Named after a beloved uncle, and referencing a 12th century text by a medieval Torah scholar, this casual Lakeview restaurant is a curious mix. The website describes this 6-month old establishment as "a gathering place, a community center without the pool," and one that "will host an ongoing speaker series focusing on topics that provide insights into life, politics, and the state of the world." A place that offers food for the body AND the soul, presumably. And the menu states that 100% of the profits will be donated to charity. What's not to like? Possessing an interior design that is equal parts rustic BBQ joint, chic bar, and upscale deli, this eatery bills itself as "the only kosher restaurant (under cRc supervision) in Lakeview." Kosher schmosher. I was there for the BBQ. And this Gentile was not disappointed.
While the lunch menu varies from the dinner, there is a good selection with a large assortment of side dishes, so the absence of pork is not missed. There are gluten-free as well as vegetarian options, so one could indulge in Beef "Bacon" as an appetizer or a Smoked Seitan Sandwich entree. I opted to try the carnivore BBQ Slider Sampler, which included one each of pulled chicken, brisket, and hamburger. Accompanied by a three-sauce selection -- Kansas City (tomato, molasses), North Carolina (a more complex, thicker version of this mustard-based classic), and House (my favorite, a tomato-based sauce with flecks of chili pepper heat) -- these tiny sandwiches provide a nice tasting of their larger versions. The brisket looked dry but wasn't, and the House sauce complimented the smokiness of the meat perfectly. The chicken, while not as smoky, is tender and juicy. The burger, cooked medium, was nicely grilled and flavorful.
Along with the complimentary dish of crispy Bread and Butter Pickles, I ordered the Fried Okra. These small bits of okra are breaded in a light corn meal, deep fried, and served with a garlic aioli. Tasty. The Milt Dog, a Romanian Char-Dog with brisket chili, "bacon," crispy onion, and pickled jalapenos was a handful. After the many ingredients proved too much for the soft bun, I tried the dog by itself. Delicious. This was one entree that might have benefited from one less ingredient. The cole slaw -- I opted for the vinegar version instead of the creamy -- was nicely balanced and peppery. The side of Sweet Potato Fries was crispy and flavorful, (although the addition of cinnamon seems unnecessary).
A highlight of the lunch was the Grilled Romaine Salad. Served warm with sun-dried and cherry tomatoes and croutons, the grilled quality was enhanced by the smoked-tomato vinaigrette. Just the right amount of dressing and smoke taste. Also delicious were side dishes of corn bread -- moist, cake-like, not too sweet -- and Brisket Baked Beans -- meaty, thick, and filling.
The service was friendly and professional. Abby, our waitress, offered suggestions, including the daily special of Tilapia Tacos, and provided a large drink menu. Red and white wines, draft and bottled beers, eighteen (count 'em) Scotches (including Laphroig and a 21 year Glenfiddich), and a large selection of cocktails are offered. Dan Weiss, the affable and enthusiastic young manager, also bartends, and from the list of Signature Drink options it is clear that he takes pride in his libations. At one point, there were no less than six cocktails balanced upon our table for sampling, prompting a nearby patron to facetiously inquire if my wife and I were on Step 13 of AA. Each drink is a unique mix of flavors. A standout, perfect for summer, is Cucumber Breeze, a frothy, refreshing blend of Hendricks Gin, Cucumber puree, and white grape juice. Another cocktail, called Cinnamon Bun, blended Salted Caramel Vodka, Cinnamon Syrup, and Vanilla Liquor. Served straight up, it immediately evoked its name. Imagine drinking a cinnamon pop tart from a martini glass. Breakfast of champions, to be sure.
While beef ribs were not on the lunch menu, the executive chef, Bryan Gryka, assured me that they would be done in an hour. I'll definitely be back. After I work off my Cinnamon Bun.
Photos courtesy of Milt’s Barbecue
3411 North Broadway Street
Chicago, IL 60657
E [email protected]
SUNDAY 11am – 10pm
MONDAY 11:30am – 10pm
TUESDAY 11:30am – 10pm
WEDNESDAY 11:30am – 10pm
THURSDAY 11:30am – 10pm
FRIDAY 11:30am – 3:30pm
*Limited seating available. Please call in advance to make a reservation.