Shopping and Savoring the Best of Chicago’s Flavors

The Walnut Room’s famous chicken pot pie. (Photo: Macy's State Street)

The Walnut Room’s famous chicken pot pie. 



When you’re in a zone—a shopping zone in this case—the last thing you want to do is stop and think about where you’re going to grab a bite. Lucky for you, a number of prominent retail department stores, luxury boutiques and others have taken this dilemma into account so that customers don’t have to succumb to the evils of fast-food joints.

The department store dining experience started at Marshall Field’s in the late 1890s when an employee in the millinery department treated her clients to home-made chicken pot pies. Word soon spread to other departments in the store and demand was such that she started selling them on a regular basis. The manager eventually carved out a space on the seventh floor to sell her now-famous chicken pot pies as well as sandwiches, soups and other bites.  

As the café expanded and took over almost the entire seventh floor, it transformed into The Walnut Room, which Macy’s renovated when it bought out Marshall Field’s in the early 2000s. It remains the flagship restaurant at the State Street location, and the addition of a clubby wine bar appeals to the after-work crowd as well as tourists.  


Bar Pastoral. (Photo: Bar Pastoral)


While The Walnut Room caters to a mainstream crowd, Bar Pastoral is more of a neighborhood hangout with a low-key vibe. The Lake View eatery is adjacent to the European-inspired, artisanal wine, cheese and bread shop Pastoral, so it’s a great spot to wind down after snapping up a few gifts. The menu is chef-focused, seasonally inspired and of course uses products you’ll find in the store.

American Girl Café certainly knows how to treat little girls special. The cute little eatery is like a girls-only clubhouse and is located in American Girl Place in Water Tower Place. Girls are encouraged to bring their dolls to dine, and those without dolls get one on loan during brunch, lunch or dinner. The most popular event is the semi-formal afternoon tea, where the girls—and dolls—are treated to mini sandwiches, pastries and more. Reservations required.

Fred’s at Barneys New York is unofficially a big girls’ clubhouse as the ladies who lunch crowd has made this a regular place to chow down in the Gold Coast. The dining room is bright and cheery, and during colder months the most coveted seats are near the fireplace. Those who dine and drink at the bar are usually treated to a complimentary order of house-cut fries that comes with three house-made sauces.


RL’s main dining room. (Photo: RL Restaurant)


Luxury women’s boutique Ikram moved from its long-time Rush Street digs for a larger space in River North. That made more room for them to create Ikram Café, an elegant lunch destination that feels more like an exclusive ladies’ lounge. Dainty sandwiches, salads and wraps along with a limited wine list are the specialties.

You’ll find a livelier crowd at Café Nordstrom, the fourth-floor restaurant with pizzas, burgers and salads. There are a number of restaurants located within the The Shops at North Bridge, but this is one of the few that serves alcoholic beverages (beer and wine only).

RL is adjacent to the Ralph Lauren store on Michigan Avenue, however, only VIP shoppers get to slip in the restaurant through a special entrance. The restaurant is classic and clubby; what you’d expect from the legendary American designer. Steaks, chops and seafood dominate the menu, and martinis arrive in oversize glasses.  

Neiman Marcus made a brilliant move when they added a sports-bar component to The Zodiac, the popular lunch destination on the fourth level. That means guys are free to settle in to watch sports and highlights on several flatscreens as their significant others shop away in the designer department store. Unlike most restaurants within a store, The Zodiac offers a full-service bar, which will also come in handy for guys when they get those receipts. The globally influenced menu changes seasonally.


For more about Steaks see: CHICAGO’S BEST STEAKS & STEAKHOUSES