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Thursday, April 7, 2011

Passover Matzo Ball Soup Brawl: Miller's Deli vs. Moishe's Pippic

Posted By on Thu, Apr 7, 2011 at 3:54 PM

Miller's matzo ball soup isn't kosher for Passover, but it'll fill up even the hungriest of growing Jewish boys. - ALEX HOCHMAN
  • Alex Hochman
  • Miller's matzo ball soup isn't kosher for Passover, but it'll fill up even the hungriest of growing Jewish boys.

Sticking matzo ball soup on your restaurant menu takes straight-up chutzpah. Everyone thinks their grandma makes the best one on Earth, or if they're not Jewish, their friend's grandma. SFoodie knows only two establishments in San Francisco with the cohones to serve this Passover delicacy year-round: deli vets Moishe's Pippic and Miller's East Coast Deli. With Passover less than two weeks away, we slurped down a bowl from each place recently to see whose matzo ball soup could be mentioned in the same breath as bubbe's.

A small bowl of soup from Miller's ($4.99) contained an entire meal's worth of ingredients. Two baseball-sized matzo balls were joined by carrots, onions, celery, a child's plate's worth of noodles (we suspect they'll be removed come Passover), and a dozen or so chunks of chicken, all dunked in a peppery broth that tasted more of vegetables than poultry. The matzo balls were light and fluffy but lacked that great matzo-meal flavor SFoodie grew up with. Still, as a perpetually growing (ahem) Jewish boy, we couldn't help but get excited by each heavy spoonful we shoved in our mouth.

Schmaltzy goodness at Moishe's Pippic. - ALEX HOCHMAN
  • Alex Hochman
  • Schmaltzy goodness at Moishe's Pippic.

To the eye, Moishe's tiny cup of soup was a major letdown. Three slices of carrot and a few bits of celery in plain broth? Miniscule matzo balls? $5.75 for this? Surprise ― it was well worth it. Why? In a word, schmaltz.

For the uninitiated, schmaltz is a very unsexy Yiddish word for rendered chicken fat, like Jewish foie gras except way cheaper and probably even less healthy. A few hits of schmaltz don't necessarily a cloudlike matzo ball make (Moishe's were tough), but in the ones here it evoked a quality of sinful luxury that had us flashing back to seders at Grandma's Kew Gardens apartment.

We're having a tough time judging this one so let's break it down:

Broth ― Miller's

Matzo balls ― Moishe's

The tiebreaker ― quantity

Thus, the Passover victory goes to Miller's. Bottom line, we don't care how schmaltzy Moishe's matzo balls are, our bubbe never left us hungry.

Miller's East Coast Deli: 1725 Polk (at Washington), 563-3542

Moishe's Pippic: 425 Hayes (at Gough), 431-2440

Follow Alex Hochman at @urbanstomach. Follow SFoodie at @sfoodie, and like us on Facebook.

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Alex Hochman

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