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Cream Cheese Shortage Hits Eli’s Cheesecake But Can’t Stop Production

Meanwhile, fans of South Side diner Cal-Harbor mourn the death of longtime owner Peter Tritsarolis

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eli’s tunnel oven
Inside the Eli’s production kitchen in 2016.
Marc Much/Eater Chicago

First came the yeast shortage. Then came the pastrami shortage. And now, as 2021 draws to a close, the cream cheese shortage, which has terrified New Yorkers all month, has reached Chicago. Even Eli’s Cheesecake, the longtime Chicago standby and favorite of former Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who would distribute cakes as a sign of his favor, is feeling the pinch.

Marc Schulman, the company’s owner and son of the eponymous Eli, told Crain’s that while Eli’s has not had to suspend production, even during the busy holiday season, “Cream cheese is something that is particularly in short supply right now, because there’s not a lot of people who make cream cheese.”

The shortage started when Schreiber Foods, a major cream cheese producer in Green Bay, Wisconsin, shut down for several days in October after a cyber breach. Other companies stepped up production to fill the void, including Kraft-owned Philadelphia, but it wasn’t enough. Last weekend, Kraft went so far as to offer bribes in the form of $20 worth of other products for people not to use cream cheese in their holiday baking.

For Eli’s and also for Chicago deli owners (at least the ones that use dairy cheese, unlike Sam & Gertie’s in Uptown), the cream cheese shortage is just another supply chain issue in a year that has been full of supply chain issues. Schulman told Crain’s that Eli’s has also had trouble sourcing chocolate, sugar, and packaging materials, and Aaron Steingold of Steingold’s of Chicago, the Lakeview deli and bagel bakery, said that the price of pastrami is currently up 95 percent from last year. (The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the cost of consumer goods rose 6.8 percent overall between November 2020 and November 2021.) Back in May, Jeff & Judes in Ukrainian Village began using Vienna Beef products to cope with rising prices (they brought back their own pastrami in August).

But, on the bright side, there is still cream cheese to be had, so Chicagoans don’t have to resort to making their own.

The longtime owner of South Side diner Cal-Harbor dies at 74

Family members and supporters are mourning the death of local restaurateur Peter Tritsarolis, longtime owner of South Side diner Cal-Harbor in Pullman, according to Block Club Chicago. Tritsarolis, 74, reportedly died at home on December 7 after a brief illness. A Greek immigrant known to his many loyal regulars as “Pete the Greek,” Tritsarolis came to Chicago in the 1970s and began working at Cal-Harbor as a dishwasher. He quickly climbed the ranks at the breakfast and comfort food-focused spot, eventually becoming its owner, and in 1997 he moved the business to 546 E. 115th Street, a block east from its original site. Cal-Harbor will remain open under the stewardship of Tritsarolis’s son-in-law. Patch also has a detailed obituary.

A critic delights in childhood-inspired fine dining at Claudia

Tribune co-critic Nick Kindelsperger on Monday bestowed three-and-a-half stars on Claudia, chef Trevor Teich’s artfully nostalgic fine dining restaurant in Bucktown. From an “unexpectedly brilliant” bar food selection to “whimsical and creative” tasting menu creations to the most impressive cocktails Kindelsperger has seen in years, Teich — “precise yet playful, nostalgic yet driven” — seems to have hit every sentimental note squarely on the head. Claudia was one of Chicago’s most anticipated restaurant openings when it debuted in September at 1952 N. Damen Avenue.

A chef with his arms folder wearing white kitchen gear.
Claudia’s chef, Trevor Teich

A Gold Coast sports bar was struck Sunday in an drive-by shooting

Police say clubby sports bar Play Kitchen and Cocktails in Gold Coast was struck by bullets early Sunday morning in a drive-by shooting that shattered its front window and destroyed a television, according to CBS 2 Chicago and multiple other media reports. Police reportedly responded to shots fired around 3:02 a.m outside the bar at 7 W. Division Street. No one was injured and no arrests have yet been made.


1952 North Damen Avenue, , IL 60647 (773) 697-9486 Visit Website

Eli's Cheesecake Bakery Cafe

6701 W Forest Preserve Ave, Chicago, IL 60634 (773) 308-7000 Visit Website