I once read an MFK Fisher story in the Art of Eating about a young girl who slipped away for a day, later revealing to the author that she’d gone into town and sat at a cafe the entire time, spending her week’s allowance on a four hour meal of Viennese coffee, salami, pickles and pastries while she watched the world go by. Fisher called it dining with yourself, and rather than it being a sorrowful state for lack of company, it’s a moment of unapologetic indulgence. The girl also brought back a nice pastry for her mother. I got a similar vibe when I visited the cafe in Nordstrom, which is located on the top floor of the department store. It had an elegant indoor seating area, and a tiled patio area with a view of the downtown skyline. The atmosphere is casual; nobody dining there seemed to be in a rush. It seemed an ideal meeting spot for friends to catch up over lunch, or for a mother-daughter shopping break. It wasn’t very crowded, and I grabbed a great spot out on the patio.
Not one, not two, but three co-workers went out of their way to tell me in the past couple months how much they like the Cafe Nordstrom. The soup was given high marks. This indicates several possibilities. One, this Cafe is very girlie girl to go to. Two, maybe they have a business women’s lunch special, for business women, Romi and Michelle style. Three, they have good food and good soup!
Ordering is done at the front counter, where you pay and then find a seat. Dishes are staged up at the front counter, but a waiter will bring it out for you. My friend and I shared a French Dip sandwich and a cup of the soup du jour.
The sandwich was great, amply portioned and the jus to dip it in was flavorful without being salty. Sandwiches come with an option of kettle chips or a small salad, and I got the salad with creamy champagne vinaigrette. It cost $10, and we split it and shared. Everything tasted fresh, and was nicely plated. In fact, all the dishes coming out of the kitchen looked good.
The daily soup varies, with no predictable schedule. There’s a tomato and basil soup that’s always on the menu, but the artichoke and parmesan soup one co-worker raved about was nowhere in sight the day I was there, so I had a southwestern style chicken and vegetable soup, topped with one of the nicest crostini I’d ever eaten. Crisp on the outside, soft and chewy inside, I didn’t even think that was possible for crostini. A cup of soup cost $3.50.
To confirm that impulse shopping does work, the Cafe displays its desserts right by the cashier where you order your food, and I got suckered in by a large snickerdoodle. All the cakes and pies are brought in from an LA bakery, but the cookies and bars are baked on site, costing in the $2-3 range. My snickerdoodle was $2, large and delicious – a balance of crisp, sweet and chewy. I’d go back there just to have a cookie and a coffee and indulge in a little time with myself. Maybe I’d bring back a sweet for my mother, too!
Cafe Nordstrom, 3rd floor