Nothing Small About Peteet’s Famous Cheesecakes

Peteet’s Famous Cheesecakes

in Oak Park offers 30 different flavors of two-layer cheesecake daily (they make a total of 90 different varieties) whole or by the slice. But this isn’t just cheesecake: this is probably the best cheesecake you have ever had in your life – even the top chefs in metro Detroit think so.

“I remember I met with a Master Chef before I ever knew what a Master Chef was or that such a thing even existed,” says Patrick Peteet, owner and baker of Peteet’s Famous Cheesecakes. “So I met with [Master] Chef Kevin Gawronski at Schoolcraft College … I let him try out some of the plain cheesecake and he said, ‘This is very good,’ then I had him try the sweet potato cheesecake and he said, ‘This is the best cheesecake I’ve ever had in my life.’ Then Chef Sean Loving came in – and you know, he’s the sweet potato king – and he said, ‘This is beyond good.’”

The sweet potato cheesecake is the pièce de résistance of Peteet’s – one piece and you’ll be singing the same praises. And Pat hears it all the time – customers call to tell him, they make special trips to the store to tell him, they tell him as they stand in line waiting for their next fix (Pat jokes with his customers about the addictive qualities of his cheesecakes; he’s not wrong). The sweet potato is their number one seller year-round and has helped Pat to convert plenty a so-called non-cheesecake-eater to the creamy side. But then there’s the Key lime (made with real Florida Key limes) … and the banana (banana pudding in a cheesecake) … and five flavor (coconut, almond, lemon, vanilla and rum – the tropical drink of cheesecakes missing only the little paper umbrella). Then there’s the select flavors of the month, which rotate each month and amass their own legions of devotees: this month those include a rich Kahlua and a subtle all spice. “We just want to be different, but good and different!”

They also make cheesecake cupcakes, cheesecake brownies, cookies and honey butter yeast and wheat dinner rolls. Everything is made from scratch, “from the crust up” as Pat says. They use only Philadelphia cream cheese (“the best cream cheese”), all fresh ingredients and no preservatives. For that famous sweet potato cheesecake, they even hand-peel and cook all the sweet potatoes in their kitchen for a more natural, velvety flavor.

Peteet’s Famous Cheesecakes opened Labor Day of 2010. It is truly a family business, owned and operated by Pat and his brother Chauncey and their mother Marcia. But Pat hasn’t always been in the dessert business. He worked in real estate for 20 years at his family’s first business, Peteet Realty, founded by his father. When his father passed away, Pat took over the family business – then things got bad. As the real estate industry shriveled up, Pat started selling cheesecakes out of his home. “I’ve been baking since I was 11,” he says. “I have 30 years of baking experience not as a profession but just as a hobby, for the love of it.” As the popularity of his cheesecakes grew, he saw a real opportunity, so he looked at what he had, sold everything and opened up the bakery.

It was a risky move no doubt, but Pat never once felt like it. And after a year and a half, the proof is in the sweet potato: Pat has a huge success on his hands, and will only continue to grow. “This is one of the biggest blessings I’ve ever had in my life.” He corrects himself, “After my two boys! This is the third biggest blessing I’ve ever had!”

The secret, he says, is “doing it the old-fashioned way: putting love in it and good ingredients to make good products.” The Oak Park store is just the beginning. They are getting more into wholesale with some lucrative deals in the works; they also do fundraisers and will make cakes for weddings and parties. In the long term Pat has plans of growing a cheesecake empire, opening more stores but maintaining the same high quality throughout. “What you taste now is never going to change,” he says. “As we grow all the cheesecakes will be made in one location so we can maintain consistency.”

They’ll also be introducing more products – more cookies, cakes and other desserts like rice pudding and banana pudding. “We’ll be known for our cheesecakes but if you want rice pudding, banana pudding, the good stuff, you don’t need to go anywhere else for your sugar fix.” He continues, “I’m not into pretty desserts, I’m into good desserts. It’s going to taste ten times better than it could ever look!” Some of those new products will be coming soon: Peteet’s Famous Cheesecakes has already partnered up with Ferndale’s artisan ice cream shop Treat Dreams for six flavors incorporating Peteet’s cheesecakes, which will include cheesecake brownie, triple strawberry and chocolate turtle.
But Pat has an even more ambitious product debuting this Tuesday (and disappearing just as quickly): Cheesecake Paczki. You read that right. Pat took his cheesecake batter and tempered it down to a creamy custard, which will then be used to fill paczki shells which he gets from Sunnyside Bakery in Hamtramck. He’ll be mixing this filling with different fruits to offer different flavors of paczki like apple, raspberry, lemon and blueberry. They open at 7 a.m. on Fat Tuesday but once the paczki are gone, they’re gone until next year. It may be too soon yet to tell, but Pat might just have the next hot thing in desserts on his hands. (Cheesecake filling! In paczki! Can it get any better? And more importantly, how has no one thought of this before?)

These cheesecakes are without question the absolute best in town. Intensely rich in flavor and exceptionally creamy, there simply is no comparison (Peteet’s makes the Cheesecake Factory look like an Easy Bake oven). But beyond superior product, Pat also preaches the importance of superior customer service. He greets each customer personally, often with a handshake, and makes sure every person leaves with a smile on their face. “This place is better than church!” he jokes. “When people come in here they are peaceful and happy; it’s unbelievable how happy people are.” Part of that is undoubtedly a reaction to his own positive demeanor; make no mistake, this guy cares about his customers, and that’s why he spares no expense in giving them the best possible product. “If you love your customers, you give them the best.”

Peteet’s Famous Cheesecakes is certified Kosher. They accept all major credit cards and EBT. Sugar-free flavors are also available.