The only kosher outpost of the iconic Russ & Daughters appetizing shop will not reopen, the Jewish Museum in New York City has announced two years after the restaurant closed because of the pandemic.
Restaurants across the city and country shuttered for in-person dining in March 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic descended on the United States. But many pivoted to other food delivery models to stay in business. Over time, many reopened to in-person dining as well.
That never happened at the Upper East Side location of Russ & Daughters, which opened inside the museum in 2016. Its artsy aesthetic and elevated deli food had drawn a wide array of diners, including, somewhat unusually for kosher restaurants, Jews who do and do not keep kosher.
Yet even as the months ticked on, the restaurant and museum were hesitant to declare their partnership over. In August 2021, Niki Russ Federman, the restaurant’s fourth-generation co-owner, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that “no decision has been made not to reopen.”
She said the unpredictable course of the pandemic, as well as the subterranean space in the Jewish Museum’s basement, made planning difficult.
“When we had to shut down in 2020, we thought it was going to be for a couple of weeks,” Russ Federman said at the time. “Right now, with the surge in the Delta variant, the configuration of our space which does not have its own street access or outdoor access, and attendance still impacted, it does not make financial sense for Russ & Daughters at the Jewish Museum to be open.”
A followup query in December went unanswered. But as time passed and the city returned to itself, the museum restaurant remained shuttered, offering up an answer of its own.
And now, the museum has finally posted a statement to its website confirming the closure.
“Russ & Daughters will not reopen its location at the Jewish Museum. After five successful years at the Jewish Museum, Russ & Daughters is refocusing on its core business,” the statement said. “The Jewish Museum is exploring a variety of possibilities for dining and food offerings to serve its visitors, members, and community in the future.”
Russ & Daughters appears to be thriving despite its retreat from uptown. In 2019, the store and restaurant opened an outpost in Brooklyn. Last month, Deadline announced that the store, which opened in 1914 on the Lower East Side and has operated for 102 years from the same East Houston Street storefront, could be the subject of a scripted TV show.