SAKS FIFTH AVENUE
611 Fifth Ave.; 212-940-4080
Cafe SFA just re-opened after a gut renovation. We were nervous at first. This looming space had been a favorite for mother-daughter lunches and for out-of-towners fresh from a Radio City show. We were delighted and relieved to find the grilled chicken and mandarin salad where it always was on the menu, and this made the new long marble bar, glass dividers, and pale-colored sleekness look even better.
693 Fifth Ave.; 212-350-0180
The store itself still feels like an insider’s secret 14 years after it opened. The Tea Box has a similar vibe. A quiet boxed-in space, it’s a nice respite from the boisterous chopped salad circuit. On the menu there’s not a Cobb in sight; instead it’s Wagyn and wasabi, rare roast beef sandwiches, and Bento Boxes of Japanese omelet, pork spring rolls, and chirashi. After all that, we like to stop and smell the roses at the flower shop, recently relocated to the sixth floor.
660 Madison Ave.; 212-833-2200
Power lunch is the vibe at fred’s, the sleek and surprisingly masculine place on the ninth floor. There are plenty of ladies with black shopping bags, but there’s an equal number of men in suits brokering deals. The menu caters to both with a Mediterranean Tuna salad, "to keep you thin" thin-crust pizzas, and burgers with excellent thick-cut fries. The lines are notorious. Make a reservation, especially for weekend brunch.
59th St. and Lexington Ave.; 212-705-2000
Forty Carrots and Le Train bleu are nostalgia trips for New Yorkers who might remember sitting down for a bowl of frozen yogurt or digging into a plate of beer-battered shrimp. Two years ago the store invited chef (and pun enthusiast) David Burke to freshen things up a bit. "Cheeseburkers" come in a specialty slider box, and the Big Pretzel Panini has been deemed positively "deluxious." When all else fails, there’s always the Cobb salad.
754 Fifth Ave.; 212-872-8977
BG, the very ladylike restaurant perched on the seventh floor, was done by decorator Kelly Wearstler. There are canopy chairs in butter-colored leather and views of Central Park. Most popular is the Gotham, a mix of romaine, ham, beets, bacon, and Gruyère with Thousand Island dressing. The BG, with Parma cotto ham, baby artichokes, and deviled eggs, is gaining ground. Look for Bergdorf president Jim Gold at lunch. He likes the lobster salad.
712 Fifth Ave.; 212-582-8283
The Chocolate Bar may reference the signature brown-and-white-striped shopping bag. We’re still not sure, but it does have a playful, modern feel that works perfectly at Henri Bendel. And there’s a certain childlike glee in choosing what to eat at lunch from a menu composed almost entirely of sweets. Will it be Nutella toast points, the warm, spicy brownie with Tahitian vanilla gelato, or just chocolate straight up at the bar?
10 E. 60th St.; 212-223-2288
Slightly Britishized standards (such as a BLT made with roasted Berkshire pork and a lamb burger) are standouts at Nicole’s, in the English designer’s flagship just off Fifth. There’s an Open Kitchen and a long marble communal table. Not so many shoppers take a break; rather, more people come in for a casual but refined lunch. Our personal favorite? The tuna burger with guacamole and plantain fries served by the very witty Jonathan.
And outside of New York…
RL Restaurant, Ralph Lauren, Chicago
Well-curated art on the walls, good sandwiches, and a buzzing lunch scene—you’re one step closer to the dream of an all–Ralph reality. 312-475-1100; rlrestaurant.polo.com
The Zodiac, Neiman Marcus, Dallas
As famous for its place in the city’s social fabric as for its popovers with strawberry butter. The just-published Neiman Marcus Taste marks the store’s centennial. 214-573-5800; neimanmarcus.com
Beige Alain Ducasse, chanel, Tokyo
Not quite in the city’s flagship as much as floating above it, the restaurant has a private elevator, a Ginza view, and Ducasse perfectionists in the kitchen. 81-3/5159-5500; beige-tokyo.com
Fifth floor, Harvey Nichols, London
At lunch it’s a nice respite from the Knightsbridge shopping marathon; at night the draws are the tasting menus and a quieter scene. 44-207/235-5250; harveynichols.com
Nobu, Armani, Milan
A bit of Armani elegance—white walls, dark-wood tables, red-cushioned chairs—complements Nobu’s black cod in miso and other signature dishes. 39-02/6231-2645; armaninobu.it