Jewish Food

The Best Matzo Balls in NYC

Warm up for fall with the best of the Jewish treat. Read More

By / October 2, 2017

If I was any kind of Jewish Food I would probably be a matzo ball; I’m a bit round and occasionally pretty salty. So it only seems appropriate for me to start my series of lists on the best Jew Foods with a matzo ball.Plus— it’s fall, and getting cooler, and Sukkot is around the corner. If you’re eating outside, you especially need a matzo ball to fortify yourself.

Plus, since I see myself as a sort of matzo ball I am extremely discerning about what makes a good one. In my opinion they should be small and airy, their broths should be chicken and not too salty. My criteria are not too harsh, so I am always shocked that more places don’t meet them, but plenty do. And so, after exhaustive research, here are my top five favorite matzo ball soups in New York. Let’s begin with the classics and then move toward the less familiar:

  1. It hardly gets more classic than the 2nd Avenue Deli (multiple locations throughout the city). 2nd Avenue Deli has been around since 1954 when it was started by Abe Lebewohl, a Holocaust survivor.The deli serves the quintessential matzo ball. Their balls are usually pretty large yet also extremely fluffy. It is hard to achieve a good fluff ratio usually in a large matzo ball, but they absolutely succeed. And what of the broth— that often overlooked element that can really make or break a soup? This broth is smooth and never greasy, which sometimes happens in restaurant soups. It is also a well salted soup which is extremely important to me and others in the salt-loving lifestyle.
  2. Baz Bagel (181 Grand Street, New York, NY, 10013) is the new kid on the block; but I highly recommend their matzo ball; it’s to die for. When you walk in you might find it a sickening combo of hip and kitschy, but who could hate a restaurant that prominently features Barbra Streisand in the decor?! The real highlight of their matzo ball soup is their proper use of dill and salt. I usually dislike a matzo ball soup with dill because it tends to be overused, but this soup left me pleasantly surprised.
  3. Russ and Daughters (multiple locations) serves up some classic matzo ball realness. Their carrots are properly cut up and fully cooked which, like greasy brother, is an issue in more restaurants than it should be. They use a great mix of light and dark meat in their soup. Their balls are generously sized and well seasoned with not too much dill (thank you!) and the perfect amount of salt. Remember: salt is sort of a huge thing for me.
  4. Pastrami Queen (1125 Lexington Avenue) serves a decent matzo ball soup. I enjoy it every time I eat, though it is indistinctive. Their balls are generously sized, their broth is well-flavored (i.e., heavily salted). There is just one issue: They put noodles in their matzo ball soup, which is some added bang for your hungry buck but feels rather goyish to me. Still, it’s a quality soup that is worth checking out if you are by the Lexington Avenue Line 77th street stop.
  5. Mile End Delicatessen (multiple locations) shakes up the typical matzo ball soup experience, at least if you’re New-York-normative. Mile End serves the Montreal Style of Jewish Deli food. Their recipe comes from the founder Noah Bermanoff’s late grandmother. Their matzo balls are light and fluffy and really pick up the schmaltz and chicken flavor. I highly recommend checking them out.

And now, you can stock up! Stave off the sniffles, and kick back in a sukkah, or at home, or in front of a huge portrait of Barbra Streisand. Just like your ancestors wanted.

Photo by Laurel Natale.