Meet Sam Zeitlin, owner, and creator of Zeitlin’s Delicatessen. Like many of us, Sam began baking during the Pandemic and his business has blown up. Check out more about Zeitlin’s Delicatessen and upcoming pop-ups so you can get your bagel fix throughout the city. ChiTribe was excited to learn more about Sam and his bagels.
Where are you from?
I am from the suburbs of DC in Maryland
What did you do Jewish growing up?
When I was growing up, my family was active in community service, giving tzedakah, and celebrating the High Holidays. I attended a reform Synagogue and I became a Bar Mitzvah. We loved going to our friends’ houses for Passover and Hanukkah and I was active in AZA.
What is your favorite classic Deli meal?
My favorite classic Deli meal: Pastrami on Rye, Guldens Spicy Mustard, with a dish of pickles, matzoh ball soup, and a Dr. Browns Cel-Ray soda.
How did you get into the deli business?
I have been working in the hospitality industry since high school starting as a prep cook. I attended the Culinary Institute of America and got to work in many fine-dining restaurants. After working in DC for some Michelin-starred restaurants, I decided to move to Chicago to be with my girlfriend and continue my career. Before coming here full time, I lived on a farm in New York. My mentor is an incredible chef and practiced sourdough baking.
When I moved here I started my own sourdough starter and was looking for the Deli and bagels I grew up on. I started testing out Ashkenazi Jewish recipes at home and started baking bagels raising money for melanoma awareness. At the beginning of Covid, I was laid off from my job and started baking out of my house as a way to support myself. I was able to head to Texas for a couple of months and connect with my friend to help him start the bread portion of his business. Moving back at the end of summer, I started doing popups and that led to starting at the South Loop Farmers Market. We are now growing at Logan Square Farmers Market and focusing on wholesale.
What does Jewish food mean to you?
Jewish Food to me means love, acceptance, and family. It’s very important to me as it is some of my first food memories. Jewish food is an ever-evolving, complex cuisine that is inspired by our shared lived experiences. Through Zeitlin’s Delicatessen, we continue to focus on classic Deli items, using Chicago as our inspiration.
What Jewish classics are you most excited about?
I am most excited about foods eaten on Shabbat by the diaspora. I have started lighting the Shabbat candles over the last year and enjoy spending time with friends and family.
What is your personal favorite menu item?
My mom’s favorite thing to eat was bagels. She used to make us these amazing sandwiches as kids so to be able to serve bagels at Zeitlin’s has been such an exciting experience. I also love Sasha’s Rye Bread. The loaf is named after my grandfather and is my go-to for a snack with some of our cream cheese and a bit of flaky salt.
When is your next pop-up we should know about and where?
We are doing a Popup with the chefs over at Wazwan in Wicker Park next Saturday the 26th from 11 AM to 3 PM as well as Marz Community Brewing the first half of March on Wednesdays from 4 PM to 9 PM. We will also be at Logan Square Farmers Market for the month of March on Sundays from 9 AM to 2 PM.
How do we find out more?
Find more Jewish Eats in Chicago
Find all Jewish Events on the ChiTribe Calendar