Passover takes place April 14 through April 22, which means it's raining matzo and other Jewish delicacies on menus throughout Chicago. Here's where to get your fix on all things matzo, macaroons, brisket, and more.
One of the quintessential noshes for Passover is matzo in any form. The unleavened bread is a vital part of Jewish food traditions, and while many restaurants offer the stuff year round, Passover is an apt time to get your fill of matzo. Eleven City Diner boasts 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 blast from the past 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.
When it comes to Passover soups, matzo balls get all the glory, but borscht is equally deserving. The beet-based staple is at its finest on the far northwest side of Chicago at a cottage-like Polish restaurant called Smak-Tak. Make the voyage and be rewarded with some of the most nourishing, soothing, 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 beet soup, dolloped with sour cream and studded with cabbage. With borscht being a Russian entity, it's also not surprising that the Loop's classic Russian Tea Time has a solid rendition.
For Beef Brisket:
When it comes time for the main course, few dishes are as salacious and tantalizing as a hulking plate of beef brisket. Considering Chicago's BBQ boom over the past few years, there's no shortage of stellar brisket in the city. Case in point, the killer ‘cue at Smoque in Irving Park, where brisket is sliced or chopped and ideally heaped atop pillow-soft buns. 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: atop salads, betwixt bread, 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 or on an opulent sandwich.
Flourless baked goods are paramount 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 homage to sweet Americana. Here, the macaroons are as large as bulbous baseballs, and thanks to the inclusion of condensed milk, they're much creamier than most. For more Americana, Sweet Mandy B's makes masterful macaroons, while Raw offers a more healthful approach, whipping up batches of coconut macaroons using almond flour and coconut flour, along with maple and vanilla. For macaroons with a dose of whimsy, turn to Danny Macaroons. The nationally revered 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 Belly Shack and J.P. Graziano.
Photos: Eleven City Diner, Little Bucharest Bistro, Blackwood BBQ, Danny Macaroons