Chez Moi Cafe, which means "my place," has that comfortable, casual "home away from home" feel for breakfast and lunch with friends, family or even solo.
Opened in January by Elizabeth Cull, a former French teacher, and her husband, Chez Moi brings the couple's interest in French culture to Geneva.
Chez Moi415 W. State St., Geneva, (331) 248-0654, chezmoigeneva.com
Cuisine: French bistro and creperie
Setting: Contemporary cafe
Entrees: $7 to $10
Hours: 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday to Saturday; 4:30 to 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday
Tucked away in a corner of a small downtown strip mall, the space combines vintage and modern touches in one long, narrow room with tables arranged in small groupings. One corner group is bordered by windows with cafe curtains; another in the back is better suited for larger groups and a couple of tables by the front picture windows bask in the most light.
A bakery case in the back central part of the room displays a variety of in-house specialties and imported croissants, tempting diners to take some home. A crepe maker works the crepe griddle to one side of the bakery case, where interested diners can observe how these delicate pancakes are made.
Breakfast and lunch are served during all open hours, from 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. We stuck to the breakfast menu side, although some of the dishes are equally fitting for later in the day. Chez Moi offers wine, cheese and small plates on Thursday and Friday evenings and is in the process of expanding its menu with an eye on adding more entrees.
We started our morning with a large mug of coffee. A menu note says the coffee is from Papa Nicholas, based just down the road in Batavia. Tasting fresh-ground, it was a bit on the strong side, so be forewarned if your tastes run to a milder brew. Latte, macchiato, cappuccino and other specialty coffees also are served.
The first item listed, breakfast soup, sounded intriguing, and it was. The light chicken broth base contained real bacon bits, French bread croutons and flecks of green herb and a poached egg. This flavorful soup is especially comforting on a rainy or chilly day.
A choice of four quiches called to me for my main course, and I chose the epinard, containing spinach, sweet onion and Gruyere cheese in a flaky crust baked in an individual ramekin, accompanied by a small leaf lettuce salad with vinaigrette. While the quiche was tasty, it would benefit from more herbs and seasonings and was a little too crusty on top.
We also tried a galette, a traditional French savory crepe from the Brittany and Normandy regions made with buckwheat flour. Of the six variations, we tried the ham, egg and Gruyere cheese. This somewhat bland buckwheat flour crepe may take some getting used to for Americans who are more accustomed to dessert crepes and might benefit from some kind of light sauce. Diners may request a white flour crepe instead of buckwheat, which I would recommend.
I ended my repast with a sweet crepe (made with white flour), of which there were four choices: butter and sugar; Nutella and/or banana; fresh berries with Chantilly cream or cinnamon, sugar and toasted almonds. A French friend recently told me that the plain butter and sugar crepe is the most traditional, so I followed her lead. If you like butter, as I do, you'll be satisfied with this simple sweet finish to a meal. A fresh fruit garnish was a pleasant accompaniment.
A visit to the bakery case persuaded us to try the bread pudding. It was rich and luscious, made with day-old croissants, cream, eggs, dark chocolate and caramel sauce. Most desserts are baked in-house, but the croissants come direct from France.
The lunch menu and wine list also offer interesting choices for future visits. Salads and sandwiches dominate that menu, with offerings including salad Nicoise, Provenšale Cobb salad, soup with house salad and traditional French sandwiches like Croque Monsieur with gilled ham, Gruyere cheese and bechamel sauce, and ham, brie and fig jam on a demi-baguette.
Cull likes to use local, seasonal fresh produce whenever possible, so ingredients will change as various vegetables and fruits ripen in nearby farmers' fields.
The cafe offers wine and beer, with many nice wines by the glass from the world's premier wine regions. Wines change frequently and are listed on a blackboard.
Chez Moi also has does social and corporate catering for all occasions, both on-site and off-premise. Most evenings are available for customized catered events in the cafe.
• Restaurant reviews are based on one anonymous visit. The Daily Herald does not review restaurants it cannot recommend.