Passover eating options aplenty without lifting a finger in the kitchen

     Note: At the bottom of this article, there is a link to all the menus, and more.

Matzah ball soup with a walnut inside the matzah ball. Freshly ground horseradish. Rock cod “gefilte” fish cakes. Handmade, wood-fired matzah.

Those are just a few of the items Bay Area restaurants will be serving up as part of their Passover offerings this year. In what has become something of a mini-tradition, a decent number of local eateries (and I definitely don’t mean just Jewish delis) are once again breaking out their Passover-inspired meals and menus.

During the holiday — from sundown April 3 through April 11 — some places will have special dinners, while others will feature Passover items along with their regular menus.

Unfortunately, these awesome-looking menus are so packed, I can’t detail all of the offerings in this space. To see the full menus, and more information about times, prices and other details, visit www.tinyurl.com/jweekly-passover-restaurants.

Also, if you know of any others not listed here, please email me at andy@jweekly.com.

What follows is a brief look at what’s out there. It should be noted that these meals are neither kosher nor kosher for Passover.

Matzah made with olive oil and salt flakes at Marla Bakery, San Francisco

For the 21st straight year, chef-owner Brad Levy is having an a la carte Passover menu at Firefly in San Francisco, April 3-10. The meals are not accompanied by a seder, “but some diners bring in their haggadahs and go for it,” Levy notes. Offerings include gefilte fish with fiery bicolor horseradish, chopped chicken liver with matzah and “Brad’s Mom’s Beef Brisket” served with root vegetable tsimmes. 4288 24th St., S.F. (415) 821-7652.

At Delfina, chef-owner Craig Stoll admits he’ll be offering “nothing too traditional” during the holiday. The menu will be posted on the restaurant’s website every night from April 3 to 11, he said; some highlights include an edible seder plate (served on a matzah crostini), a couple of versions of brisket and, for dessert, a matzah crostata di riso (a flanlike cake) with huckleberries. Stoll notes that he is bracing for April 5: “It’ll get pretty serious on Easter Sunday, when two worlds collide.” 3621 18th St., S.F. (415) 552-4055.

The famous Stoll family matzah ball soup — the one with the walnut in the matzah ball — will be available all week at Delfina as well as at sister locations Pizzeria Delfina and Locanda. The four Pizzeria Delfinas (Palo Alto, Burlingame, two in S.F.) and Locanda (S.F.) also will have matzah made by Beauty’s Bagel Shop in Oakland.

While Delfina is entering its 16th year of Passover-inspired menus, Perbacco will serve its eighth annual Passover dinner with guest chef Joyce Goldstein. The author of “Cucina Ebraica: Flavors of the Italian Jewish Kitchen” will team up with Perbacco chef Staffan Terje to create four-course, prix-fixe meals ($55) on April 7 and 8, plus there will be cocktails based on the items on the seder plate. “It’s nice to see that the majority of guests are returnees,” said Jewish owner Umberto Gibin, urging people to make reservations quickly. More than 500 diners participated last year. “It has become a Perbacco and San Francisco tradition,” he added. 230 California St., S.F. (415) 955-0663.

Caldo de pollo with jalapeño matzah balls at Comal, Berkeley

At the Delancey Street restaurant, foundation president and CEO Mimi Silbert always has some Jewish items on the menu throughout the year, and Passover is no exception. One favorite is Granny Dena’s matzah ball soup. 600 The Embarcadero, S.F. (415) 512-5179.

For the third straight year, Comal in Berkeley is having prix-fixe ($70) dinners that are Mexican-style riffs on traditional Passover dishes. Served family style at a communal table in a private dining room, the not-seders on April 6 and 7 will include caldo de pollo with jalapeño matzah balls, beef brisket in adobo and rock cod “gefilte” fish cakes. Seating is limited to 22 diners each night. 2020 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley. (510) 926-6300.

As of last week, the first two seders at Wise Sons Delicatessen in San Francisco were sold out, and by the time you read this, the other two likely will be sellouts, too. These are actual seders —the fifth annual — and will begin promptly at 7 p.m., although the haggadah reading generally goes quickly, as the focus here is on the food. Cost is $85 without wine and $110 with. 3150 24th St., S.F. (415) 787-3354.

The seders at Saul’s Restaurant and Delicatessen in Berkeley aren’t an official part of the meal, but many people bring their own haggadahs, or borrow copies from the deli, and conduct their own. It’s a Berkeley tradition, especially on the second night. Prix-fixe Passover dinners for $40 ($17 for kids under 12) are available starting April 3, and include favorites such as Pacific gefilte fish, chicken soup with knaidlach and braised brisket. There’s also a mock chopped liver made of roasted walnuts and peas. 1475 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley. (510) 848-3354.

Matzah ball soup at Beauty’s Bagel Shop, Oakland

Saul’s and Wise Sons will feature Beauty’s Bagel Shop matzah, which is handmade and cooked in a wood-burning oven; it will be available for $11 a pound at the shop (preordered). The appetizing store also will sell traditional Passover items, including gefilte fish, chrain (beet-stained horseradish), haroset, macaroons and matzah ball soup — and toward the end of the week, matzah brei with green garlic will be on the menu. 3838 Telegraph Ave., Oakland. (510) 788-6098.

Shorty Goldstein’s in San Francisco always has matzah ball soup on the menu, but from April 3 to 10 it will feature additional items for Passover. Highlights include gefilte fish made with wild bass, sweet or savory matzah brei, and a haroset salad with cinnamon-honey vinaigrette. Look for them during Shorty’s daytime-only hours, or preorder a fully catered Pesach meal for $65 per person (seder plate items and matzah provided upon request). 126 Sutter St., S.F. (415) 986-2676.

Open nearly 10 months, Marla Bakery in San Francisco is having a self-billed “elaborate Passover dinner” on April 4. Owned by former Wise Sons pickler Joe Wolf and his expectant wife, Amy Brown, the restaurant will be making matzah with olive oil and salt flakes, gefilte fish and a main course of brisket (or roasted vegetables for non-meat eaters). But as of press time, the price and final menu had not been finalized. 3619 Balboa St., S.F. (415) 742-4379.

CLOSED FOR PESACH: Because certified kosher restaurants, bakeries and markets are required to be closed for Passover, a handful of Bay Area establishments will shut their doors the afternoon of Friday, April 3 and won’t reopen until at least April 12.

Rami Haluyan, co-owner of Pars Kosher Market in San Jose, told me it’s not hard to shut down for Passover, or on the Sabbath, because of the spiritual value of “observing and keeping the holidays and Shabbat.”

But, then again, it’s not always easy. “Being closed is painful every year,” noted Jonathan Wornick, owner of the 5-year-old Amba Grill in Oakland. “Many of our employees are not Jewish, and everyone needs the work, so being forced to close is a burden on everyone.”

While kosher restaurants such as Amba, Sabra Grill in San Francisco and Jerusalem Grill and Bar in Campbell will be closed for the duration of Passover, some spots will be open during Chol HaMoed, the intermediate days of the holiday (April 6-9).

Pars will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on those days; Oakland Kosher Foods will be open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on April 6 and until 7 p.m. on the other days.

Grand Bakery does some of its biggest business of the year going into Passover. Before it shuts down April 4-11, it will be open from 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on April 3 and from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. the busy three days prior to that. Grand’s almond logs and plain and dipped coconut and almond macaroons (all gluten-free) are also available at Andronico’s, Mollie Stone’s, Berkeley Bowl, Diablo Foods and a handful of other local markets.

And though not kosher, Oren’s Hummus, in a nice tip of the kippah to Pesach, will be closing early on the first night, April 3, at both its locations, in Palo Alto and Mountain View. Both will open the next day at their regular time, 11 a.m. In a new twist, Oren’s will serve matzah all week, executive chef David Cohen reports.

 

ODDS ’N’ ENDS: Traci Siegel is selling parve and hametz-free Passover desserts (for pickup from her home in south Berkeley) on a relatively new website for home chefs who want to hawk their wares. She’s offering a pecan honey tart, dark chocolate fudge walnut cookies and two other desserts for pickup Wednesday, April 1 and Thursday, April 2, plus a Passover-friendly meal for pickup on April 8 (none of it prepared in a kosher kitchen). New users can enter promo code “JWEEKLY” for $5 off. Visit www.josephine.com/cooks/traci for prices and more details. Josephine.com was co-founded by Israel native Tal Safran … Not only will Arizmendi in San Rafael be offering plain and dipped macaroons during Passover, but the bakery-eatery with an emerging penchant for Jewish favorites also will debut vegetarian matzah ball soup April 3-11. Each Arizmendi has different items, so don’t expect the soup anywhere except at 1002 Fourth St., San Rafael.

Leftovers

Starting this week, Wise Sons Deli on 24th Street in San Francisco is open seven days: 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. The deli, stricken by a fire at its commissary-bakery in January, has re-established production of rye, challah, babka and bialys, but its plan for making bagels is still unknown … In a nice example of Jewish eatery synergy, a falafel pop-up called Sababa just finished a three-Monday run at Adam Mesnick’s popular Deli Board sandwich spot in San Francisco. Israeli native Guy Eshel, a cook at AQ, and Matt Semmelhack, AQ’s owner, ran the pop-up and are now zeroing in on a permanent location for a fast-casual place serving pita sandwiches and falafel bowls, with all the fixin’s. Sababa means “awesome” or “cool” in Hebrew … Goodman’s Jewish Delicatessen has returned to the West End Farmers Market in San Rafael, Sundays from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Selections the first week included standard Jewish sandwiches on homemade rye, along with cauliflower “pastrami,” “meshugah fries” and chocolate egg creams … In its bid to build a parklet on the street outside its front door, Saul’s Deli in Berkeley reached its Indiegogo fundraising goal of $15,000 by selling deli discount gift cards and other items (Raines Cohen, Sachu Constantine and Rob Sinkler each bought $1,000 worth of gift cards). But now Saul’s has to figure out how to keep the budget under $60,000 (all it can afford), because the deli will be pretty much paying for the whole thing, with almost no help from its neighbors … Miller’s East Coast Deli has a nice-looking new website that includes menus for both its San Rafael and San Francisco locations. The menus are so huge they make for all-day reading, and Miller’s also has a ton of Passover items on its catering menu … The food blog Tablehopper reports that All Good Pizza in San Francisco is offering hand-rolled, boiled bagels that have “a great flavor and chewy texture.” They’re available Sundays starting at8 a.m., at 1605 Jerrold Ave. in the city’s Bayview District … Danny Gabriner’s Sour Flour bread business is still giving away free bagels every Monday at the bakery La Victoria, 2937 24th St., S.F., something he’s done for five years now. His bagels are also at the Noe Valley Farmers Market from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays … The farmers market at the Oshman Family JCC in Palo Alto is on hiatus until May, but a different food truck is there every Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and the trucks Arabian Bites and Brothers Gow Chow will be serving up Mediterranean (and Greek) fare at the JCC’s family Passover event from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday, March 29 … Not only does Oakland Kosher Foods have its annual stock of Passover items jamming the store right now, but it also has a big wine selection, including Carmel Selected from Israel. Co-owner Gary Freeman notes that those wines were served at a gala dinner attended by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when he was in the U.S. recently. OKF has expanded its hours and is revamping its website at www.oaklandkosherfoods.com … Oren’s Hummus is selling its hummus at the Mountain View Farmers Market, Sundays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and looking to expand to others soon … During Passover, Paulie’s Pickling co-owner Liz Ashby will be making homemade gefilte fish and freshly ground horseradish for the Bernal Heights Jewish deli counter she runs with her husband … The Rosa Mexicano chain restaurant has discontinued its “Mexican Passover” in San Francisco, but the annual event will continue at its New York and New Jersey locations.

SEE THE MENUS

Click here for a glimpse at the menus and the items being offered during Passover.

Andy Altman-Ohr

Andy Altman-Ohr is J.'s former managing editor and former Hardly Strictly Bagels food columnist. He lives and writes in Mexico.