The Jew And The Carrot

The Windy City's New Kosher BBQ Spot is Smokin'

By Jessica Fisher

  • Print
  • Share Share
Thinkstock

Some people think of Jewish food and imagine matzo ball soup and chopped liver. Jeff Aeder thinks southern barbecue — sort of. Aeder, a real estate investor, is the founder of Milt’s Barbecue for the Perplexed, a kosher barbecue joint that opened at the end of January in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood. Named after his uncle Milt, with a tip of the hat to Maimonides’ “Guide for the Perplexed,” Milt’s was conceived to meet the needs of the neighborhood’s growing Jewish population. And he just really likes barbecue.

Chicago is home to a thriving local barbecue scene and, according to Aeder, “There’s no sacrifice you have to make to do kosher barbecue. Except, you know, pork.” The head chef keeps kosher, but the sous chefs have traditional barbecue backgrounds. For his first foray into the restaurant business, Aeder sent the chefs to sample dishes at his favorite restaurants across the city and says the “barbecue community” was extremely helpful as they did their preparatory research. “I didn’t want people to say this is good for a kosher restaurant,” says Aeder. The menu, which draws its influence from a variety of barbecue styles, features meats smoked in house — including spare ribs, chicken wings, and brisket, pulled barbecue chicken and smoked brisket sandwiches. The meals are rounded out with Southern classics like fried okra, cornbread, and a rotating selection of infused bourbons. Milt’s most unusual concoction, is the Milt Burger, a char burger with chopped brisket, chili, beef “bacon,” crispy onions, and barbecue aioli. All guests are served a plate of pickles and three homemade barbecue sauces — the vinegar-based house sauce, a Carolina-style sauce, and a Kansas City sauce.

Peppered with “V”s and “GF”s to indicate vegetarian (the menu features a smoked seitan sandwich among other vegetarian options) and gluten free items, the menu spotlights the restaurants’ other objective: inclusivity — something for meat eaters and vegetarians, for people who keep kosher and who don’t. As Aeder talked about Milt’s, I asked if his love of barbecue also came with a dose of southern hospitality. But he said it’s really a Jewish thing. “There is a Jewish requirement — hachnasat orchim, welcoming guests. I want everyone to feel comfortable. People from different worlds to meet each other and be comfortable with each other.”

At its core, the restaurant is about creating space for community — the website calls it “a community center without the pool.” Like any good community center, Milt’s hopes to attract people with more than a good meal, but unlike most restaurants, they’ve hired a full-time director of community programming and special events to pull it off. Since opening, the restaurant has hosted a screening of three Israeli short films and a late night megillah reading for Purim. In a few weeks, Milt’s will be sponsoring a talk by diplomat and author Dennis Ross. These events are supported by the restaurant’s philanthropic arm, the Jeffrey F. Kahan Memorial Fund. Because Aeder’s approach to Milt’s has been community-centered from the outset, he wanted to provide intellectual nourishment and support local organizations, too. Each month all profits from the restaurant will be donated through the Fund to a different charitable organization in Lakeview — in February it was a public school across the street and in March Milt’s will also host a coat drive for the month’s beneficiary, an organization that helps women who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

Milt’s hasn’t done any publicity to get the word out, but it’s been packed ever since it opened. It might have something to do with the people walking by and asking themselves, “What is a barbecue for the perplexed?”


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: kosher chicago, kosher bbq, kosher barbeque, Milt's

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • What can we learn from tragedies like the rampage in suburban Kansas City? For one thing, we must keep our eyes on the real threats that we as Jews face.
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • "Sometime in my childhood, I realized that the Exodus wasn’t as remote or as faceless as I thought it was, because I knew a former slave. His name was Hersh Nemes, and he was my grandfather." Share this moving Passover essay!
  • Getting ready for Seder? Chag Sameach! http://jd.fo/q3LO2
  • "We are not so far removed from the tragedies of the past, and as Jews sit down to the Seder meal, this event is a teachable moment of how the hatred of Jews-as-Other is still alive and well. It is not realistic to be complacent."
  • Aperitif Cocktail, Tequila Shot, Tom Collins or Vodka Soda — Which son do you relate to?
  • Elvis craved bacon on tour. Michael Jackson craved matzo ball soup. We've got the recipe.
  • This is the face of hatred.
  • What could be wrong with a bunch of guys kicking back with a steak and a couple of beers and talking about the Seder? Try everything. #ManSeder
  • BREAKING: Smirking killer singled out Jews for death in suburban Kansas City rampage. 3 die in bloody rampage at JCC and retirement home.
  • Real exodus? For Mimi Minsky, it's screaming kids and demanding hubby on way down to Miami, not matzo in the desert.
  • The real heroines of Passover prep aren't even Jewish. But the holiday couldn't happen without them.
  • Is Handel’s ‘Messiah’ an anti-Semitic screed?
  • Meet the Master of the Matzo Ball.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.