Bergdorf Goodman, Cleveland, Higbee, Nostalgia, Recipe, Ritz-Carlton, Salads
My morning’s ritualistic reading of the New York Times unexpectedly transported me to my childhood, thanks to “A Lunch that Tastes Like Nostalgia,” Alex Witchel’s lively account of a midday repast at Bergdorf Goodman’s. Her article pays homage to a fading rite—the department store lunch—and shuttled me back to the 1960s, when my Aunt Helen would occasionally take me with her on the bus to downtown Cleveland, where she had standing Saturday appointments at Higbee‘s hair salon with Miss Rose.
Higbee’s was one of the late, great urban department stores, where you could get your nails done, buy furniture, browse through books and greeting cards, try on dresses, and—oh yes—have lunch. Back in the day Cleveland boasted four such retail havens: Besides Higbee’s there was Halle’s, the May Company, and Sterling Lindner-Davis.
At the Higbee salon I idled away the time looking at fashion and movie magazines, with the promise of lunch afterwards at the terribly sophisticated Silver Grille, followed by a visit to the girls’ clothing department, where Aunt Helen always bought me a dress.
So comforting were my memories of lunch with Aunt Helen at the Silver Grille that when Cleveland Landmarks Press published The Silver Grille: Memories and Recipes a number of years ago, I snapped up a copy at Walden Books.
Higbee‘s and the other stores are gone, now. (So, for that matter, is Walden’s.) The sturdy but elegant Higbee building still stands kitty-corner to the landmark Terminal Tower on Public Square (flanked, on the tower’s other side, by the Ritz-Carlton Hotel). The grand old store is now home to the Horseshoe Casino, and has been for exactly one year to the day that I’m posting this. Fans of A Christmas Story, filmed primarily in Cleveland, will remember Higbee’s; its iconic display windows feature prominently in the film and contained Ralphie’s holy grail—the Red Ryder BB gun.
But I digress. Nostalgia will do that to you. Witchel’s article inspired more than this reverie: It compelled me to pull out my copy of the Silver Grille cookbook.
The first recipe I turned to, for Maurice Salad, had become a longstanding favorite of mine long after I outgrew the creamed chicken, which arrived in its own cardboard oven.
Large cities with renowned department stores invariably opened satellites in suburban shopping malls, and Higbee’s was no exception. I often ordered this salad when my mother and I ate at the “Attic” in the Elyria Higbee’s. It was a charming place, but it was no Silver Grille. There could only be one. Happily, the food—if not the name—was the same.
The Silver Grille’s Maurice Salad with Classic Maurice Dressing
Adapted from The Silver Grille: Memories and Recipes. Used with permission.
Six cups diced iceberg lettuce
4 ounces julienned cooked ham
4 ounces julienned cooked turkey or chicken
4 ounces julienned Swiss cheese
4 teaspoons chopped sweet pickle
Combine all ingredients. Mix with one cup of classic Maurice dressing and place in a bowl lined with lettuce leaves.
FOR THE DRESSING (makes one cup):
One cup mayonnaise
One hard-boiled egg, chopped
Two tablespoons chopped parsley
One teaspoon vinegar
Combine salad ingredients with the dressing and mix.
Note: The Silver Grill made the original Maurice Dressing with a commercial base not currently available, according to the cookbook. A recipe former Silver Grill employee devised this recipe.
Two more things you should know:
1. James A. Toman, publisher of Cleveland Landmarks Press, tells me that they are reissuing all of the previously published Silver Grille recipes in a new volume, Recipes from the Silver Grille. The book is forthcoming sometime in late summer; be sure to check out the publisher’s website for details.
2. The Silver Grille underwent an award-winning restoration in 2002 by the Ritz-Carlton Cleveland. Although no longer a restaurant, the hotel uses the spacious tenth-floor room as a “function space,” according to Kelsey Williams, senior marketing and PR coördinator of the Ritz-Carlton, which is the venue’s exclusive caterer.
Young girls and their mothers, aunts and older sisters all migrated downtown or uptown depending on the town during the 1960s and you have brought back those wonderful memories. Thank you.
You’re welcome! Glad you liked the post.
You have such fond memories of Aunt Helen! I was not aware of his one. I should tell you one of mine sometime.
Hey Tony! You might be thinking of your mom’s sister Helen. I doubt she’d have taken the bus to Cleveland. This Aunt Helen was my mom’s sister, who lived in Lorain. Funny how common the name Helen once was, that I had two so-named aunts! Great to hear from you!!
Sherry Lohman said:
Sweet pickle…that’s a new, or should I say old?, twist! I’ll have to give that one a try.
Eatons was a famous Canadian department store in Canada. Sadly now out of business. Their restaurant in their main downtown store in Montreal was huge and was true art deco. I used to go for lunch with my mother all the time. Women would all get dressed up then. Suits, hats and gloves. They had all sorts of things on the menu but one of their most popular was their tea sandwich plate. A neat stack of 4 little wedges with the crust cut off, some carrot sticks, some celery sticks, a couple of olives and gherkins. And it came with jello and cookies for dessert. It was one of my favourite places to go. It was called Eaton’s Tea Room. Thanks for the memories. Great post.
Thanks so much for sharing your memory of Eaton’s. It sounds like a wonderful place…love the idea of suits, hats and gloves…and tea sandwiches!
It was fabulous, especially to a little girl.
Beth Randolph said:
Was amazed when I started looking for the stove that Higbee’s served our special lunch in. I remember that in the 50’s. So special. Thanks.
You’re welcome! Aren’t those wonderful memories that we have?
Beth Randolph said:
My cousin also remembers a little wooden buffet, Thanks again.
Laura D. said:
The Silver Grille was serving those cardboard stove lunches for the kids since the 1950’s. I was a tot in the mid-1960’s and when we were taken to Downtown Cleveland to see “the Real Santa” at Higee’s, my parents always wound up the wonderful outing by early afternoon at the Silver Grille, their own grown-up lunch and those cute little cardboard stoves for my older sister and me. I still remember pulling out the tiny pots of delicious creamed chicken, peas, applesauce, and mashed potatoes. And we kept the stoves for our Barbie doll houses.
Hi Laura! Thanks so much for sharing your memories of the Silver Grille. The creamed chicken was my favorite! I apologize for not acknowledging your note last year, but I’ve taken a hiatus from blogging and only logged onto my account again today. Thanks again for reading, and for sharing your memories! Warmest, Marci
Thanks for posting. I loved the maurice salad also. My dad worked at Higbees so I had many delightful lunches . The creamed chicken used to come in a wooden stove with a glass chicken dish. Great memories!