Passover begins at sundown this Friday, April 15, and runs through April 22 (or 23, among some Jewish communities). For the past two years, pandemic restrictions and fears of illness have dampened the joy of family gatherings — but this spring, with case numbers in the Twin Cities low, a renewed (if hesitant) sense of festivity is returning to Passover. And Twin Cities restaurants, from classic Jewish establishments to popular suburban delis, are taking it in stride, offering robust Passover menus for dine-in and takeout.
Passover celebrates the Israelites’ exodus from ancient Egypt. Typically, families gather the first night to share a traditional seder dinner (and in some Jewish communities, two seders are observed). Seder dishes vary, but often include matzo ball soup, brisket, dense potato kugel, and tzimmes, a fragrant stew often made with root vegetables and sweetened with prunes. Central to the meal is the seder plate, with small, symbolic servings of egg, horseradish, parsley, shank bone, and charoset (a paste made with nuts and fruits).
Matzo, a crackly flatbread that’s baked before it rises, is omnipresent during Passover: It represents the unleavened bread eaten by the Israelites during their exodus from Egypt. (Chametz — food made with wheat, rye, barley, spelt, or oats that’s come into contact with water and been allowed to rise — isn’t eaten during the holiday.) Here are a handful of Twin Cities restaurants offering Passover meals this year.
Over in Golden Valley, Mort’s Deli has more than a few excellent dishes to enjoy this Passover. Order the deli’s famous matzo ball soup — homemade with chicken broth and a hearty matzo ball, it’s served with or without noodles to accommodate Passover restrictions on chametz. Mort’s also serves a signature potato knish, baked golden and crusty on the outside, with fluffy, seasoned mashed potatoes tucked inside. (Make it a full meal by adding brisket, pastrami, or corned beef.) For takeout, grab a “box lunch” matzo ball soup to go.
First established in 1949 by Cecil and Faye Glickman, Cecil’s is perhaps the Twin Cities’ most beloved Jewish deli, a historic mainstay on its corner of Cleveland Avenue in St. Paul. Classic matzo ball soup is available at all times of the year, and customers can find gefilte fish in jars on the deli’s grocery side. Starting this Friday, April 15, and running through the end of Passover, Cecil’s is also making its sandwiches available on a matzo meal bun. Try the Sasha, made with hot brisket pastrami, a fried egg, and the punchy “bird sauce” Cecil’s has made in-house for 40 years — or the with hot thin-sliced turkey, grilled onions, barbecue sauce, and melted Swiss cheese.
Crossroads serves perhaps the most extensive Passover menu in the Twin Cities. Start with matzo ball soup or Passover cabbage borscht, available in varying sizes — add gefilte fish with beet horseradish, chopped chicken liver, or salami and eggs (served pancake-style, alongside hashbrowns and a popover). For meats, Crossroads has seven choices: short ribs, lamb shank, beef brisket, oven-roasted chicken, baked Atlantic salmon, and chicken, or flanken, in a pot (veggies and potatoes are subbed in for noodles and kreplach). From the bakery, grab popovers by the half-dozen, macaroons, or Passover sponge cake.
Yum! Kitchen and Bakery
Yum! Kitchen and Bakery is offering Passover dishes and accompaniments for takeout from all three of its locations: St. Paul, St. Louis Park, and Minnetonka. Grab matzo ball soup in quart or bowl form, and pair it with a four-pack of golden-brown popovers, or a half-pint of chopped liver. Big salads with snap peas, grape tomatoes, and watermelon radishes will help feed a large gathering, and desserts (coconut macaroons and chocolate almond treats) are available as well. Yum! Kitchen and Bakery is also offering single matzo balls, matzo granola, and matzo toffee — a great snack for the eight days of Passover when chametz is off the table.