Passover takes place April 3 through April 11, which means it's time for matzo, brisket, macaroons, and other Jewish traditions. Here's where to get your fill of all those Passover essentials and more in Chicago.
One of the preeminent noshes for Passover is matzo. The unleavened bread is an integral part of Jewish dining lore, and while many restaurants offer the stuff year-round, Passover is an apt time to fill your quota. Eleven City Diner has some of the best matzo ball soup in Chicago, made from a family recipe and occasionally even rolled by the owner's mother. For something a bit kitschier, The Bagel is as old-school as they come. This Lakeview Jewish diner is a trip down nostalgic memory lane, with a menu chock full of matzo, from matzo ball soup to fried matzo. Special for Passover, Magnolia Bakery is getting crafty with matzo, using pulverized matzo meal as a flour alternative to make mandel bread, and layering matzo crackers with butterscotch candy, chocolate, white chocolate, and toffee to make matzo crunch.
Best in Borscht:
When it comes to Passover soups, matzo balls are often the Beyoncé to borscht's Kelly Rowland. But the versatile beet soup is equally deserving of your holiday appetite. The crimson staple is at its finest on the far northwest side of Chicago at a homey Polish haunt called Smak-Tak. Make the voyage and be rewarded with some of the most nourishing, vivifying, warming bowls of hot borscht this side of Warsaw. While you're on the northwest side, stop in at Irving Park's Little Bucharest Bistro for some of their lustrous soup, dolloped with sour cream and studded with cabbage. With borscht being a Russian entity, it's also apropos that the Loop's classic Russian Tea Time has a solid rendition.
Beef Up Your Passover Dining:
When it comes time for Passover entrees, few dishes can touch a succulent plate of beef brisket. Considering Chicago's BBQ boom over the past few years, there's no shortage of superb brisket in the city. Case in point, the killer ‘cue at Smoque in Irving Park, where brisket is sliced or chopped to savory perfection. For brisket on the run, Blackwood BBQ is the place to go in the Loop. The quick service BBQ bastion peddles brisket in various forms, including atop salads or as a platter. Opt for the sauce of your choosing to accompany, from Memphis-style sauce to the rich and spicy Kansas City sauce. Or go for the hometown hit, the sweet heat of the Chicago-style sauce. At the Gold Coast's sophisticated Chicago q, brisket comes with a side of pomp and circumstance. The award-winning barbecue at this manse-like restaurant comes from high-end Kobe beef, sliced and diced and served as is.
Go Flourless with Macaroons:
Flourless baked goods are vital for Passover desserts, with one of the most prominent sweets being macaroons, a favorite among coconut-lovers. Macaroons are at their most glorious at Bake, Bucktown's adorable ode to sweet Americana. Here, the macaroons are the size of baseballs, and thanks to the inclusion of condensed milk, they're far creamier than most. For more Americana, Sweet Mandy B's makes masterful macaroons, while Danny Macaroons focuses more on whimsy. The nationally esteemed macaroon company specializes in macaroons in offbeat flavors such as salted caramel, maple pecan pie, and peanut butter and jelly, sold at outlets such as J.P. Graziano and Southport Grocery & Cafe.
Photos: The Bagel, Little Bucharest Bistro, Blackwood BBQ, Sweet Mandy B's