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For Philly’s Jewish communities, the start of spring means cherry blossoms, warming weather, and, of course, Passover.
Known as Pesach in Hebrew, the yearly commemoration recalls the Israelite exodus from Egyptian slavery. It begins each year on the fifteenth day of Nisan — the first month of spring in the Hebrew calendar — and ends 7 to 8 days later. The holiday involves gathering around the table to tell the story of the exodus at a seder, drinking wine, and eating special kosher for Passover food. (TL;DR: one week, lots of storytelling, and no bread.)
If Passover snuck up on you this year, or you just don’t feel like cooking up a storm, the Philadelphia food scene has you covered. Delis, bakeries, restaurants, and caterers around the region are ready for matzah ball busy season.
Here’s an assortment of options to dine in or take out for seders that feel almost like bubbe’s cooking.
1437 E. Passyunk Ave.
A James Beard semi-finalist for Outstanding Baker, Essen Bakery’s Tova du Plessis weaves South African and Jewish flair into everything she creates. While Essen is usually applauded for its chocolate babka, rugelach, and challah bread, the bakery’s Kosher for Passover options are just as enticing.
This Pesach, Essen is offering dessert kits, which include options like flourless chocolate, almond amaretto cake, coconut lime macaroons, and “matzah crack,” a dessert made with matzah, toffee, and a smooth chocolate coating. Also available: housemade matzah and matzah ball soup for four.
All items are available for pickup on April 15 and 16, or for delivery in Center City, South Philly, West Philly, Fairmount, and Northern Liberties.
101 St. 9th St.
Arguably the best known brand run by the High Street Hospitality group moved out of its namesake location in 2020, but the (smaller) new spot serves the same fare that earned it a shout as one of Bon Appetit’s Best New Restaurants in 2014.
That review hyped up High Street’s bread — definitely not appropriate for Passover — but the kitchen is pivoting for the occasion. Choose between seared salmon with zaatar or a pomegranate-glazed lamb shank for the main dish, and it comes with chicken liver mousse, housemade matzah, spring vegetables, apricot-marcona almond couscous, charoset, and a rich flourless chocolate cake.
Meals are $60 per person, and you can add a Seder plate for $20 so you can properly set up the Pesach ceremonial meal with a shank bone, parsley, horseradish, and an egg.
14 N. Front St.
One might be surprised that this long-running Italian destination in Old City is doing Passover, but over the years, a sit-down Seder has become a tradition.
Located inside the Penn’s View boutique hotel with a view of the Delaware, Panorama’s charming and cozy dining room feels like an escape from the chaos of the urban grid. If you’re looking to leave the house — as many are in this late-pandemic era — the three-course meal offers a classy option.
Diners start with matzah ball soup, choose between a beef short rib and salmon for the entree, and finish with a dessert of chocolate ganache or a sorbet from cult-favorite Franklin Fountain, located a few blocks away.
The meal is $45 per person and will be served the first two nights of the holiday. Bonus: there are 120 wines on tap, and 30 different wine tasting flights to choose from.
300 South St.
The former Iron Chef and James Beard Award winner is making a comeback, and his restaurants span tons of different cultures, from Spanish (Amada) to Mexican (Distrito, Buena Onda) to pizza (Hook & Master) to classic American (Olde Bar, Village Whiskey).
Why not Passover? Garces Trading Company, the heat and serve wing of the group, is offering a $38 per person Pesach meal. Fixings include jumbo matzah ball soup, herb roasted fingerling potatoes, sweet and sour braised brisket, and apple cinnamon rugelach with caramel sauce. With a few minutes in the oven, your at-home seder levels up to gourmet.
Good to know: With his former wife, Beatriz Garces, the chef also makes a philanthropic impact throughout Philly, bringing health care resources to underserved immigrant populations.
1750 N. Front St.
This mom-and-pop outfit was founded in 1982 by husband-and-wife duo Skip Schwarzman and Lynn Buono. The company operates out of a remodeled factory in South Kensington, which serves as their home base for catering and as an event venue.
Sustainability is a priority, with operations running on solar panels, a robust recycling and composting program, and biodegradable packaging and flatware.
On the second night of Passover, April 16, Feast Your Eyes hosts a Pesach dinner at the Front & Palmer event space. Each table will be decked out with a Seder plate and traditional fixings like matzah, charoset, and horseradish. The four-course meal has options for everyone, including braised beef brisket, cauliflower steak with romesco sauce, carrot tzimmes, mashed potatoes, and gefilte fish.
A full cash bar will be offered, along with the option to pre-order wine. Adult tickets are $94 and kids under 10 can come along for $66.
1521 Locust St.
This Center City institution follows in the long tradition of Eastern European Jewish immigrants setting up delicatessens in major cities. The restaurant prides itself on its classics like knishes, potato pancakes, and kasha varnishkes, as well its classic deli decor and “good conversation.”
If you’re in a pinch to find a Passover meal, Schlesinger’s has you covered, with orders for its three-course catering menu available right up through Thursday, April 14 — the night before the first Seder.
Appetizer options include classics like chopped liver and gefilte fish, plus large plates like brisket au jus, stuffed cabbage, turkey with matzah stuffing, and eggplant casserole. Don’t miss the wide-ranging dessert menu, to satisfy your sweet tooth while keeping kosher for Pesach.
1962 County Line Rd., Huntingdon Valley
Ben Shore and Irv Chudnoff originally set up shop in Mr. Airy in 1955, offering high-quality cold cuts, cheeses, and smoked fish. The duo were so successful — creating what some consider the best corned beef sandwiches around — that in 1984, they expanded, moving to a sit-down eatery in Montgomery County.
This Passover, Ben & Irv’s is open for dining in and to-go pickup. The Huntingdon Valley deli is taking catering orders through Monday, April 11 at noon, offering a $180 per guest dinner package or a-la-carte options.
Kosher for Passover offerings at the deli include potato pancakes, noodle-less chicken soup, sweet and sour meatballs, gefilte fish with horseradish, and roast beef.