Among the frum at Milt's Barbecue for the Perplexed

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Milts spare ribs
I admit I underestimated the market for kosher barbecue in East Lakeview, but there I was Monday night at Milt's Barbecue for the Perplexed, wheedling for a few seats in a slickly designed restaurant packed to overflowing with yarmulke-sporting frummers and frumas, all going to town on burgers, fries, chili, and salads.

Lakeview? OK, it isn't Skokie, or even Rogers Park, but it's been home to a significant Jewish population since the 30s, and it's still home to three temples, Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform, respectively. Besides that, there aren't a great many kosher restaurants around town to begin with, and Milt's* is targeting a very specific demographic that will travel for a novel place to fress within the law. Naturally you won't find pork or dairy on the menu, but beyond that owner Jeff Aeder, a realtor, says he's donating 100 percent of Milt's profits to a different charity each month. Plus, the restaurant accepts take-out orders for Shabbat, hosts screenings and lectures on Jewish affairs, and is closed from 2:30 PM Fridays until 7:30 PM Saturdays. It doesn't even fire up the smokers on the Sabbath.

Oddly, and perhaps tellingly, relatively few people on Monday were actually eating the barbecue, which consists of brisket, chicken, beef "spare ribs," and short ribs (these are cut flanken style like Korean kalbi). Maybe that's because, though the latter two examples are kissed with smoke and bear telltale evidence of pink smoke rings, they're essentially of the fall-off-the-bone school of barbecue, requiring little mandibular strength to tackle. There's no effort made to disguise this—the short ribs are described flat out as "braised," though the spares are given a significant amount of love in the smoker, developing a likable exterior char. Both are pleasantly sloppy and messy, and to the kitchen's credit they aren't slathered in sauce, instead arriving with three regional sauces on the side: a Carolina mustard, a spicy Kansas City, and a smoky, sweet Memphis style. Not surprisingly, these are very expensive—$35 for the short ribs, which works out to four thin strips of bony flesh, and $35 for a "1/2 slab" of three spares.

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But that's the price of doing business with the Chicago Rabbinical Council. If you keep kosher, you really have no other option for barbecue anywhere else in town. If that's not important to you, there are plenty of more-affordable briskets (one of them right up the street). Though good luck finding barbecued beef ribs.

There's a lot to like in other regards. Each table is served a plate of sliced sweet pickles. The bar is fully stocked with about 20 kosher wines and just as many beers, plus a dozen scotches, and a list of dubious cocktails based on flavored vodkas. Some of the sides are terrific, including a fresh, vinegary slaw and garlicky mashed potatoes, more like crispy smashed hash browns in execution. And the menu is loaded with enough auxiliary options that barbecue almost seems an afterthought.

Milt's Barbecue for the Perplexed, 3411 N. Broadway, 773-661-6384, miltsbbq.com

*The name refers to Aeder's late uncle Milt and the 12th-century Torah scholar Maimonides, author of The Guide for the Perplexed.

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