Kosher to go--or to come to you

Local kosher restaurants retool during the pandemic

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Just some of the “burnt offerings” at Milt’s Barbecue for the Perplexed.

Just because you can't eat at your favorite kosher restaurant doesn't mean you still can't enjoy their great food. Plenty of places are open during the pandemic for take-out, delivery, or even small-event catering.

Tacos Gingi--named for the Israeli slang for "redhead"--has been serving kosher Mexican food in Skokie for three years.

"And we're still here," despite the pandemic, said Tacos Gingi co-founder Aliza Bielak. She and her redheaded husband Ricardo, who goes by "Ricky," have refocused their restaurant on take-out and delivery. They have also continued catering, everything from small events at doctors' offices to school lunches.

"We really appreciate the business everyone has been giving us," Aliza added. "and their support, in hard times, and always."

They have also expanded their menu. In addition to their "ShabbaTaco" Mexican family meal-deal, they now offer a "Shabbat Box," with more traditional fare--plus candles and grape juice. Plus, the Mexican joint has started offering Japanese food, too.

In Lakeview, Milt's Barbecue for the Perplexed--named for the founder's uncle Milt, and for the Maimonides treatise The Guide for the Perplexed --has also had to adapt.

Like Tacos Gingi, Milt's is offering Shabbat family meals, and also created a full take-out Thanksgiving dinner last month. Milt's has also started offering Chinese take-out--just in time for that one non-Jewish winter holiday when Chinese food is popular among certain populations.

"It's been up and down," said Bryan Gryka, Milt's General Manager. "When everything started in March, we had great support from the community. It dwindled during the summer… but we have done really well in the last couple of weeks."

However, he is worried about winter, with continued dine-in shut-downs, and--this being Chicago-- no outdoor seating for months.

But Milt's is still delivering to Peterson Park, West Rogers Park, Lincolnwood, Evanston, Skokie, and downtown.

Realizing that the businesses of his neighborhood in general were all endangered, he touted a promotion by the Lakeview East Chamber of Commerce on Facebook, adding: "There are plenty of other restaurants and caterers in the same boat. Think of all of us, please. Spread the word. Be as generous as you can… we will appreciate it immensely."

Over in Highland Park, the Mizrahi Grill has maintained its standard menu. While the word "mizrahi" is Hebrew for "eastern," it is also the last name of the restaurant's founders, brothers Eli and Tomer. The cuisine at Mizrahi is not just Middle Eastern but distinctly Israeli.

"We are holding on, as usual," said Tomer. "We are going through this thing, waiting for indoor dining to come back. So, we are doing curbside a lot, bringing the food out."

As Mizrahi is popular for take-out, he said he is apprehensive about the change in the weather. He and his brother are considering pivoting to delivery service.

COVID is challenging Evita Argentinian Steakhouse, too. "This hurt people really hard," said Michael Barnatan, Evita's proprietor. "Jewish people tend to congregate. We want to go out! But we can't attend sports… we can't travel. The only thing we have is restaurants.

The steakhouse lost their catering and dine-in service, but are still offering delivery and take-out. "We have had to transform our elegant restaurant into a glorified [fast-food place]," Barnatan said."

He has advice for diners. "Don't wait to hear that your favorite restaurant is closed and say, 'I miss them so much,'" he urged. "Now is the time to help. This is it."

Visit juf.org to find more kosher restaurants doing take-out during the pandemic.



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