Since 1907, one holiday dining tradition has endured in Chicago, whether the physical structure was called Marshall Field’s or Macy’s.
As its website explains, the Walnut Room was the first restaurant to open in a department store. What better way to relax after an exhausting shopping trip…particularly during the holidays… than partake of an elegant meal just a few feet from the action? Or to take the children to visit Santa just two floors down?
The Walnut Room became a rite of passage for generations of families. For many, it was a child’s first lesson in practicing ‘table manners’ under the elegantly appointed Circassian wood paneling imported from Russia and the Austrian crystal chandeliers.
During the holidays, Chicagohistory.com notes that 2021 is the 114th anniversary of the Great Tree, the fifty-fourth annual animated holiday windows, and as always, forty-two trumpets will fly along State Street This year, the 45-foot Great Tree is illuminated by 1,200 ornaments and 6,000 lights.
Amid the splendor is some of the best comfort food imaginable. Start with a lobster bisque with sherry, or a cheese plate featuring blue cheese, Marcona almonds, and toasted crostini for sharing.
A millinery (hat) clerk developed the recipe for the Walnut Room’s signature Mrs. Hering’s 1890 Original Chicken Pot Pie, with creamy chicken, carrots, sweet corn, leeks and peas in a flaky crust, served with a Walnut Room Salad of mixed greens, Mandarin slices, and toasted almonds with their special Toasted Sesame dressing. Other entrees include a cider-glazed, slow-roasted breast of turkey with whipped potatoes and gravy, green beans sautéed with cranberry pecan butter, and a cranberry citrus chutney. Meatloaf takes on elegant touch when paired with pine nuts and spinach, and is served with whipped potatoes and onion strings.
With so much history, how do people feel about the Walnut Room?
“I grew up coming here as a young girl, when only Sunday best was the acceptable attire,” recalled a Trip Advisor reviewer. “Fast forward 40 years & I find myself still smiling & happy in The Walnut Room.”
Another recent reviewer on Trip Advisor was rapturous. “Portions are generous and includes vegetables, and mashed potatoes in our case,” she said. “Pot Pie (is served with) a salad. Every dish was presented beautifully and served piping hot. Coffee served with a small metal tea pot for you to enjoy more at leisure. Every bite was scrumptious. Each meal cooked well. Not overly salty, vegetables tasted fresh, salad was large and mashed potatoes smooth and silky.”
The pot pie is also available as a kid-sized portion on the children’s menu.
But no one should leave without a dessert taste of Frango Mint, either as a slice of ice cream pie or as a cheesecake. Often imitated, never duplicated, the creamy, minty, smooth texture of the ice cream and graham cracker crust are a nice contrast and a refreshing end to a sumptuous meal. Traditional Christmas yule log and a fanciful Build Your Own Snowman sundae are among the other, equally delicious desserts.
The Walnut Room is located on the 7th floor of Macy’s, 111 N. Wabash, Chicago. The restaurant is open special hours for the holidays. During the weeks of November 28 and December 5, they are open Sundays-Saturday from 11am to 7pm. Check the website for any changes to the schedule. To make a reservation, click here.