Ask Midtown Lunch: Passover Eats (and closings)

Occasionally I’ll get questions that I can’t answer alone. When I do, I post them for the Midtown Lunch readers to weigh in. Got your own question? Email it to


I’m sure like me, you may already be struggling with Passover. Such a nice holiday, such a non-foodie holiday. Got any suggestions for where to eat well this week?”


Uh… yes.  Er… struggling.  Sorry to let you down Matt, but my first night of Passover was spent at Kefi, where I’m pretty sure I consumed bread with every single course of the meal (their pita bread is delicious).  Now before you think I’m a total heathen, I did celebrate the 2nd night of Passover with my family… at a Chinese food restaurant.  It’s shameful, and I’m pretty sure I’m the worst Jew of all time. 

For those who don’t know, Pesach began this weekend (see how I did that, using the Hebrew term in a weak attempt at redemption?), starting an 8 day period where Jews abstain from eating any kind of bread to commemorate their Exodus from Egypt.  The story goes that the people were in such a rush, when God freed them from slavery, that they didn’t allow time for their bread to rise (hence, we don’t eat bread, or anything with yeast in it, or anything that “rises”???).  If you want to stay strictly Kashrut (Kosher for Passover) for lunch this week, you’re in pretty big trouble, because bread is the least of the things you can’t eat.  According to this site, you can’t eat anything with soy, corn, beans of any kind, or rice (which I never understood, but whatever).  And to top it off, most of the Kosher restaurants in Midtown are closed, since it would be too expensive to rid themselves of all of these products for the entire week.  (This includes the Diamond Dairy, Kosher Deluxe, Moshe’s Falafel Cart, and even the 2nd Ave. Deli, which I don’t even think is officially Kosher.)

Kosher-NY has a list of a few Kosher places that are still open this week, including Dougie’s BBQ on 47th btw. 5+6th, in the same building as El Rincon del Sabor.  For those who don’t need to be “crazy” Kosher, non-Kosher Jewish delis, like Sarge’s on the East, and the Cafe Edison on the West, are still open (despite the 2nd Ave. Deli anomaly), and both have matzah brie (fried matzah) and matzah ball soup.  The Edison will also be serving matzah meal pancakes at breakfast and lunchtime all week long.

Anybody got another suggestion for Matt (besides peanut butter and jelly on Matzah)?  Feel free to post in the comments below…


  • A lot of the generic deli’s near my office (33rd and Park) have matzoh available for sandwiches. So you can go get turkey on matzoh. Or for some real irony…ham and cheese on matzoh.

  • If you actually read the explanation behind the “prohibition” on rice, you would see that it would fail to convince a 5 year old child to observe it. Sephardic Jews will eat rice, as will anyone who is interested in coherent explanations for their religious practices. Only the blind following the blind will say – hey – I’m not sure why but I guess I can’t eat rice for a week. Bollocks!

    You can eat rice. I am eating rice. Szechuan Gourmet, Wu Liang Ye, Hing Won, – Here I Come!

    P.S. I was at Kefi last week and it was fantastically good. Psilakis for President!

  • @ DDR – Agreed. Agree about the rice. Agree about the blind. Agree about Psilakis! Agreed!

    And while we’re on it, why can’t we eat tortillas? They don’t rise. They’re flat. The whole thing is stupid. Burritos for all!

  • Tortillas have baking powder in it, a leavening agent. Is that why it’s not allowed?

  • Corn Tortillas are ok no? QDOBA!!!

  • Ah, religious dietary restrictions…who needs ‘em? Sacred cow tastes GREAT.

  • Moses didn’t work in Midtown.

  • Hate to be the bearer of bad news, but a PB&J on matzah is out too. Peanuts are on the “can’t eat on Passover” list too. I’m a huge fan of matzah pizza though. Anything coated in tomato sauce and smothered with melted cheese is bound to taste at least edible!

  • Miss Menu – just as with the “prohibition” on eating rice, the “prohibition” on eating peanuts and other legumes during Passover is nonsensical and, as I said above re: rice, would fail to convince a 5 year old child to observe it. Sephardic Jews will eat peanuts (and rice), as will anyone who is interested in coherent explanations for their religious practices. Only the blind following the blind will say – hey – I’m not sure why but I guess I can’t eat peanuts for a week.

    So cheer up – You can eat rice. You can eat peanuts. I think this calls for a special Passover kung pao chicken lunch, in which both rice and peanuts are eaten together in a celebration of logic and common sense over 700 year old interpretations that have no relevance or application to today’s world!

  • Just came from the 52nd street Cafe Metro. They had Matzo ball soup, a tuna sandwich on matzo, and seemed to have offered Matzo for breakfast. Seems like a nice selection, imho.

  • Nonsensical to you, DDR, but tradition to me (and I’m sure some others on who read this site). I am not 5 years old and I am not Sephardic…and I don’t eat rice or peanuts. This holiday is like many others where one’s level of observance is based on personal beliefs and family traditions. I was simply stating that if you go by the strictest Pesach Kashrut laws and traditions, peanuts aren’t allowed.

    Enjoy your kung pao. I’m sticking to my tuna salad on matzah.

  • While not enjoying it, I can accept the rice prohibition on the grounds that it is a grain. Now legumes and fresh corn are another matter for me personally. I’ll eat my PB+Matzo any (read every) day of the week, and God’s gonna have to deal. Or at least he has been so far…

  • Miss Menu – without looking it up on the internet, do you know why you have been told you are not to eat rice and peanuts? I would guess not. If you do know, how in the world is the explanation convincing to any reasonable person in the modern world?

    Also, I’m willing to bet that you yourself do not “go by the strictest Pesach Kashrut laws and traditions.”

    Why observe rituals one does not understand? Further, why observe rituals that one has researched and whose justification is found wanting?

    Not trying to be argumentative – only provocative. Enjoy your Passover in whatever way you like.

  • Tradition. Rent Fiddler on the Roof when you get a chance.

    Enjoy your kung pao.

  • Some of my best Jews are friends.

  • Traditions that are not understood will fall by the wayside eventually. That will be a double tragedy.

    “Because of our traditions, we’ve kept our balance for many, many years. Here in Anatevka, we have traditions for everything… How to sleep, how to eat… how to work… how to wear clothes. For instance, we always keep our heads covered, and always wear a little prayer shawl that shows our constant devotion to God. You may ask, ‘How did this tradition get started?’ I’ll tell you!
    I don’t know. But it’s a tradition… and because of our traditions… Every one of us knows who he is and what God expects him to do!

  • The phrase is “strictly Kosher” not “strictly Kashrut” as Kashrut is a noun.

    But yes, in Judaism, custom eventually becomes law and it’s usually more about how things have always been done than about logic. Why eight days of Passover when they only celebrate seven in Israel? Because, you know, no one really knows when things start so far away as there’s no published calendar.


    Anyway, this is the week for a bag lunch, Matt. And Zach, contrary to popular belief, the most important thing in Judaism is to be a good person, not to eat the right foods. So as far as I can see, you’re a fine Jew.

  • as for myself, i do know the reasoning for not eating beans, corn, etc. and i agree, the reasoning is kind of silly. i’m not really a big ‘believer’ as it were. but i think that one of the basic ideas of the exercise, to go without for a week, is a good one. so i skip not only the wheat, but the rice and corn and the other stuff.

    51 weeks of the year, I like to think that life is too short to eat a crappy lunch, which is why i’m a huge fan of zach’s work here. but for that 52nd week, i like to consider what that generic midtown deli salad bar we all demean would look like to an impoverished, hungry person with nowhere to live.

  • The closest i got this year was eating Chinese food Sunday night and a bunch of matzo that isn’t even kashrut

  • From what I understand, many of the prohibitions on rice, beans, corn, etc. stem from the fact that the rabbis who decreed what could and couldn’t be eaten during Pesach simply had never seen them.

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