Tag Archives: Restaurants

Romance in Chicago

For years I’ve been hearing about how Gejas Cafe is the most romantic restaurant in Chicago. It’s in every magazine, blog and their website is full of proposal photos. Every time you say the word “Gejas” people get a dreamy look in their eye and you can see them re-living memories.

So I finally went. I broke down, made a 5:30pm reso- weeks in advance mind you because the place books up- and entered “the most romantic setting in Chicago”.

The place was cute, charming even and it reminded me of a place we had in college called Beggars Banquet. Was it blow me away romantic? No.

They pretty much make you choose between one of their platter combo meals which includes; cheese fondue, salads, a platter of meat, chicken and or seafood with veggies and chocolate fondue for dessert.

We started with the cheese fondue, served with stale bread chunks and fruit and we pretty much knew  it would be downhill from there.  First off- they put the pot on the other side of the table so you have to reach like you have a  go go Gadget arm just to dip your food. And it was just blah.

The soggy salads tasted like something you’d be served at a wedding.

Since I don’t eat meat, we requested two separate pots of oil to cook the main courses. The waiter and staff by the way were fantastic, nice, professional, blah blah. BUT for some reason they think it’s normal to present all of the meat on the same platter as the seafood. There was raw chicken spooning my shrimp.

To most people that isn’t a big deal, but trust me….if you don’t eat meat- you want it nowhere near your food.

We pointed this out to the waiter who apologized, took it into the back and moved the chicken to Shaun’s side with the other meat. He clearly didn’t realize that the shrimp still had raw chicken touching it- moments earlier. I very nicely pointed this out and he seemed confused, but took it back and exchanged it for an entirely new platter.

Side note- I’m sure they took all my seafood and rubbed raw meat all over it in the back. Kidding, but that’s how annoyed they seemed with my request.

We didn’t even finish half of the caveman-sized meal and were presented with a bill that was ridiculously expensive. In fact, we’re pretty sure we were accidentally over charged but I hate confrontation and refused to ask for an itemized receipt. So I sent them an email today and I’m blogging (very mature, I know). I think email was created so people could avoid awkward conversations with people.

Anyhow-  the real “romance” was the fact that we reeked of oil when we left. Nothing like bonding over how bad you smell, right?

If this place would serve half the amount of food, they could charge less and maybe people like myself wouldn’t be so turned off the following day. Then again, it has been in business forever and is always packed so why listen to me?

Next time I’m looking for romance I’ll light some candles and cook dinner at home, in fact I think I saw a Fondue set on Gilt.

BYOB Fine Dining

I hate fine dining.

Let me rephrase that: I am not a fan of any situation where I need to speak in hushed tones and watch my laughter level, while fumbling over which fork to use.

So when my co-worker Jen told me about her experience at EL Ideas, I was intrigued.

BYOB? Super small restaurant that seats about 20? Head Chef who explains each dish to the room then helps serve tables? Cooks who drink beers and take shots from diners out in the open? Cool playlist?

Yes. To all of it.

Here are my Do’s and Don’ts when choosing EL Ideas:

DO: Hop in an uber and trust the driver to find the obscure location.

DO: Bring your favorite wine or alcohol and be sure to bring extras to share with the staff.

DO: Sit facing towards the kitchen so you can see all the action.

DO: Get chatty with the staff. Bill, the dining room captain, is the perfect mix of; personable, sleek, professional, hip, knowledgeable, warm and conversational.

DO: Prepare to open your culinary mind and be ready to try new things like lobster bisque with foie gras served in a baby bottle.

That said…

DONT: Be afraid to email the chef/staff and let them know you don’t eat meat. They swapped out meat on all my dishes and added some amazing porcini mushrooms to one of them and I swear it must have been better than the original.

the meat version

DONT: Drive if you plan to drink. It’s BYOB…be safe.

DONT: Snack before coming. I didn’t eat all day in order to take down every course and I was full, but not stuffed after. I also gave half of most plates to Shaun.

DONT: Feel stupid if you don’t know which fork to use. They provide you with only what you need for that exact course. Awesome.

DONT: Avoid taking photos. Chef Phillip Foss invites diners into the kitchen to take pics and even plate and serve the food. As people got more buzzed…they felt the urge to wait tables. Genius concept- trick people into working for you.

I loved this dining experience which began at 9:30pm and ended around 1am.

Here is the menu we experienced:

august 10, 2012
foie gras – melon / cucumber / chanterelle
hamachi – sea cress / dashi / kambuchi
salmon – kohlrabi / nasturtium / caper
fries and ice cream – potato / leek / vanilla
reuben – lamb tongue / kraut / swiss
cauliflower – bacon / cheddar / funion
explorateur – ants / on / log
maitake – beets / squash / hearts
freeze pop – prosciutto / melon
pork belly – navy bean / kimchi / scallion
infant & toddler – lobster / foie gras / truffle
beef – galanga / sesame / pine nut
peach – blackberries / graham / meringue
grapefruit – avocado / plum / shortbread
egg yolk – blueberries / chocolate / tarragon

Make a reservation in advance. Like now- they fill up weeks in advance. And here’s an inside tip: the cooks like bourbon and beer…and mescal.

Crispy Artichokes

Urban Union– book a reservation now.

Now that that’s out of the way- let me explain my new culinary obsession.

Saturday night Shaun and I made a split second decision to hit up Urban Union…literally- we booked the Open Table reso while we were in the Uber on the way to Taylor Street.

I had heard some great buzz about the food there, and I love how Taylor Street really feels like getting out of the city for a night.

The room was interesting and comfortable. It felt like a mix of an industrial space and a log cabin if that makes any sense, meaning it was hip yet still easy to relax in. Plus we were sat at a table that allowed us both to sit on the same side of the table. So obnoxious- we are aware and don’t care…always get a few dirty looks from surrounding diners.

We ordered a bunch of food to share including; a mix of East and West coast oysters, crudo, shortrib ravioli (for him), frites and crispy artichoke chips.

I’ve been known to go to dinner and be more focused on the conversation and wine than the food, but something about these artichokes intrigued me. They were served with an aioli dipping sauce, and looked like little artichoke hearts that had been flash fried maybe?

Let me just say- I can not explain how amazing these things were. The aioli was lemon meringue-ish and cut the citrus in the artichokes beautifully. I couldn’t stop popping them into my mouth. The only thing that stopped me were the perfectly crispy frites which were served with the same dipping sauce.

I am really looking forward to going back and trying more of that menu- and eating the artichokes again. After the meal I thanked chef Michael Shrader* and we decided we also loved the small feel of the space.

Tip- ask to sit in the back section…feels more intimate.

Final thought- while googling how to spell the chef’s name, I came across a bad review of the place from The Reader’s Mike Sula. I should never have dinner with Mr.Sula seeing as he hates all the places I love including the food at Tavernita. On second thought- maybe I should share a meal with him so I can try to understand his skewed point of view on some amazing restaurants.


*slurred how much i loved the food. Creeped him out for sure.