our menu would fit well in that venue,” said Tom Brichard, who has owned 65-year-old Veselka for the past 50 years. “We became aware of Essex Crossing and it’s in a traditional immigrant neighborhood, it’s not too far from us and there were other similar establishments. For those reasons we were really attracted and decided to go ahead and open.”
Smoked fish purveyors Russ & Daughters has been especially prolific, after just 100 years. It only had one shop, at 179 East Houston Street, and it was strictly a shopping destination, not a restaurant. But in 2014—on its 100th anniversary—the fourth generation of owners opened up a sit-down eatery Russ & Daughters Cafe at 127 Orchard Street.
“We decided that we should offer our customers a place to sit down and eat Russ & Daughters,” said Josh Russ Tupper, who co-owns Russ & Daughters with his cousin, Niki Russ Federman. “After a lot of deliberation, we determined the Lower East Side to expand our presence to support the neighborhood and to really solidify who we are and where we came from.”
Russ & Daughters was wildly successful right out of the gate, garnering rave reviews and hour-long waits for its kippers and lox.
The duo kept going and opened another restaurant in the Jewish Museum in 2016 and then a commercial kitchen with a retail storefront inside the Brooklyn Navy Yard in February. In all of them, Tupper said they worked hard to maintain the same principles his family developed in the original shop—serving “simple, delicious food”—but the plans weren’t always greeted warmly by regulars.
“Russ & Daughters has customers that have been shopping with us for 80 years and a lot of them have strong opinions about what we do and how we do it,” he said. “We got a lot of customers that said, ‘What are you doing? Why would you do that? Don’t screw up this store we love so much!’ ”
“All of them visited the restaurant and said, ‘You did it perfectly, it’s amazing,’ ” he added. “It was great validation from people that were skeptical, to say the least.”