Geja's Cafe

6 classic restaurants every Chicagoan should visit

By Anthony Todd

It sometimes seems like a new restaurant opens in this city every day—and it’s impossible for anyone, even the most dedicated diner, to keep track of them all. The insane turnover makes the ones that stick around even more impressive. For a restaurant to last for 10, 20, even 50 years speaks to something intangible about a place; something that makes a particular eatery beloved to enough people to keep it full, day after day. And the restaurants that have that magic are almost always worth visiting. Here are six of the best in the city.

Margie’s Candies
When you think “ice cream parlor,” the image that pops into your head is Margie’s, whether you know it or not. With old-fashioned booths, sundaes served in scallop shell dishes, and a list of visitors that includes The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, Margie’s is a must visit for anyone with an eye for Chicago history. The fact that they serve insanely decadent ice cream dishes is just the cherry on the… oh, you know.
Neighborhood: Bucktown MAP

Valois
This South Side institution, open since 1921, is recently best known as Barack Obama’s favorite restaurant, but for generations of Chicagoans it’s been known for its congenial atmosphere, good food, and buffet-style value. Grab a New York steak and some peach cobbler and settle in for a good time.
Neighborhood: Hyde Park MAP

Green Door Tavern

Green Door Tavern
One of Chicago's oldest taverns, built in 1872, 1 year after THE great fire of Chicago, has been a restaurant since 1921. You need to check out how this 146 year young building tilts. The menu is comprised of classic pub fare, highlighted by the Crispy Beef Sandwich and Chicago Style Poutine. The funky décor and amazing atmosphere makes Green Door definitely worth a visit. Additionally, The Drifter cocktail bar (Chicago's only remaining Speakeasy from the prohibition era) is located beneath this historic tavern.
Neighborhood: River North MAP

Geja’s Café
This Lincoln Park spot has been serving up romantic vibes and delicious fondue since 1965, and it’s still packed solid every weekend (try a weekday to skip the wait). It doesn’t hurt that it’s one of the most intimate restaurants in the city, with a ton of tiny dark booths hidden throughout the labyrinthine space. Geja’s has been the site of 146,357 first dates and 16,683 engagements and diners have enjoyed over 988,010 bottles of wine in its 53 years of business. The food is as simple as can be: cheese fondue, salad, your choice of meats, and an incredibly indulgent chocolate fondue (set on fire, so you can roast marshmallows) for dessert.
Neighborhood: Lincoln Park MAP

Calumet Fisheries

Calumet Fisheries
Despite many appearances on television, it’s always surprising how many people don’t know about Calumet Fisheries. Maybe it’s because it’s quite a hike from downtown Chicago. However, it’s worth the drive for a taste of their house-smoked seafood and fried shrimp, and the awesome vibe (the place dates back to 1948). Be prepared: There’s no indoor seating and they don’t take credit cards. But eating some of the city’s best fish in your car with sticky hands is, at this point, almost as much of a Chicago tradition as a great hot dog.
Neighborhood: East Side MAP

Café Brauer
Café Brauer is right outside the gates of Lincoln Park Zoo, perched on the south pond of Lincoln Park. This 1908 treasure often gets left off of “Best historic restaurants” lists because it’s mostly used as an event space, but you can actually dine here, at least in the summer. One of the city’s best kept secrets is weekend brunch at Café Brauer, where can you dine outside on the water with a killer view of the skyline—and since not many people know about it, it’s usually not packed.
Neighborhood: Lincoln Park MAP

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