There are plenty of things that I’m happy to keep to an annual occurrence (looking at you, dental cleaning), but matzo brei isn’t one of them. The eggy, crispy fry-up, which is best known as a Passover breakfast, tastes like if the boring omelet you’ve lived next door to your entire life suddenly got its drivers license and a really good haircut.
In its most basic incarnation (like how it'll come to your counter space at B&H Dairy in Manhattan's East Village), it's made from just two ingredients: matzo (an unleavened flatbread), and egg. Typically, the matzo gets broken up and briefly doused with hot water, before being mixed with eggs and fried in oil or butter. The extent to which the mixture gets scrambled, or alternately, patted flat and flipped, is a dealer's choice situation.
There are about as many sworn-by "secret techniques" to optimize matzo brei as there are ways to top it. My dad, for example, won't even look at one unless its matzo has received a hot water "rinse" versus a "soak." It can come to the table with a savory or sweet twist. Think: caramelized onions in the mix, chives on top, the traif treatment (aka bacon), or a dollop of jam. My personal favorite combination of adornments? A big sprinkling of salt and a shower of good maple syrup.
I grew up eating matzo brei not just in April, but year round—and as much as I like to make it at home, it's also my favorite thing to order when I'm out for breakfast. (Or, in some cases, out for breakfast-for-dinner.) I find the simple combination of eggy, slightly softened matzo (which I believe is on the cusp of the food-texture category that Bon Appétit's Amiel Stanek recently coined "crispy-gone-soggy") to be irresistible.
And I love encountering different iterations all over New York City. Like the one at Russ & Daughters Cafe, which doesn't appear on the menu, but which is available by special request: It's more of the scramble variety, with mid-sized pieces of matzo that dictate the heft of each bundle. There are little flecks of onion barely visible throughout, which lend the finished dish a welcome depth. Or the aforementioned version from B&H, speckled with tiny matzo pieces and served in a disk. It's so no-nonsense, it'd be embarrassed to get your attention—instead it wants to be the perfect companion to whatever book you've brought in to read at the counter.
Whether you're on Team Rinse, Team Soak, Team Scramble, or Team All-One-Piece, here are a few places where you can get matzo brei year-round in New York City:
- B&H Deli, $7
- Russ & Daughters Cafe, off-menu, $12
- Katz's Deli, off-menu, available by request
- Barney Greengrass, $12.50
- Eisenberg's Sandwich Shop, $7.50
- 2nd Ave Deli, $15.95