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Take the elevator to the second floor of Goodman’s Men’s Store in Manhattan and, as the doors open on to the central rotunda, you’ll see an elegantly appointed oasis of an eatery beckoning from across the way. This is Goodman’s Bar, and depending on the time of day, someone might come here to sip an espresso in a Tom Dixon wing chair while he reads his morning paper, to take a quick lunch meeting, to grab a glass of Burgundy after picking up a custom tux, or to flirt with his date across a creamy tangle of tagliatelle blanketed with shaved truffles. The place is as versatile and as well-appointed as a great suit, and that’s by design.
Bruce Pask, the men’s fashion director at Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus who helped realize the project, wanted the 30-seat boîte to have the easy elegance of a neighborhood bar in Paris, one that shifts in purpose throughout the day but never loses its charm. “It’s not a big revelation,” he says. “I think anybody that has space like this recognizes the benefit of having a food and beverage component as part of customer service.” To his point, a fleet of upscale department store dining options has recently arrived in Manhattan, from the New York outpost of the see-and-be-seen Paris classic L’Avenue at Saks Fifth Avenue to the foodie-friendly Wolf at Nordstrom and the Zodiac Room in Hudson Yards’ Neiman Marcus.
These celebrated shopping spots have brought in world-class culinary talents, expanding the limited boundaries of brick-and-mortar retail in an era of Internet-driven sales and giving customers another reason to stop by and stay awhile.
To develop the menu at Goodman’s Bar, Pask and his team brought in Austin Johnson, who, until recently, was Executive Chef of Frenchie Hospitality Group, earning the Paris restaurant its first-ever Michelin Star. Johnson’s dishes are lush and exuberant without feeling gimmicky or gluttonous; things like truffles and caviar are always there for a reason, not just for show. With a kitchen this small—it’s more a closet than anything—sourcing is of the utmost importance, and Johnson nails it. For breakfast, the pastries come from West Village darling Mah-Ze-Dahr Bakery; the ice cream served at dessert is from Il Laboratorio del Gelato.
The menu is extensive enough that diners get to mix and match the experience they’re looking for. There’s a small plate of gougères with sliced lardo, featherlight and sumptuous; the steak tartare is delicate and perky thanks to a lashing with vinegary HP sauce and a dusting of fried sunchokes. You may want to follow either of those with the truffle tagliatelle, the apex of elegant, simple comfort food. “I didn’t want it to feel like a full restaurant where you’re coming in for a six-course tasting menu,” Johnson explains. “I wanted it to vibe with the energy of the space.” And once the team launches its new app, that breaking down of barriers will reach its logical conclusion. Soon you’ll be able to order a Negroni from your dressing room. (You won’t, however, be able to eat your scallops in there. This isn’t a roller rink.)
That level of service extends to the wine menu too. It’s the brainchild of Dustin Wilson, former wine director of Eleven Madison Park, who has made the revolutionary choice of offering every non-sparkling wine in stock by the glass, so diners who may not want to splash out on a full bottle can still “splurge a little bit and have something really great,” he says. Wilson has found a balance between the old-world standards that a certain Goodman’s Bar customer will expect and the new-world stuff that he’s geeking out on right now. The mix reflects the desire to surprise as well as comfort. “We certainly have a customer who has been everywhere and seen everything, and has a developed palate and aesthetic,” Pask explains. “We want to show them what we can do, and perhaps even teach them something.”
Ten or 20 years ago, formality and quality went hand in hand, following each other around the top tier of the restaurant industry. But as tastes changed, some of the city’s best spots began to treat traditional fine dining like an unwelcome house guest. (Just look at the rise of David Chang, or natural wine, or $20 pizza.) The opening of a place like Goodman’s Bar—on the heels of so many nouveau-French spots, like Le Coucou and Frenchette—might mark a resurgence of the actually good (and fun) fancy restaurant, the sort of place that can hold its own against a downtown natural-wine bar and make stodgy hotel restaurants look like relics. Here, luxury is wielded with a discerning eye, not a spray gun. And the space, with its lacquered walls and vintage mirrors, makes you feel like you’re in on a chic new secret. “All the reference points we had in mind were elegant but timeless,” Pask says, “like those really discreet and in-the-know after-hours bars in Kyoto and Hong Kong.” Something familiar but new, to make you feel fancy and at home all at once.
Manhattan Mid-Shopping Pit Stops
L'Avenue at Saks
If you’re looking for a lively scene for your next party—or you want to impress a particularly stylish date—L’Avenue, with its designer displays and ultra-flattering lighting, is your spot. The people-watching is almost as good as the food. Don’t miss the bar downstairs: It was charmingly outfitted by Philippe Starck to look like a Swiss chalet.
The Zodiac Room, Neiman Marcus
This restaurant, in the new Hudson Yards store, pays tribute to Helen Corbitt, a Texas cook hired at the very first Zodiac Room in Dallas in the 1950s. You can find some of Corbitt’s original recipes here—like popovers, chicken salad, and orange soufflé—as well as tables full of ladies who still, to this day, lunch. (Service ends at 5 p.m.)
Tucked into the second floor of the newest store, Wolf (one of seven food and beverage concepts here) is unassuming at first glance, or at least until you try renowned Seattle chef Ethan Stowell’s perfectly executed pastas. Cruise through the shoe department and stop in for a bowl of spaghetti with uni butter and a dainty plate of zeppole.