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Department store restaurants (or, lunch with Mom)

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. 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. 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

        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. 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

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

          1. re: Pat Hammond

            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

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

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

              1. 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

                  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.