Arts & Entertainment

Geja’s Cafe brings fondue to fine dining

Located just south of the bar and club scene on North Lincoln Avenue, Geja’s Cafe (340 W. Armitage Ave.) is a small, cramped and utterly wonderful find. Hidden in the basement of a multistory house, it doesn’t look like much from the outside. But once you get in, you’ll never want to leave. In fact, I liked it so much that I went back the very next night, garnering a couple of confused looks from the wait staff.

While it is about a mile walk from the Fullerton “L” stop, the 151 bus takes you from Loyola’s Lake Shore Campus almost to the front door of the restaurant. Reservations are absolutely essential. On Saturday nights, even with a booking, you can wait for quite some time for your table to be ready. This is actually an endorsement of the establishment — people like it so much that they take their time with the food and never want to leave.

Gejas

A piece of advice: Arrive early. Once you let them know you’ve arrived, seat yourself in the bar and order something of your choosing. You can enjoy the live flamenco guitar playing, which creates a romantic and intimate atmosphere, and the little pots of absolutely delicious cheese and crackers at the bar that you have to sample. My friend and I couldn’t stop raving about it until we sat down and started our meals, which turned out to be almost the least memorable thing we had all night.

Lit by dimmed lights and candles, the restaurant is cozy and timeless, which helps to explain how my friend and I spent almost three hours there without ever thinking about leaving.

You should definitely dress to impress. This is a place where you could see proposals occurring, so go with at least business casual. But with that comes an atmosphere that is comforting and secure, ensuring that dinner there is more than just a meal. Instead, it can produce magnificent memories.

All photos courtesy of gejascafe.com
All photos courtesy of gejascafe.com

Another piece of advice is that you should bring a lot of friends. The menu is incredibly easy to navigate — you just order a number of the “premier fondue dinners” ($33-52) that is equal to the number of people that are in your party.

However, doing so actually leaves you with just a little too much food to enjoy properly. When we returned the next night, we ordered the same amount of food for three people, which was much more manageable. Perhaps the optimal amount would instead be three orders between four people. The great benefit of this arrangement is that, if you order an appetizer as well, you don’t even have to pay the $10 fee for sharing.

We began with the gourmet cheese board ($14), which was absolutely delectable. Definitely get the Wisconsin herbed goat cheese with this — it’s fantastic. Also, the French brie and Gourmandaise are highly recommended. In combination with pretzel bread, salami, chorizo, landjaeger, almonds and two kinds of mustard and fruit preserves, it can be used to both experiment with new flavors and enjoy old ones.

After this came the first course of the cheese fondue, accompanied by the house salad. Combining Gruyere, cherry brandy and spices, the fondue is a warm, tasty appetizer and is perfectly offset by the light vinaigrette of the salad.

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Following this is the main fondue course, a mountain of fresh vegetables and your choice of protein, ready to be cooked by you at your table. I would definitely recommend the aged beef tenderloin as a part of any dinner you order — the meat is tender, succulent and incredibly delicious. With this course came eight different dipping sauces, providing a smorgasbord of flavor for your mouth.

We finished with the flaming chocolate fondue. Not only does this allow for toasting marshmallows to make a fondue s’more, but it is a wonderful way to end the evening. Fruit, pound cake, rice krispie treats … no matter what it was, it ended up in the chocolate fondue.

Verdict: Geja’s Cafe is definitely one of the more expensive nights out in Chicago. If you’re looking for something that can be a regular thing, you either need some incredible trust fund or to graduate and start earning six figures. But as an occasional thing, either to mark an anniversary or a birthday, or just for when your parents come into town and you can convince them to pay for it, it is definitely worth a visit. 

ProTip: Like the Facebook page at facebook.com/gejascafe and get $25 off a dinner for two!

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