Passover Food Shopping on the Lower East Side: Yesterday and Today

Once home to the largest concentration of Jews in America, the Lower East Side still houses some favorite Jewish food establishments. Here are some of our favorites where Passover shoppers past and present have picked up traditional foods for the holiday seder. A visit to these places sheds light on Passover customs, foods and history, while emphasizing the Lower East Side’s continued link to the immigrants who prepared for the Passover holiday over a century ago.

Streit’s Matzos on 148-154 Rivington Street. Satisfy all of your matzo needs here. Streit’s has been in business and in the same family for about ninety years and has been making the traditional unleavened bread in the factory since 1925. We were served by a fourth-generation Streit’s family member! Stop by Streit’s to see how matzo is made and taste a fresh piece of matzo straight out of the oven!

The Pickle Guys on 49 Essex Street. Home to every pickled delicacy imaginable and also, for Passover only, the strongest, tastiest horseradish. The Lower East Side once had more than eighty pickle shops when the famous Guss’ Pickles first opened in 1910. Now, The Pickle Guys stands as a reminder. Stop by for red and white fresh ground horseradish!

The Sweet Life on 63 Hester Street and Economy Candy on 108 Rivington Street. If you have a sweet tooth, head to one of these shops for kosher-for-Passover candy and chocolates, dried fruit and nuts, and macaroons. The Sweet Life also has beautiful Passover gift baskets, a beautiful and delicious contribution to bring to a seder.

Russ and Daughters on 179 E. Houston Street offers a special Passover menu yearly, which includes potato kugel and flowerless chocolate cake. The establishment also ships orders nationwide, making it the perfect place for Passover gifts to family members observing the holiday far away!

We hope you’ll visit the Lower East Side as you prepare for and enjoy this year’s Passover holiday. If you missed our recent Passover Nosh & Stroll, Eldridge Street will be holding a Lower East Side Walking Tour on Thursday, April 17 at 2 pm, offering historical background of this ever-evolving neighborhood.

The preparations for Passover are numerous and shopping for Passover has been a tradition in the Lower East Side since the first Eastern European Jews settled here, beginning in the 1880s. To this day, it is the neighborhood to go to for a family’s Passover needs. As historian Hasia Diner says in her book entitled Lower East Side Memories: A Jewish Place in America:  “A visit to the Lower East Side for American Jews provides a vicarious, temporary link to a sacred time in a sacred place. Visitors seem to want to feel that they are reliving the world of their mothers and fathers….The food of the Lower East Side provides powerful and well-developed mechanism by which this going back in time takes place. For decades New York Jews who moved out of the Lower East Side to other boroughs or other parts of Manhattan continued to shop for food in the old neighborhood. This was particularly the case when they stocked up on holiday-specific, ritually mandated foods, like comestibles for Passover, kosher wine, and other sacred fare.” (Diner, 119)

What are your favorite Passover places and memories of the Lower East Side? 

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