Here at JFE®, we love the idea of both eating in—coming up with new ideas in the kitchen, gathering interesting recipes, tasting right from the stovetop—and of eating out. This Passover, we’ve gone out into the vibrant DC dining scene to get the scoop from top culinary stars on what eating out during Passover means for them, as well as to give you the lowdown on where to go for a Passover meal.
Susan Barocas, a food writer and educator told us about her traditions on dining out during the holiday. “While I clean my house of all chametz and refrain from eating any during the holiday, I will still go out to eat selectively. Most of what I eat out during Passover is fish and salads—hold the croutons, of course. If I want to order anything else, I find out exactly what are all the ingredients. It can lead to some When Harry Met Sally moments, but for me, this is important and one of the ways I observe the holiday and set it apart from the entire rest of the year.”
Ruth Gresser, who runs celebrated Pizzeria Paradiso, said that she “was raised in a household that kept kosher for Passover, so eating out was not an option. We took matzah sandwiches to school for lunch! Pizzeria Paradiso offers a gluten-free crust option all the time, so it will be available for anyone who wants to eat wheat-free pizza during the holiday. It gets a little more difficult if you are also avoiding grains, legumes, and beans, all of which are in our gluten-free dough.”
Now, to the dining destinations…
At Dino’s Grotto, customers “from busy working folk who love the idea of an effortless seder (some even bring their own haggadah) to people who are away from home for the holiday” show up, said Dean Gold, chef and owner.
This year, instead of its traditional Italian menu, for Passover, it’s delving into Near Eastern influences. “We love serving our holiday meals,” he said, “as it’s a night people come to the restaurant in a special mood, and it is a great feeling making their night special.” There are dollops of Syria, a touch of North Africa and a hint of Morocco. You’ll find dishes like chicken in date syrup and chraime fish poached in paprika-spiced tomato sauce. Of course, gefilte fish and matzah ball soup, roughly based on Dean’s mother’s recipes, will be served.
The family-style, super-shareable menu is available March 30 to April 7, and starting April 1, dishes can be ordered à la carte as well. The menu is kosher-style, with attempts at following both Ashkenazi and Sephardic restrictions, but the restaurant “views them as goals, and not commandments.” The prix-fixe dinner runs $59 per person.
Italian influences definitely come into play at Fiola, which celebrates the Exodus with a decadent tasting menu dinner from Saturday, March 30 through Friday, April 6 (and à la carte during lunch April 2 to 6). As Chef Fabio Trabocci explains, the Jews of Italy were isolated from other European Jews, and so they adhere neither to Ashkenazi nor Sephardic culinary traditions. This menu will offer unique delights like carciofi alla Giudia (literally, Jewish-style artichoke, a deep-fried whole artichoke) and other items like truffle matzah balls and grilled branzino with San Marzano tomatoes.
Though avant-garde in their approach to vegetarian food, Chef Todd and Ellen Gray also go back to their roots and have hosted seders for seven straight years. This year, they’re hosting their annual full-throttle seder on March 30 at 7pm.
“It was at first somewhat of a risk when we did our first public seder at Equinox in 2012 for 25 people,” said Ellen. “In my mind, I thought, ‘Well, DC has matured so much as a restaurant town and its residents are such workaholics—maybe they would like to leave the cooking and cleaning to someone else.’ Our book, The New Jewish Table, had just come out, and we wanted to try the Passover recipes. Our last seder, in 2017, was sold out at almost 100 guests!”
The multi-course prix fixe begins with pickled veggies and matzah ball fritters upon arrival, moves to a beet-cured lox salad and features entrees like lamb and potato-leek kugel. Dessert is a chocolate macaroon cake atop sorbet and candied kumquats. The seder is $55 per person, with an additional wine pairing available.
Teddy & the Bully Bar
Teddy & the Bully Bar celebrates Passover with a prix-fixe menu on Friday, March 30 and Saturday, March 31, as it’s been doing for several years. Teddy serves a traditional Passover seder ($45 per person; $21 for children), which includes matzah ball soup, a starter (like an arugula and dandelion salad), a grandma-approved entrée (such as brisket or half-chicken) and dessert.
“We started serving Passover seder way back in 1996 at Felix in Adams Morgan,” said Alan Popovsky, who owns and managers Teddy & the Bully Bar. “We caught the shine of former Washington Post restaurant critic Phyllis Richman and the local community. Now, 20 years later, we are still serving our seder. Guess who has made it to dinner the last three years? You got it! Phyllis Richman is in the house every Passover holiday.”
When you want to show off the heirloom china, but don’t want to cook for it, head to the Kapnos group (Kapnos, Kapnos Kouzina, Kapnos Taverna). They call it “seder made simple” with a Passover spread featuring a lineup of kosher-style classics like matzah ball soup, haroset and rockfish chraime. These traditional dishes are available alongside Greek spreads, spit-roasted lamb, quinoa tabbouleh and more for pickup March 30 to April 1.
Whole Foods Market
The high-end grocery is cooking up a tasty partnership with James Beard Award-winning cookbook author Joan Nathan to “bring her globally-inspired Jewish dishes to seder tables across the country.” This year, dishes included in the all-set-up Passover meal for eight feature items like Sicilian eggplant Caponata, fried artichokes, Brazilian-inspired haroset and other unique twists on tradition (top photo). Dishes will be available for in-store pickup March 28 to April 7.
More than just kosher, vegan soup, Soupergirl’s offering a souper-sized menu for Passover. Starting at the basics, specialty soups include garlicky borscht, ginger quinoa and “cream” of spinach soups. There are also several salads, a souper-food quinoa kugel, tzimmes and a new, improved chopped “liver” of local mushrooms, onion, walnuts, carrots, herbs and spices all available for order now.
The sister restos Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab, Mon Ami Gabi in Bethesda, and Summer House Santa Monica in North Bethesda are all serving prix-fixe seder meals March 30 and 31. The Maryland spots are serving up more traditional takes on Passover, with homemade gefilte fish, matzah ball soup and some hearty brisket. They’re also offering carryout orders. Joe’s Seafood focuses on ocean-based options, including Alaskan halibut for an entree option. Here, though, you’ll also find a fave of ours: Suzy Friedman’s famed vegetarian chopped liver.
This kosher catering biz has everything (and more) that you could wish for at a seder or all throughout Passover. Beyond a varied menu that’s usually offered during the year, there’s also a special Pesach menu. You’ll find everything from a composed seder plate to traditional family-style entrees to dessert. There are different menus for breakfast, lunch and dinner, so you get to choose what works for your family.
Yes, yeasty, leavened loaves come first here. But this lauded bakery also has a distinct Passover menu that we haven’t covered before (Shehecheyanu to that). Get yourself some homemade, hand-pulled matzah, medium-density (not those leaden ones) matzah balls, gefilte fish and a brand-new recipe of “Mat-zel Toffee,” complete with decadent dark chocolate. Pre-orders can be made through March 26.
Baked by Yael
Back again is Baked by Yael for all your sweet-treat needs. She’s stepping it up with her showstopping gluten-free cake pops, made with flourless chocolate cake. Other Pesach-friendly desserts include our favorite deli treat, the black-and-white cookie and a raspberry bar free of both gluten and animal products—yep, it’s vegan. New this year, the shop’s also offering shmurah gluten-free oat matzah—one of the few distributors of this matzah in the country.
Potomac 18 and Soupergirl are kosher and kosher for Passover. Baked by Yael is kosher, but not kosher for Passover. Dino’s Grotto, Fiola, Teddy & the Bully Bar, Kapnos, Whole Foods Market, Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab, Mon Ami Gabi, Summer House Santa Monica and Bread Furst are not kosher.