The Best Department Store Restaurants

Yes, we said department stores

You've probably heard it already, but we'll remind you: Due to the ever-changing habits of American shoppers, malls are kind of on their way out. And the department stores—the mega emporia that launched millions of back-to-school shopping trips and wedding registriesmay not be far behind.

And, sure, there's nothing quite as satisfying as Amazon Prime-ing things without stepping a foot outside. But to do so would be to miss out on one of the greatest retail experiences of all time: the department store restaurant. The following restos will remind you of the kinder, gentler ways of IRL shopping, and the little bit of glamour that shouldn't have to fade in the face of convenience.

BG Restaurant, Bergdorf Goodman

(New York, NY)

Whether you're looking for tea or cocktails, BG Restaurant is the sort of place that temporarily allows you the fantasy life of someone much more put together (with a much bigger budget). Designed by Kelly Wearstler, it's a setting that makes for great people-watching. Order the signature Gotham Salad and pretend not to eavesdrop on the plastic-surgery set.

Stella 34, Macy's Herald Square

(New York, NY)

This Midtown gem is a sunny oasis of calm from the throngs of tourists in Herald Square. Light and airy, Stella 34 appears to materialize out of the ether as you walk through the pillow department. (If you're not running errands, you can access the restaurant through a dedicated elevator.) Order pizza and wine, then get the nerve to venture back out into the Manhattan mayhem. 

Walnut Room, Macy's

(Chicago, IL)

This stately restaurant has been around since 1907, much of this time as Marshall Field's, its previous incarnation. There's dark-wood paneling and Austrian chandeliers, which, much like the very good French onion soup, are things you'd find in the nice restaurants of generations past. But you might want to visit soon: The future of the Walnut Room is rumored to be uncertain.

The Zodiac, Neiman Marcus

(Dallas, TX)

Located on the sixth floor of Neiman Marcus's downtown flagship, The Zodiac has been a favorite for more than 50 years, and while you'll find the name at other Neiman Marcus locations, this is the original. The decor features shiny blue walls and white accents that create a chic yet cheery vibe. Meanwhile, the menu straddles the line between ultra-light entreés like seared salmon and ultra-rich desserts—just the way you'd imagine a Dallas belle with bouffant hair loves to eat. Try the restaurant's famed mandarin orange soufflé or the butter pecan angel food cake.

Freds, Barneys New York

(New York, NY)

Both NYC locations feature fare from executive chef Mark Strausman (as do the Freds in Chicago and Beverly Hills), but the smaller Downtown location is more informal and a bit more modern, with whimsical sandwiches like the Jewish Boy from Queens (turkey dressed with coleslaw and Russian dressing on an onion pocket). By contrast, the Madison Avenue location serves up classic brunch fare befitting a well-heeled crowd that lives (and shops, of course) nearby.

Brie Dyas is a contributing writer for Tasting Table and an avid collector of your grandmother's fine china. You can find her occasionally sharing photos on Instagram at @briedyas.