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Sam & Gertie's, Chicago's and world's first vegan Jewish deli, to close

Chicago vegan Jewish deli Sam & Gertie's to close
Chicago vegan Jewish deli Sam & Gertie's to close 01:04

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Uptown's own – and the world's first vegan Jewish deli – is closing after nearly five years.

Sam and Gertie's, 1309 W. Wilson Ave., will be open one last weekend before shutting down.

Knish, latkes, corned beef, pastrami, white fish salad, and more – all made from plants. 

The owner, Andy Kalish, says he doesn't have the energy to keep it going.

"This was a moment in time and something really special that I got to share with my mother, honor my family," said Kalish, "and you know, it just ran its course."  

Sam and Gertie's was named after Kalish's grandparents – Sam Stuart and Gertrude Brandt – and was inspired by his parents, both of whom he recently lost.

"I love my grandparents. I spent a lot of time with them, and my love of traditional Jewish foods is almost exclusively rooted in Gertie's kitchen," he said. "I don't know that they ate a lot of vegetables, but my grandmother was a magnificent cook." 

The art and skill of cooking were passed down to his mother and aunt. "All of these foods have been in my DNA for 55 years," he said.

In the meantime, staff on Thursday were prepping food for Memorial Day weekend. They were wrapping up recipes in their production kitchen on Thursday morning.

While Sam and Gertie's is closing, Kalish hopes to open a new breakfast spot in a couple of weeks. The new spot will carry over some of their vegan favorites from Sam and Gertie's.

Why a vegan deli? 

Kalish explains on the restaurant's website: "As a child learning about the Torah, it was clear to me that caring for animals and the earth was central to Judaism. I choose to believe that if the Torah were written now, it would want us to be vegan, or close to it, and treat our animals, lands, skies, and waters as what is holy."

Owner Sam Kalish and his wife Gina have explored many restaurant ventures, including L/A Mex Taqueria, which honored Gina's parents and the city she was born in. 

"We already had the know-how of making plant-based meats, so converting those recipes to a very traditional Ashkenazi Jewish, Eastern European pallet was not that difficult because I have a long and deep love of Jewish delis," Kalish said.

Sam & Gertie's will be open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday before closing its doors. 

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