From the time it opened in 1905, until it closed in 1962, Chicago’s Little Jack’s restaurant was a force in the Chicago restaurant scene. At its peak in the ’50s, the sprawling three-dining room restaurant reportedly served between 600,000 and 1 million meals annually. Named for John H. “Little Jack” Levin (1887-1971), a Chicago Park District commissioner from 1946 to 1969, the restaurant & bar had its own cigar and whiskey labels, and was the first to offer air-conditioning. But Little Jack’s is best remembered for its Mrs. Little Jack’s cheesecake. I’ve tried multiple times to get the original recipe from the family, but thus far, the closest I’ve come was a note from one of the Levins saying that a recipe I featured came close, but wasn’t the real deal. So….here we go again! Yet another, “cheesecake like Little Jack’s”, the BEST Chicago Cheesecake!.
Last week, Lorraine Gregory, a lovely 87-year-old now living in Alsip, IL, called to tell me that she had a Mrs. Little Jack’s cheesecake recipe given to her by a woman named Bev who used to work for the Levins. Lorraine’s been baking the iconic Chicago cheesecake for decades. Her own memories of Little Jack’s go back to the 1940s when her sister Ruth used to go out ballroom dancing and capped the evening with a slice of the cheesecake. “Back then, Little Jack’s was in a neighborhood that was not a place you’d want to be alone. A little dicey,” says Lorraine. “My family just loves this cake. It’s really simple to make.”
Monica Kass Rogers:
Monica is a food-business and lifestyles feature writer & photographer with a penchant for reviving vintage recipes. Building on the “Lost Recipes Found” column she originally launched for the Chicago Tribune, Monica now rediscovers vintage in her blog of the same name Lost Recipes Found and continues to write about and photograph contemporary food nationally for restaurants, hotels and magazines.