Though it's now so iconic it seems as old as the city itself, Eli's Cheesecake didn't make the jump to Chicago's collective radar until about 1980, when it represented Eli's The Place for Steak in the first Taste of Chicago. Perhaps even more surprising is that the godfather of this iconic Chicago dessert, Eli Schulman, didn't even start working on the recipe for the treat that would bring him the most fame until he was in his 60's. So despair not all you budding entrepreneurs, you still have time to make your mark.
Eli actually started several different ventures in the restaurant industry decades before hitting upon the massive success of his cheesecake. From a coffee shop to a deli and finally to the steakhouse where he eventually developed the classic dense and creamy cheesecake recipe, he remained deeply rooted in the city of Chicago through each venture, a principle the company continues to make a main focus.
I was recently invited out to Eli's Cheesecake World in Chicago's Dunning neighborhood by Eli's son, Marc Schulman, who has been president of the company since 1984. After spending some time with him and executive pastry chef Laurel Boger in the factory/store, I walked away truly impressed by the company's history of innovation as well as their dedication to quality ingredients (no one is more surprised than me when I say that the feta in my Greek salad that I had at their cafe was some of the best I've ever had).
Because of the store's unique location, it's easy to overlook. But I discovered a bounty of food (not all of it cheesecake!) that is worth a special trip. Click through the slideshow for more about this time-honored Chicago company and of course, some mouth-watering pictures of cheesecake.