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Department store restaurants (or, lunch with Mom)

sebetti Apr 22, 2009 02:43 PM

The mall food thread reminded me of what I miss most from shopping as a child – visiting the tea-room with my mother at the big department store. It seemed so elegant when I was five – white table clothes, heavy (cheap) silver, silver domes for the entrees.

I always ordered the Welsh Rarebit Burger – it seemed so grown-up to me. Upon close analysis of my memories, I believe it was, in fact, a giant burger doused with a neon-orange cheese sauce that also covered the rest of the plate. At least it came with a dome…Ah, the 70’s in the Midwest. I don’t really remember much else…but I’m guessing they also served a lot of chef salads. Did anyone else lunch with Mom?

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  1. c
    cheesecake17 RE: sebetti Apr 22, 2009 03:05 PM

    I dine with my sister in law and grandmother at the cafe in Bloomingdales. Midway through the shopping, grandma has had enough and wants an eggwhite omlette. Maybe the food has changed, but the cafe in Bloomies isn't what you described. Egg white omlettes, salads, sandwiches are in most of the plates that go by. I always get the frozen yogurt (best ever) with fresh fruit on the side. It's kind of a tradition. .thanks for reminding!

    1. Frosty Melon RE: sebetti Apr 22, 2009 04:37 PM

      The Zodiac Room at Neiman Marcus in Northbrook, Illinois was a favorite of mine growing up and I love to return for the nostalgia factor. My grandmother took me as a child, I remember kicking and screaming wanting to go anywhere else, but once I tasted that tiny cup of chicken broth and especially the popovers with strawberry butter I was in love. Can't remember what entree I ordered but man did I love that place.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Frosty Melon
        Diane in Bexley RE: Frosty Melon Apr 23, 2009 07:34 AM

        We used to live in Deerfield in the late 80s/90s and the Zodiac Room is where we used to go when Grandma was babysitting so we could avoid running into kids. The popovers with strawberry butter were fantastic. Used to order the chicken salad.

        FM, you brought back some good memories!

      2. Pat Hammond RE: sebetti Apr 22, 2009 04:49 PM

        My daughter loved being taken to the old Famous-Barr department store in St. Louis. (Mom liked it too.) Their French onion soup was her favorite. You could buy the soup frozen, too, with a generous packet of grated Gruyere cheese. They sold wonderful baguettes, as well, and every once in a while we'd have it at home. The recipe is still available online. She made it recently for her own family.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Pat Hammond
          cstr RE: Pat Hammond Apr 25, 2009 03:32 PM

          My aunt use to take me to F&B, wow, I'm going into the way-back-machine.

          1. re: Pat Hammond
            town127 RE: Pat Hammond Jul 5, 2010 05:53 PM

            hi i too remember famous barr in st louis mo. The onion soup is still great there, but do you remember the cheese bread they served the chicken salad on? i would very much like to order some if i can find it. Thank you

            1. re: Pat Hammond
              hill food RE: Pat Hammond Sep 6, 2010 08:42 PM

              heh, what I remember best about F-B was as a teenager the one in Clayton would usually never card you for beer.

            2. cookie monster RE: sebetti Apr 22, 2009 07:28 PM

              What I remember is the Jordan Marsh blueberry muffins. Yum.

              1. m
                mpjmph RE: sebetti Apr 23, 2009 07:04 AM

                I meet my mom for lunch every Sunday, usually at the mall that is conveniently half way between our houses. 3/4 of the time we eat at the "cafe bistro" in Nordstrom, which seems to draw a lot of mother/child combos ranging for young moms toddlers all the way up to middle aged adult-children with elderly mothers.

                The menu is pretty much a modern version of the department store menu of the '70s you described. Lots of salads, sandwiches and light entrees, with a few larger plates. No domes on the food, but the service is always very good.

                1 Reply
                1. re: mpjmph
                  Diane in Bexley RE: mpjmph Apr 23, 2009 07:36 AM

                  Just had lunch last week at the Bistro with Mother and oldest DD. Does remind me of my childhood. Maybe I am crazy, but I wish Nordstrom had real waitresses who take your order. We still tip the server. Would like to be waited on for a $15 lunch.

                2. monavano RE: sebetti Apr 23, 2009 08:12 AM

                  I have wonderful memories of taking the train into Center City Philadelphia with my mom. We'd always have lunch at The Crystal Tea Room on the 9th floor of John Wanamaker's. The store is now Macy's, and the restaurant is banquet-only, but my memories of eating turkey club sandwiches will never fade.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: monavano
                    efdee RE: monavano Apr 23, 2009 08:32 AM

                    The Bird Cage @ Lord & Taylor, 5th Ave, NYC. Maybe it was the genteel ambience, but I never knew a salad and tea sandwiches could taste so delicious.

                    1. re: monavano
                      PattiCakes RE: monavano May 21, 2010 10:54 AM

                      Recently went to a wedding at the Crystal Tea Room. Old school elegant. I remember going to the CTR aroound Easter time. They had the most humongous chocolate Easter Egg (t=bigger than a person!) in the middle of the dining room & set up on an elegant perch. It was highly decorated, and was done diorama style, with a big opening on one side & an Easter bunny scene inside.

                    2. rockandroller1 RE: sebetti Apr 23, 2009 08:33 AM

                      We had a store called O'Neils, it was later bought by Kaufmann's/Robinson's-May, they had a restaurant and I loved going there with my Mom. I always ordered Spaghettio's, I thought this was the only place to get them and I loved them (Mom, smartly, did not buy stuff like that for us to eat at home). I loved eating and looking down and watching the people shop.

                      1. BobB RE: sebetti Apr 24, 2009 10:21 AM

                        I love the Scottish smoked salmon at Harrod's lunch counter, but that's a more recent memory, I was never there with my mom.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: BobB
                          Peg RE: BobB Apr 24, 2009 10:55 AM

                          When I was a child my mom would take me to Harrods for lunch - I remember it seemed VERY posh. It made me feel very grown up, eating lunch surrounded by (what I thought were) lots of rich people. They were probably all tourists!

                          1. re: Peg
                            smartie RE: Peg May 21, 2010 06:59 PM

                            Harrods and Selfridges were our mum and daughter spots. Granny always took us to Fortnums. Awfully posh but probably no more than once a year.

                            1. re: smartie
                              pikawicca RE: smartie May 21, 2010 07:29 PM

                              Fortnums is probably the be all and end all of mother/daughter lunches. My mom and I loved every experience we had there.

                          2. re: BobB
                            hill food RE: BobB Sep 6, 2010 08:47 PM

                            oh man, I've only been once around 1995, but Harrod's food hall is the be-all and end-all and the gold standard for all others to aspire. (what are the lines from Ab-Fab? "Mum you can't order groceries from Harrod's" "Sweetie of course you can, people in Knightsbridge can't be expected to eat out EVERY night"

                          3. r
                            RGC1982 RE: sebetti Apr 24, 2009 04:03 PM

                            Not Mom, but I shopped at the old Abraham & Strauss store in Brooklyn with my best friend and her Mom. My most memorable lunch was when I wanted to order a hot dog, but was refused because I was over twelve years old. We even offered to buy another entree, just to be able to eat the hot dog, but the waitress refused. Considering that I was about college age, this couldn't really have been that much of a big deal, but the place was pretend-stuffy (it was going downhill by then, far past its heyday) and I guess the site of an adult, albeit a young one, with a hot dog in hand was too much for them to endure.

                            1. s
                              salsailsa RE: sebetti Apr 24, 2009 10:09 PM

                              I so remember those days. My mom would take me to the Char-bar in the now defunct Eaton's. They had stool around the horseshoe shaped counters. Egg salad always used to be my favorite.

                              At the Bay, we used to go to the Paddlewheel room, which was classic. I always remember the cubed jellos in parfait dishes with whipped cream. Fortunately, my tastes have become more refined since then.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: salsailsa
                                LJS RE: salsailsa Apr 28, 2009 07:26 AM

                                I remember both of those placeswith fondness-I think they had their counterparts in every city in Canada. There is still an eating place in both downtown Toronto Bay stores. And I am pretty sure you can still get jello in cubes there!

                                1. re: LJS
                                  salsailsa RE: LJS May 1, 2009 07:31 PM

                                  The Paddlewheel is still going in Winnipeg's Portage ave store. Haven't been there in years though.

                                  I liked the Arcadian court (for the atmosphere, not the food) in Eaton's on Younge st.

                                  1. re: salsailsa
                                    froddard RE: salsailsa May 21, 2010 07:09 PM

                                    Love the Paddlewheel!
                                    I was last there about 5 years ago - the big paddlewheel fountain that use to 'paddle' the water has been completely dry for years. Sigh.
                                    Jello cubes were still definitely present, along with 'weigh as you go' salad bar and surprisingly good fries with gravy. We were probably the only ones there under 65...

                              2. t
                                torty RE: sebetti Apr 24, 2009 10:37 PM

                                My memory is super hazy, but I recall a special treat lunching with the ladies at either Buffoms or Bullocks (So Cal). There would be a low key fashion show going on. It wasn't so much about the food as the atmosphere.

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: torty
                                  free sample addict aka Tracy L RE: torty Apr 26, 2009 09:35 PM

                                  If it was Buffum's they had a great Monte Cristo sandwich.

                                  1. re: torty
                                    TomSwift RE: torty Apr 28, 2009 03:07 PM

                                    Many, many trips to the tea room at Bullocks Wilshire (now, alas, a law school following the most recent LA riots). This was in the late 50's when women (my mother and grandmother included) wore white gloves and hats when shopping, the elevators had operators, and the fashion shows never had men's clothes. I don't recall the food but it was a real treat to go. The part about my grandmother spitting on her linen handkerchief and wiping imaginary dirt from my face wasn't so keen, though. NB, Bullocks Wilshire was one of the first department stores in the country to have its main entrance facing the parking lot and not the boulevard. The Nieman Marcus tearooms of today (when you can find one) pale by comparison.

                                    1. re: TomSwift
                                      Sherri RE: TomSwift May 21, 2010 01:19 PM

                                      Ah, Bullocks Wilshire! You brought a lump to my throat with mention of that elegant store I hadn't thought about in many years. I attended private school and BW was the only place to buy our uniforms. The semi-annual trip always included a fashion show-cum-luncheon with my mother. I believe that tea sandwiches and/or chicken salad was a regular feature. As so many of these nostalgic memories flood back, I realize how much poorer we are today for the lack of civility during shopping trips. All those little nicities - fashion shows, doormen, elevator operators - gave life a softly elegant edge that is lost in the hustle-bustle. Thanks for the memories. I'm vowing to slow down this afternoon and be a little nicer in my dealings. I might even go hunt for some white gloves ..............

                                      1. re: Sherri
                                        BubblyOne RE: Sherri May 21, 2010 02:33 PM

                                        BW was the absolute best in CA. Fortunately, at least they didn't tear down that beautiful building. Nieman's still is pretty good, at least as far as the closest to the "old style" tearoom. Popovers/strawberry butter...yum:)

                                  2. im_nomad RE: sebetti Apr 25, 2009 05:50 AM

                                    We didn't eat out alot when I was a kid, and my memories are not as fancy, but I remember loving going to the Kmart where at that time, it was the only place to get a Pogostick / corn-dog, and for some reason we always bought a container of whoppers for the drive home (this was over 1.5 hours away from us). I also fondly remember the diner in Woolworths, and the restaurants in Sears. Now i think the only place that still has an actual restaurant in it (not a McDonald's stuck out by the entrance) around these parts is Zellers or the Bay.

                                    But best of all was the old Bowring's restaurant in downtown St. John's, Nfld. I remember little about the food, but to get up there on the top floors, you would have to take a circular drive up around the outside of the building, which was so fun to me as a kid. That, and you felt so high up when you got there. Sadly, the place is closed, even though the Bowrings stores are still open everywhere.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: im_nomad
                                      LJS RE: im_nomad Apr 28, 2009 07:28 AM

                                      I remember that too-though I tend to conflate it with something called The Captains Cabin? incredible view of the harbour...I worked at the Woolworth's store right along Water Street there as my summer job and we always went to this place for lunch even though Woolworth's also had a very good cafe.

                                      1. re: LJS
                                        im_nomad RE: LJS Apr 28, 2009 05:01 PM

                                        yes ! Captain's Table though or something I thought it was.

                                        1. re: im_nomad
                                          LJS RE: im_nomad Apr 29, 2009 06:33 AM

                                          Yes, that rings a bell...the name has goen but they served these date squares that were the best I'd ever tasted. I think I lived on Cod au Gratin and date squares all of my high school/working life...

                                    2. cassoulady RE: sebetti Apr 25, 2009 07:21 AM

                                      Growing up in Boston, mom and I would go to Lord and Taylors where they had a little cafe. We would always get some sort of sandwich in a croissant. I usually got chicken salad if I recall. The cafe is long gone- I think there is a shoe section there now, but I remember our shopping outings fondly and loved to stop for lunch. I am the youngest of seven, and the other kids were always off doing other things and I loved me and moms shopping excursions without the other siblings. A sandwich on a croissant, at the time, seemed very exotic too.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: cassoulady
                                        sebetti RE: cassoulady Apr 27, 2009 10:10 AM

                                        I'm also the youngest child - by 5+ years, so I thought of meals out alone with my Mom were the most special of events - even just getting breakfast at the grocery store cafe after my forever-ongoing orthodontist appts. was the best.

                                        Hmmm...to this day, my favorite breakfast is a poached egg, 2 bacon strips, and ww toast; exactly what I used to eat with my Mom.

                                      2. limster RE: sebetti Apr 25, 2009 01:54 PM

                                        In Singapore, departmental stores like Yaohan had tons of stalls with all sorts of food - from a range of dim sum-ish items to various Singaporean hawker items, Japanese snacks (Yaohan's a Japanese chain). Probably where I had my first made to order okonomiyaki.

                                        1. r
                                          rockycat RE: sebetti Apr 28, 2009 06:06 AM

                                          I can't remember the name of the store but it was a department store in downtown Norfolk, VA in the late '60's. The restaurant may have been on a balcony but I'm not sure. My favorite was grilled cheese sandwiches. They seemed soooo much better when served in a restaurant and I don't remember having them out of the house anywhere else.

                                          1. coney with everything RE: sebetti Apr 28, 2009 07:16 AM

                                            I never got to do this with my mom but I did have lunch with my aunt and cousin in the dining room at the formal dining room at Hudson's in downtown Detroit, back in the day.

                                            My cousin, who was, and still is, a nun, was boycotting non-union lettuce (and that will give you an idea of the year!). But she desperately wanted a Maurice salad which was a specialty of the Hudson's chain. She asked the waiter if the lettuce was union lettuce and after a couple of minutes he came back and said it was. So she had her salad with a clear conscience, (I rather doubt it was made with union lettuce)--I've always thought that waiter would spend extra time in hell for lying to a nun!

                                            1. d
                                              dberg1313 RE: sebetti Apr 29, 2009 06:08 AM

                                              I see another Crystal Tea Room reply here, in the former Wanamaker's store in Philadelphia. When I was a little girl, this was the absolute highlight of my year--to go shopping with Grandmother (and yes we called her that) and having tea there. I mostly remember the finger sandwiches which seemed quite elegant to me. The waitresses, most of them older Irish women, wore black uniforms with ruffled white aprons and a little cap. But maybe I am confusing this with the old Chalfonte-Haddon Hall Hotel in Atlantic City, where you wrote your order down yourself on a little pad and signed for the bill, which was charged to your room (unless you were on the American Plan, that is). This seemed such a grown-up thing to do, to us. Pre-casino, too!!! OK, this is how old I am - I was pregnant with my youngest daughter when the casinos opened in AC!!

                                              1. Deenso RE: sebetti Apr 29, 2009 08:05 AM

                                                In the 60s and 70s, I worked with my mom in the D&D building, across the street from Alexander's dept. store and catty-corner from Bloomingdale's. Our favorite dept. store dining was on the linens floor at Bloomie's. That's since been transformed into a cafeteria, but back then, it was waiter-service at counters. There were always three fresh soup choices - lentil was great, with a garnish of vinegar to be added, if you liked, from a small pitcher on the counter. Also on the counter, there were always huge platters or bowls of some kind of pickle or salad item - self-service. The cucumbers were great. At lunchtime, there were long lines to contend with: one for singles, one for parties of two, and one for 3 or more (for the rare few tables in the place). And it was always worth the wait. Boy, do I miss that place!

                                                Also, still in Bloomies, was Le Train Bleu, up a flight of steps from the 6th floor cookware department. Frenchified menu, and the place looks exactly like a train car. In the 70s, this was fascinating.

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: Deenso
                                                  cheesecake17 RE: Deenso Apr 29, 2009 05:37 PM

                                                  The seventh floor cafe in Bloomie's has table service (with the separate lines) and counter service. The counter has sandwiches, salads, and frogurt, while the table service has a wider menu. The wait is still long!!

                                                  1. re: Deenso
                                                    bagelman01 RE: Deenso May 22, 2009 07:49 PM

                                                    My wife and my fater in law both worked at Bloomingdale's. My mother just shopped their. As a child I would go with my mother and luch at the Chanticleer Room...
                                                    When they remodeled in the mid 1960s, my mother was able to buy half a dozen of their dining chairs with turquoise leather seats.
                                                    When I married my wife, she had a hald dozen of these same chairs in her sun room.

                                                    I alsi used to go into NYC with my mpther to meet my maternal grandmother for shopping and lunch.
                                                    Lunch was always at the Charleston Gardens restaurant in B. Altman on 5th Avenue.
                                                    They had magnificent murals on the walls. But what I remember most, is that there was a package shelf built into each table just above your lap. This was kind of like an open school desk design.

                                                    Back in the 60s, just about every department store had a rstaurant, even in shopping center loications.

                                                    Today, if they still exist they have gone way down hill. The restaurant in Bloomingdale's White Plains is inedible. I don't need to go there just for the frozen yogurt.

                                                    Lord and Taylor has leased out their dining, and Stamford leaves much to be desired.'
                                                    The cafe at Nordstrom is uninspired, and you must pay in advance when ordering on the way in. For an upscale store they have a low opinion of their clientele.

                                                  2. Missy2U RE: sebetti May 22, 2009 11:54 AM

                                                    My mother, my mormor (her mother) and I would go downtown a couple times a year - and we'd always stop at Marshall Field's - that was lunch for us shopping ladies! I can't remember the name of the place, but we'd always sit in the same spot. Yikes - I haven't thought about that in a LONG time!

                                                    1. g
                                                      Greek Chefs Daughter RE: sebetti May 24, 2009 12:45 PM

                                                      One tradition that the ladies in my family practiced every December was lunch, followed by the theatre. We would eat lunch at the restaurant in the Downtown Chicago Marshall Field's Department Store, followed by the "Nutcracker Suite". I think we did that at least 10 years in a row, and it made for some great memories.

                                                      1. Candy RE: sebetti May 24, 2009 01:46 PM

                                                        We did not do dept. store lunches but on Saturdays my mother would take my sister and me shopping, leaving our brothers at home with our father. When we lived in Savannah I loved going to Morrison's Cafeteria. I would always get iced ta and shrimp salad and felt so grown up.

                                                        We lived near Montreal for a long time but never did dept. store lunches. There were so many interesting places to go.

                                                        My first encounter with dept. store lunches was when working as a sales manager for LS Ayres (now gone ruined by May Co and put out of its misery by Macys). We occasionally had to go to meetings at the flagship store in downtown Indianapolis. The tea room was quite the place and was a tradition for many families at Christmas time. Their Chicken Velvet soup was legendary. Their Monte Christos weren't half bad either.

                                                        1. kchurchill5 RE: sebetti May 24, 2009 02:09 PM

                                                          Ever Saturday growing up Mom and I would go shopping at Novi or one of the other Hudsons. We would have the Maurice Salad. We would split it with their fruit ice tea. Not sure the flavor but it was a flavored ice tea that was great.

                                                          This was the salad, I continue to make it all the time even though it is just sort of a classic old school salad but it is soooooo goooood.

                                                          2 teaspoons white vinegar; 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice; 2 teaspoons minced onions or 1 1/2 teaspoons onion juice; 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar; 1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard; 1/4 teaspoon dry mustard; 1 cup mayonnaise; 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley; 1 hard-boiled egg, diced, s/p

                                                          14 ounces ham cut into strips; 14 ounces cooked turkey breast, cut into strips; 14 ounces swiss cheese, cut into strips; 1/2 cup slivered sweet gherkin; 1 head iceberg lettuce, shredded; 12-16 pimento stuffed olives.

                                                          This was from one of the recipe sites. It was given to me from Hudsons years ago, I posted and then I guess other people wanted it to cuz I kept seeing copycat recipes of the Hudson Maurice Salad online, so they are all pretty similar. But it really is a good recipe. It is classic old style but just a great salad.

                                                          Every Sat! Sometimes if we ran late we took it to go to have with dinner. But we always sat on the open balcony, pretty green plants and they always served my tea in a wine glass so I felt so grown up. It came with some great rolls and honey butter.

                                                          1. kattyeyes RE: sebetti May 24, 2009 02:25 PM

                                                            I don't remember department store dining with Mom and Nanny (my mom's mom). I do remember going out for Chinese at Debbie Wong's...back in the day when we were of the beef and bean sprouts, chow mein, pepper steak and 007 plate (chicken fingers) with boneless spare ribs and an egg roll persuasion. I'm glad our Chinese culinary horizons have expanded over the years, but fondly recall these lunches out with Mom and Nanny. These meals always ended with hot, moist washcloths. To this day, I can remember our waiter (who not only had a heavy accent, but a lisp, poor guy), saying, "Be kefful. Ithot!" My mom and I still say this to one another (quietly!) and giggle at Chinese restaurants 30+ years later. ;)

                                                            1. pikawicca RE: sebetti May 24, 2009 02:36 PM

                                                              Blum's, Union Square, San Francisco. Either inside or right next to IMagnin. Duke of Windsor Sandwich, salad plate with tuna salad, chicken salad, fruit salad(poppy seed dressing) and a little Boston brown bread sandwich with cream cheese. Bliss.

                                                              4 Replies
                                                              1. re: pikawicca
                                                                Glencora RE: pikawicca May 24, 2009 02:57 PM

                                                                I vaguely remember enjoying ice cream sundaes at Blum's. I didn't get many sweets, so it was a big deal. I Magnin seemed very elegant, too.

                                                                1. re: pikawicca
                                                                  Sherri RE: pikawicca May 21, 2010 01:01 PM

                                                                  What I remember most about lunching at Blums was the coffee crunch cake for dessert. I ordered whatever seemed to be the smallest so I would be able to eat the cake. This was back in the day when mothers wore gloves and a hat for shopping. I thought the I. Magnin's in "The City" to be much nicer than I.Magnin's in Southern California.

                                                                  1. re: Sherri
                                                                    pikawicca RE: Sherri May 21, 2010 01:12 PM

                                                                    It was.

                                                                  2. re: pikawicca
                                                                    cosmogrrl RE: pikawicca Aug 27, 2010 07:16 PM

                                                                    Blum's was the biggest treat when I was a child! Lemon Goddess pie was fantastic, as were many other things.

                                                                  3. lulubelle RE: sebetti May 25, 2009 12:13 AM

                                                                    Marshall Fields' Walnut Room. Mom and I used to spend the morning at the Art Institute of Chicago and then go to Fields for lunch and shopping. It was especially a treat at Christmas when you could eat under the 7-story Christmas tree (after waiting in line for HOURS!).

                                                                    I always felt very grown-up, and loved listening to my mother talk about the afternoons she spent in the same restaurant with her mother when she was a girl.

                                                                    I miss Fields.

                                                                    4 Replies
                                                                    1. re: lulubelle
                                                                      Querencia RE: lulubelle May 25, 2009 10:02 AM

                                                                      To lulubelle: Macy's has kept the Walnut Room and the Christmas tree. Even the chicken pot pie.

                                                                      1. re: Querencia
                                                                        lulubelle RE: Querencia May 25, 2009 07:46 PM

                                                                        I know. It's still not Field's though. Although, the Fields of the 90s and 00s was not the Fields of my childhood anyway.

                                                                        Good to know about the potpie though; that was tasty!

                                                                      2. re: lulubelle
                                                                        512window RE: lulubelle May 25, 2009 10:31 AM

                                                                        Going with Grandma to lunch at Marshall Fields was always a big treat! She always got the mushroom soup. I don't think we ever went at Christmas though.

                                                                        1. re: lulubelle
                                                                          Diane in Bexley RE: lulubelle May 28, 2009 11:52 AM

                                                                          Lulu, I have tears in my eyes reading about Xmas lunch at the Walnut Room. We lived in Deerfield during the 80s and 90s. When the kids were very little, my MIL and I would drive them downtown to see Santa, view the gorgeous windows and the ginormous Xmas tree culminating with lunch at the Walnut Room. You can picture the scene, straight out of a 1950's movie. We had to stand in line for hours, an older North Shore Queen (MIL), me with the diaper bag, toddler in stroller and DD1. When Santa finally aske DD1 what she wanted for Xmas, she said she honestly didn't know WHAT we were doing here, as we are Jewish and celebrate Chanukah. She was 4 years old! I have a recipe book from the Walnut Room circa 1980s. It will never be the same. A shonda on Macys! Same with the Berghoff, our second choice when the Walnut Room was too insane.

                                                                        2. q
                                                                          Querencia RE: sebetti May 25, 2009 10:01 AM

                                                                          In the US, department store restaurants are usually forgettable (probably were better in yesteryear) but in case anybody is planning a trip to Switzerland, be advised that it's a different game there. Department stores restaurants are pretty good, very popular, and reasonable (no small consideration in Switzerland). Some are set up with chef stations so if your German or French is imperfect, you can see what you're getting. I remember one with a lovely terrace for outdoor dining. Some have a special opening for afternoon tea. My husband used to do a lot of work in Switzerland and quickly picked up this hint: eat in department stores.

                                                                          1. q
                                                                            Querencia RE: sebetti May 25, 2009 10:16 AM

                                                                            What a wonderful thread! I have loved reading every single post. Was it that we were young and impressionable then, or that department stores and cafeterias were better? Re Famous-Barr in St Louis, I too miss the Tunnelway Tearoom (and bargain basements in general). Re Morrison's Cafeterias, what a loss to the world---to those who didn't know them, they offered delicious home-made-style Southern cooking. And how about train dining cars when they used to be elegant and gave us our first contact with out-of-season strawberries, sugar tongs, and courtly waiters with towels over their arms who called us Miss? No kidding, these places somehow contributed to our sense of who we were, or who we were growing up to be. It was a hamburger patty and canned string beans, but if it was called Salisbury Steak and Blue Lake Green Beans, somehow we were Ladies Who Lunch, at age eight.

                                                                            1. mcel215 RE: sebetti May 25, 2009 11:04 AM

                                                                              Woolworth's lunch counter. Wow, it seemed yummy, the best tuna melts and root beer floats.

                                                                              Then, while she went about her shopping, I was always amazed at all the "notions" they had in the center table. It was filled with little packages of buttons, trim, ribbons, etc. A little girls cache, lol!

                                                                              1. romansperson RE: sebetti May 26, 2009 08:20 AM

                                                                                We'd go to the Silver Grille in the now-defunct Higbee's in downtown Cleveland. This was a big deal because my mom didn't drive and it was rather an ordeal to go down there from where we lived by bus. But we usually went twice a year - once for Christmas shopping and once in the summer.

                                                                                The most popular kid's meal by far was served in a cardboard oven - you'd open the doors on it and find ramekins with each part of the meal - chicken a la king or pot pie in the main compartment, then corn in another, and a dessert in the third (usually some type of cobbler). I was also fascinated by the pond in the middle of the room, which contained goldfish far larger than any I'd seen anywhere else at the time.

                                                                                A cookbook was published with recipes from the Silver Grille - it's an interesting historical document showing what was popular in that time and place (lots of cream sauce!).

                                                                                1. JungMann RE: sebetti May 27, 2009 07:00 AM

                                                                                  A nice meal was often the only way for my Mother to get me to go shopping and keep me behaved throughout the hours-long monotony of her trying something on, looking at it and then trying something on that looked exactly like it, looking at it and then trying something on... ad infinitum.

                                                                                  Given our frequent trips to Marshall Field's, I had always wanted to go the elegant Walnut Room, but the long lines and fear of a dress code kept us from ever visiting. Instead we went on chowish treks through malls and historic Chicago. I remember one lunch at the now defunct Binyon's, sipping on turtle soup and the Midwestern gentility of a bygone era. Michigan Avenue provided us with the opportunity to dine regally, the only guests at the Cloud Room atop the Allerton Hotel, its chef's salads and club sandwiches heralding a shift in the definition of "luxury" since their opening in 1963. And how could I forget Vie de France, the terribly chintzy chain that gave me my first tastes of french onion soup, pâté and that Gallic classic: the French Dip. How grown up I felt as I sat back and forced myself to eat soup that tasted like shoes and tripped over accents aigu and circumflex trying not to spill my Niçoise on the white tablecloth!

                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: JungMann
                                                                                    lulubelle RE: JungMann May 27, 2009 09:01 PM

                                                                                    My mom and I used to hit the Berghoff for lunch when the wait at the Walnut Room was outrageous.

                                                                                    1. re: lulubelle
                                                                                      JungMann RE: lulubelle May 28, 2009 05:27 AM

                                                                                      We would walk down State Street (back in the days when it was a car-less pedestrian mall), windowshopping our alternatives. I remember one diner with a red awning very close to C.D. Peacock or alternatively an old-fashioned luncheonette in one of the buildings on Jeweler's Row where I had my first (and last) Monte Cristo. I never made it to the Berghoff until they were "closing."

                                                                                  2. s
                                                                                    silvergirl RE: sebetti May 29, 2009 09:44 AM

                                                                                    The L.S. Ayres Tea Room in Indianapolis with my grandmother. I have no idea what I ate and had completely forgotten about it until your post. However, your post prompted a googlin' and I found that it's been recreated at the Indiana State Museum.

                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                    1. re: silvergirl
                                                                                      pikawicca RE: silvergirl May 21, 2010 11:50 AM

                                                                                      Their cream of chicken soup was amazing.

                                                                                    2. mrbigshotno.1 RE: sebetti May 31, 2009 06:49 PM

                                                                                      I would cash in pop bottles at the back of the Rexall Drug store and then go to the lunch counter and get a sizeable plate of fries for a dime. We're talking about 1960.
                                                                                      If mom would have known I was that far from the house I would have got what your not supposed to do to kid's these days.

                                                                                      1. k
                                                                                        karav RE: sebetti May 21, 2010 10:23 AM

                                                                                        My mom took us to lunch at The Bird Cage at Lord & Taylors in, I think, Abington (PA). My mom always ordered a chicken salad sandwich and an iced tea . They had a kid's menu off of which I ordered a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and the best part - a big chewy brownie, I felt like Nancy Drew at the Golden Swan Tea Room.

                                                                                        1. m
                                                                                          Masonville RE: sebetti May 21, 2010 06:49 PM

                                                                                          I LOVE threads like this, even if I'm not up to reading all Xn replies. My favorite memory of this kind was not a department store (we didn't have any close by in Iowa) but a pre-Amtrak train ride with my mother. The trip from X Iowa to Dubuque at age 4 was possibly only matched by Paris at age 27. Heavy heavy napkins, worn-but-impressively heavy flatware, ever-do-dignified waiters, a beautiful attendant who doted on me, forests, rivers I had never seen rushing by a major speed, and the magical slow approach to a "big city". Whoohoo.

                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                          1. re: Masonville
                                                                                            Cheflambo RE: Masonville May 21, 2010 07:33 PM

                                                                                            I'm glad I'm not the only one who remembers lunch at Marshall Fields in Chicago. It was a special trip, just gramma and I, the only time I got her all to myself. We would try on the hats in millinery, bought Frango mints for dad, and had lunch like grown-up girls in the Walnut Room. The "public" table manners were brought out and practiced, and rewards for good behaviour were some new clothes before we left. The Christmas tree was always a big deal too -- many holiday pics of my sisters and I were taken in front of it.

                                                                                          2. tracylee RE: sebetti Jul 6, 2010 08:56 AM

                                                                                            OK, the closest I've come to this (Other than "Sundays at Tiffany's") was Eve's Buffet at Fred Meyer's. I don't remember what I got as an entree, but I do remember the wide selection of puddings, which I didn't get at home. And a great-aunt worked at the Burlingame Portland, FM and we met her there for lunch at least once. I had to be very well behaved!

                                                                                            1. m
                                                                                              mandycat RE: sebetti Jul 7, 2010 09:30 AM

                                                                                              Whenever we visited family in Birmingham, Alabama in the late 1950's, my mother, grandmother and I would make a shopping and lunch trip downtown, a highlight of the trip for me. There is a photograph of the three of us, correctly dressed for such an outing. They are wearing nice summer dresses, hats and high heels with (of course) matching handbags. I'm a sight in a frilly dress, patent leather Mary Jane shoes and a hat with a bow tied under my chin. We always went to the same store and looking around the Web I'm thinking it must have been Lovemans of Alabama.

                                                                                              Chicken a la king over toast points was my dish of choice for lunch in the tea room. Very elegant and chic.

                                                                                              The other thing that impressed me tremendously (we were a military family and most of our shopping was done on base in less than gracious surroundings) was that when you purchased something you were asked if you wanted it to be delivered to your home. You could shop for hours without being burdened by bags and parcels.

                                                                                              1. j
                                                                                                jeanmarieok RE: sebetti Jul 7, 2010 09:55 AM

                                                                                                We had two great department stores with great restaurants, both gone now. Miller and Rhodes had a great sandwich that was kind of like a Hot Brown (but I didn't know what a Hot Brown even was, and I suspect most people eating there didn't either). The cheese sauce was sandwiched between the bread, along with ham, bacon and turkey, and then they melted cheese over the top of it. It was so delicious. They also had really good devilled crabs (haven't thought about those in forever).

                                                                                                Thalhimers - I mostly remember the spoonbread, and the chocolate cake. The chocolate cake was really yellow layer cake with chocolate frosting.

                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                1. re: jeanmarieok
                                                                                                  mandycat RE: jeanmarieok Jul 7, 2010 12:08 PM

                                                                                                  My father was a Navy pilot and we spent a LOT of time in Norfolk and Virginia Beach. I remember both these department stores fondly and well. Taking the bus into downtown Norfolk to go shopping with my high school friends was always a treat but at that stage of our lives we'd rather have had lunch with Godzilla than with our mothers.

                                                                                                2. emily RE: sebetti Aug 27, 2010 03:55 PM

                                                                                                  I fondly remember having lunch with my mother in the Buffums' tea room at La Habra Fashion Square (Southern California) as a child. I remember flashes of a decor that must have been particular to the late '60s/early '70s that must have been passe by then. Don't have any particular food memories, except the chocolate covered candy sticks (reception sticks?).

                                                                                                  1. GraydonCarter RE: sebetti Aug 27, 2010 08:11 PM

                                                                                                    I guess now we have to settle for McDonald's in Walmart or the food counter at Costco. I haven't shopped at a premium department store in years.

                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                    1. re: GraydonCarter
                                                                                                      Cathy RE: GraydonCarter Aug 27, 2010 08:42 PM

                                                                                                      But you don't have to shop. You can just walk in and go to the restaurant. There are many stores with really nice, good restaurants.

                                                                                                      The Bass Pro Shops are wonderous. Ikea has really good food. The Nordstrom Cafes have really nice settings and food. Nieman Marcus is still elegant, with the espresso cup of consumme and cheese biscuit, popover and strawberry butter put on the table before you even order...Bristol Farms, Whole Foods, Meijers and most independent grocery stores seem to have small cafes and eat in areas. Even the cart in front of Home Depot is interesting.

                                                                                                    2. decolady RE: sebetti Aug 27, 2010 11:01 PM

                                                                                                      During the late 50s-early 60s my grandmother used to take me out to lunch at Neiman Marcus in Dallas or at Leonard's in Fort Worth. It was one of our special treats and we always dressed up. One of those was the first place I ever had chicken a la king.

                                                                                                      Before my elder daughter (23yo now) started to school, I used to take her down to Birmingham to eat at the Cellar Cafe in Macy's. She loved doing that as much as I did when I was her age.

                                                                                                      1. c
                                                                                                        cavandre RE: sebetti Aug 28, 2010 05:44 AM

                                                                                                        The food stand at W.T. Grants served a grilled hot dog on a toasted New England bun...I didn't wait for Sat. but would stop in after school.

                                                                                                        1. Bill Hunt RE: sebetti Sep 6, 2010 08:37 PM

                                                                                                          In New Orleans, there were two very elegant restaurants within department stores, Maison Blanche and D H Holmes, on Canal St. Our family would take the train to NOLA, and my mother would put on her hat, and gloves, for lunch. My father and I would wear our sport coats, and I a tie. After lunch, my father would take a cab to the Fairground for the races, and I would get dragged along, as my mother would shop. My father would meet us at Galatoire's, Antoine's, or Arnaud's for an early dinner, usually broke. Then we'd take the train back to the Coast.

                                                                                                          My wife tells of attending many a grand luncheon in those two restaurants, also with her hat and gloves. Do not recall seeing my one-day-to-be wife, but there were pretty young girls, about my age. Sometimes I think I may have been the only boy in the places. They are both long gone.

                                                                                                          Now, though times have changed, the Neiman's store in the Ala Moana in O`ahu, HI, has a really good restaurant. It's not as formal, but we ARE talking 50+ years later - Mariposa. Adequately elegant (for Hawai`i), and with great food and good wine.


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