After two decades of working for venerable Chicago romantic dining destination Geja’s Café (340 West Armitage), Jeff Lawler will succeed John Davis as owner of the restaurant, just in time for Geja’s fiftieth anniversary.
Lawler, who has been in the restaurant business since he was seventeen, came to Geja’s in 1994 as general manager. He spent a few years working for Davis’ Wine of the Month club, but soon found himself drawn back to managing Geja’s day-to-day operations, a job with which he says he continues to “fall in love.”
“My responsibilities won’t really change all that much [as the owner],” Lawler says. “I got into the restaurant business because I love to serve people, and at Geja’s in particular I love working with staff to create special experiences for our guests.”
The restaurant’s recent fiftieth anniversary celebration was a “traditional” Geja’s lunch of cheese, beef tenderloin and chocolate fondues for Davis, Lawler, close friends and longtime Geja’s employees. The lunch was meant as a sort of goodbye for Davis, who founded the restaurant in 1965.
Lawler says he looks forward to adding subtle modernizations to Geja’s, like a new chocolate fondue recipe as well as possibly opening the dinnertime restaurant to daytime corporate events or wedding showers.
“Our wine list always stays cutting edge,” says Lawler, and “we like to keep our fondue experience very consistent.” Lawler is open to the possibility of someday launching “a Geja’s cheese and chocolate fondue truck.”
After falling in love with the restaurant industry, Lawler says he feels thankful to have the opportunity to purchase Geja’s.
“This is the crowning jewel on my blessed career in this industry,” Lawler says. “This industry is tough on a lot of people and I feel very, very fortunate that I found my way to Geja’s, and Geja’s found its way to me.” (Marissa Page)