Department Store Fine Dining Lives On

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. ( MainStreet) -- The Broadway, Lord & Taylor, Macy's and more prospered and grew into 19th century shopping empires and centers of fashion commerce in cities such as Los Angeles, New York and London. Many of these grand department stores remained social epicenters through much of the early 20th century with legendary restaurants frequented by the creme de la creme of society. But through business consolidation and urban change, many of these restaurants are gone.

Others lived on to become fashionable -- and delicious -- reminders of shopping's gilded age.

Founded in 1907, Neiman Marcus has been a fixture in downtown Dallas for more than a century. On the renaissance-revival structure's sixth floor is The Zodiac, the store's flagship restaurant -- a gathering point for dapper businessmen and ladies who lunch. The design mixes terrazzo concrete floors with a modern design aesthetic of pale blue walls adorned with whimsical white plaster-framed mirrors with art nouveau detailing.
The Zodiac is the flagship restaurant for Neiman Marcus in downtown Dallas, a gathering point for dapper businessmen and ladies who lunch.

Today at The Zodiac, a lunch-only service begins with convenient half-bottles of Krug Grand Cuvee or a San Francisco bloody mary followed by fresh-baked popovers with butter. Texas-sized portions of salads follow -- Asian ahi tuna or steak, with heaping filet mignon and crumbled blue cheese. Executive Chef David Crow also serves a classic croque madame with truffle fries, or a heartier braised pot roast that's a dining room classic.

In New York, there's no shortage of showy department store eateries, including David Burke at Bloomingdale's and the epic BG Restaurant at Bergdorf Goodman. But Fred's at Barneys New York manages to remain a New York City standout. Named after the son of company founder Barney Pressman, the company's Madison Avenue flagship ninth-floor restaurant offers lunch and dinner. The space offers a more relaxed style than other upscale department store eateries; its walls are festooned in black-and-white photography and the crowds always includes some of New York's most eccentric fashionistas.

Divided equally among those that came to be seen and those looking to eat over business, this popular power lunch spot offers top-notch tuna tartare on mixed greens, lobster bisque and Neapolitan-style pizzas, including a signature "Wise Guy" with hot and sweet sausage. The Italian theme continues with pappardelle pasta in a beef ragu and carrot tortellini with ricotta cheese. The entrees offer a more American theme, including a lobster club, sauteed filet of sole and Angus sliced steak. The menu gets regional substitutions at Fred's locations at select Barneys New York stores in Scottsdale, Ariz., and Chicago.

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