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Eli’s Cheesecake: a tasty tour for a tiny price

Sep 17, 2010

When it comes to splurges, there are few things more decadent and delicious than cheesecake. And when it comes to cheesecake, there are few places in the world that do it better than The Eli’s Cheesecake Company in Chicago.

First offered in 1980 as a menu item at Eli’s Place for Steak restaurant, the dessert became a favorite of famous clientele like footballer Gale Sayers and President Bill Clinton. Eli’s Cheesecake debuted at the first Taste of Chicago that year, and it has since become the No. 1 dessert at Taste, selling nearly 2 million slices at the annual festival.

Eli’s Cheesecake World — a 62,000-square-foot bakery, café and visitors center — was later opened on Chicago’s northwest side to support national demand. The bakery makes thousands of cheesecakes weekly in a wide variety of flavors. Visitors can purchase the sinfully delicious treats and see how they’re made, thanks to daily tours.

Eli’s Experience, a walk-in tour conducted Monday through Friday at 1 p.m., costs just $3. The tour begins with a video presentation in which visitors learn about famous Eli’s fans like Frank Sinatra, the history of Eli’s through the years, and how cheesecakes are created from the crumbly crust up.

Tour participants are then rought into the bustling, high-tech bakery section, where they can see Eli’s products being created, decorated and packed. A return trip to the café offers a complimentary slice of Eli’s cheesecake in several flavors, and is a delightful capper to the tour.

For those unable to attend a weekday tour, there’s always Eli’s: Tasting and Traditions, a walk-in experience available Saturdays and Sundays at 1 p.m. This free event includes a presentation and a sample of cheesecake and three other Eli’s products. A takery tour isn’t included, but the presentation and samples are well worth the trip.

Named the top food tour in the nation by the Food Network, a visit to Eli’s is a fun, inexpensive way to spend an afternoon. Kids and adults alike will enjoy learning about the history of Eli’s Cheesecake, delight in seeing the production process — and everyone will smile wide as they take a big bite of ooey, gooey cheesecake.