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Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Business Mon Apr 06 2009

Cheese, Please

ICheese signf you like cheese the way I like cheese, you don't mind traveling some distance for it. And if the end of that sojourn is one of the least likely places to buy cheese you could imagine, so much the better.

The Great American Cheese Collection warehouse is exactly this place. Tucked in a tiny meat-packing enclave near 47th and Talman, and marked only by a small green chalkboard promising "Cheese" with an arrow toward the door, this chilly garage space is a dairy lover's oasis.

CheeseWe biked the 20-plus miles round trip from our house in West Logan Square. Along the way, we traveled through some of the more unsung communities of our city and divested--but fighting back--boulevards of Chicago's Emerald Necklace. We passed the lovely African Heritage Garden in North Lawndale, the opulent but slightly weatherworn homes of Douglas and Marshall Boulevards, the ominous grounds of the Cook County lock-up, and the thriving commercial strips of Cermak and 26th Street. The whole thing added to that feeling of being in a cheese maze, twisting and turning our way toward the tasty reward at the end.

And taste we did. Inside the warehouse is a long table, teeming with cheese. Giles Schnierle, the prime mover behind this venture, is there with his cheerful assistant to slice you a piece of any of the varieties you like. If you simply want to graze your way through the dozens of small-batch, artisanal options they have on offer from week to week, you're downright encouraged to do so. We tried several varieties of Wisconsin gouda, a gorgeous Amish bleu that almost made me cry, a horseradish cheddar, a double-cream brie, a homemade burrata, a semi-soft with chanterelle mushroom rind, and several others I can't even remember anymore, I was in such cheese euphoria.

One enthusiast had traveled from Streamwood and her boosterism for the place was infectious. The whole thing felt like being in on a secret, like someone had passed us a classified map and the code word needed to enter the gates. But in fact the place is open to the public--on Saturdays only and just from 9 to 1. Area foodies have known about it forever.

In the end we chose five varieties. Giles's assistant sliced us just the right amounts from each slab, then wrapped them up nicely in plastic, gave us a cold pack since she knew we had some distance to travel, and rang us up. The prices aren't rock bottom but they aren't high-end retail either, and we felt good to be supporting such an idiosyncratic operation, which is itself supporting so many family farms putting out excellent products. Do yourself the favor of seeking this place out. And go on an empty stomach; I can guarantee you won't be leaving in the same way.

Great American Cheese Collection
4727 S. Talman (between Western and California Avenues)
Warehouse open Saturdays 9am-1pm

-- Christy Prahl

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

The State of Food Writing

By Brandy Gonsoulin

In 2009, food blogging, social media and Yelp were gaining popularity, and America's revered gastronomic magazine Gourmet shuttered after 68 years in business. Former Cook's Illustrated editor-in-chief Chris Kimball followed with an editorial, stating that "The shuttering of Gourmet reminds...
Read this feature »

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