Cozy cafe, haute couture at Ikram

January 11, 2012 9:45:29 AM PST
Finding a place to grab lunch downtown in the midst of a shopping spree can sometimes pose a challenge-- but some major stores have hidden cafes with good, quality food.

Macy's probably has the most options from the seventh floor dining court to the basement cafeteria. But Nordstrom's also has a great cafe on the fourth floor. And if you shop at Barney's, there's a nice restaurant called "Fred's Chicago" up on the top floor.

But for sheer style, you've got to head to the new Ikram store on Huron where fashionistas can mingle over some seriously good-looking food too.

It's hard not to notice the gleaming new Ikram store on the Near North Side. Swimming in its deep red shell, the store's first floor contains an eclectic assortment of haute couture and jewelry from designers all over the world. If you remember Ultimo on Oak Street, then you'll know what I'm talking about. But shopping works up an appetite, which is why the namesake founder decided to build a cozy little restaurant on the second floor.

"Almost every day we would have clients come and have lunch at our old space at a tiny little table. And there'd be nine standing around.. and they'd either be eating standing up because there wasn't a place for them to sit down. But they wanted to hang out at Ikram," said Ikram Goldman.

And now anyone can hang out here, among an affordable menu loaded with healthy items.

"I love locally grown, I love organic food, I love food that's to table. That's how we serve food in our house," she said.

Meals begin with Red Hen bread and salted, European butter, as well as tiny cheese puffs called gougere, plus an amuse of some kind of market vegetable; in this case, assorted sauteed organic carrots from Werp Farm in Michigan. Entrees are substantial and fairly priced: juicy bison burgers are balanced beneath Wisconsin cheddar and balsamic roasted onions, served with shoestring fries and ketchup that are both homemade; celery root soup gets a crunchy garnish from candied pistachios and French espelette pepper. Even salads go well beyond the usual Caesar and Waldorf: among the choices: broccoli-cauliflower.. Israeli couscous and crunchy kale and tatsoi greens dressed with lemon oil and parmesan.

"He's very methodical in the way that he presents a salad. It's not just a salad on a plate. What goes with the quinoa? What goes with the kale? What goes with the beet salad? And it has to sort of tell a story on one plate on its own," said Ikram.

Desserts are remarkably simple, and typically include homemade cookies of some kind. In many ways, the food reflects the owner's sense of fashion.

"And I really wanted it very fresh and very new and very... food made with love," she said.

Hours for the cafe are the same as they are for the store, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. While the prices downstairs for the haute couture might be steep, prices in the cafe are more than reasonable.

15 E. Huron
312-587-1000 also mentioned:

Cafe Nordstrom
55 E. Grand Ave.

Fred's Chicago
15 E. Oak St.