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Geja's Cafe review

There's nothing I could possibly say either good or bad in this review that would help or hurt Geja's Cafe. They've been in business nearly 50 years as a classic fondue place. They're an intimate, romantic, special occasions restaurant who doesn't allow children and have a bit of a dress code. Which is rare, even in Chicago, these days when the rest of American culture is going casual kid-friendly. This was Part II of the birthday celebration after the museum.

The interior is crowded/cozy with a labyrinth of tables in various tiny rooms. The whole thing is on the bottom, semi-underground level of an Armitage townhouse on Chicago's northside. And there was a steady stream of people and full dining room even on an early Sunday evening at 6pm. You'll leave smelling like a unique blend of cooking oil and seafood and, with all the various fires for multiple cooking pots plus candle at each table, be prepared to be warm. On a pleasant, mild spring day outside it felt great to leave for cooler air.

After ordering some white sangria, the menu itself is pretty straightforward. Some combination of cheese fondue, salad, a meat/vegetable course, and dessert. You can mix and match plus different diners can order different things. I had the International main course which combined beef, chicken, and shrimp. But Kelly had just beef and chicken. They're also heavy on lobster tail and scallops for some of the choices.

The cheese course comes with a mix of breads, grapes, and apple slices to dip into a peppery melted cheese. This is followed by a small salad which is good--but not great. That would be my theme is that very little stands out as "you must get x if you go." (I've eaten actual Swiss fondue in the Alps.) It was many little things that piled up to make an excellent meal. In a few instances, the small details were better than the main event. We debated just having cheese and salad then moving straight to the dessert fondue, but in hindsight I'm glad we opted for the meat course.

The entree is served as two piles of meat on either end of a large serving tray with the middle section given over to raw vegetables. It's fairly large cuts of the protein and then a variety of red peppers, onion, broccoli, potato, mushroom. But the highlight that I've been glowing about all week now was the dipping sauces! 8 different cups line the outside of the serving tray...don't know if I can name them all. It was melted herb butter, an amazing smokey bbq sauce, horseradish, a hot/fruity sauce, hot pepper sauce, creamy sauce for the vegetables, etc.. I know it sounds crazy, but you'd be missing something if you didn't try these sauces. They were that good.

We were too full to really try any dessert alcohol, so we went with plain coffee. And I have no idea where they source their beans, who did the brewing, or what kind of coffee (plain) it was...but somebody knows what they're doing. And they serve it with whipped cream? A bowl of whipped cream was set down on the table along with the sugar. Was it for the coffee? For the fondue? We put it in the coffee. The chocolate fondue was disappointing because it was the thin, watery type you so often find covering strawberries. Similar to the cheese course, I think I was expecting something a little hardier here. A deep, rich, thick milk chocolate melted down for dipping would be perfect. But the plate of items for dipping was excellent. The fruit, especially, is chosen well...red and juicy strawberries, for instance. The pineapple is left partly on the core. There's a selection of pound cake and then marshmallows. The chocolate has alcohol added which is burned off when served so you roast the marshmallows over the flame to start.

Looking back, I think what we'd do again is probably stick to our initial cheese/salad/chocolate intuition BUT we'd be missing those amazing sauces in the middle. So I'd recommend doing the vegetarian version and just not eat the tofu. It's cheaper. I don't know if the sauces are specific to the meat chosen though. That would be my question if we went back. My ideal would be just the veggies but with the sauces. Still fun and less expensive than lobster tail.

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