An Unholy Breakfast at Philadelphia’s Temple of Produce

Matzo brei with a side of scrapple at Norm & Lou’s Cafe in the Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market. Matzo brei was the Passover breakfast special in April 2016. Norm & Lou’s has been serving homestyle comfort food to hungry Produce Market workers since 1961. When the Market moved to its new, state-of-the-art facility in South Philly in 2011, the various produce wholesalers insisted that Norm & Lou’s be given space inside it. Photo copyright Zachary D. Lyons.

Happy Passover, all y’all. Last year, Passover came very late in the year, at the end of April. I was in Philadelphia at the time, a place renowned for its wholly un-kosher culinary specialties like roast pork sandwiches, cheese steaks and scrapple. Heck, I’m sure Philly has figured out a way to make even its famous large, soft pretzels unclean. So imagine my surprise to find matzo brei on the menu of the blue collar cafe, Norm & Lou’s Cafe, inside the Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market. But there it was, the special of the week, in honor of Passover.

Of course, I had to try it. Matzo brei is a childhood seasonal favorite of mine. Matzo brei is sorta like French toast, but instead of using a nice loaf of challah, you break up several sheets of Passover matzo, soak it in warm water or milk, and then mix it with eggs and fry it. Top it with some nice maple syrup and some cinnamon powder, and boy, howdy, you are good to go!

You know what else is a favorite from my youth? Scrapple! If you are unfamiliar, it is exactly what it sounds like it is — pork scraps (ears, noses, lips, liver, etc.) and corn meal cooked down and mashed together and formed into these one-pound loafs that look like small bricks. These are cooled so they set up firmly, and then you cut a three-eighths-inch or so slice off and pan fry it until it is golden brown, like in the picture above. It, too, was on the menu at Norm & Lou’s, so I figured, why not order both? I was sure it would be delicious, and it might even be worth the risk of being smited from on High for having the audacity to offend the Creator with such an unholy combination.

A pallet jack operator moves out a produce order at the Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market in April 2016. Opened in 2011, the Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market is considered one of the most state-of-the-art produce distribution centers on earth. Photo copyright Zachary D. Lyons.

Norm & Lou’s Cafe originally opened in a shack at the first location of the Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market in 1961. In 2011, when the Market moved to its current location in a new, state-of-the-art facility considered one of the best produce distribution centers on earth, the various produce wholesaling companies that call the Market home insisted that Norm & Lou’s be given a space inside. They had come to rely on their great food in the otherwise remote warehouse and industrial district in SE Philly. Now a 95-seat restaurant, anyone can enjoy a great breakfast or lunch, all in a space with a modern thing called indoor heating, something that is not offered, by the way, in the rest of the facility.