It’s been many, many years since I’ve been to The Walnut Room. The last time I was there, it was with my friend Rogerto, so it was fitting that we were finally able to get together again, and ended up back at The Walnut Room. The last time we were there, it was still a part of the lovely Marshall Field & Company. Our initial plans were to go to Frontera Fresco, but dining there is food court style, and it was noisy and not conducive to conversation. We both knew the Walnut Room would be quieter, and so this is where we ended up.
Rogerto chose the Chicken Pot Pie, and it looked good. While normally this would have been my choice, I had had one too many Chicken Pot Pies and was not up for another. I chose the chicken salad with fruit. While the chicken salad was good, it was also very heavy from the type of dressing they used. Despite being very hungry, I could not finish the meal. Although the menu indicated fresh fruits, the peaches were canned. Overall, the food was still good and it came with their signature sweetened dark bread.
My fondest memories of The Walnut Room was as a child, when I’d go with my mom to do the traditional Christmas browsing at Marshall Field. There was always Christmas festivity in the air at this grand, icon of a store, and this restaurant was so coveted that people would stand in long, long lines just to be able to eat there and look at the huge Christmas tree in the center of the room, commanding one’s attention.
During the year, it was easier to get into the restaurant, although anything approximating the lunch hours of 11:00 – 1:00 would usually still require some type of waiting. The restaurant would always be busy, the hustle and bustle of people waiting, the wait staff moving to and fro, and the line of well dressed customers waiting for a table. But that was then.
Rogerto and I arrived around 1:00 pm and there was no line. In fact, there were hardly any patrons. We were seated with a window view, which is always a plus when dining out, and had prompt and attentive service.
The rich, dark stained woods still are the most prominent visual feature of this iconic restaurant, as is the centerpiece. The centerpiece of flowers still adorns the floor and lends visual interest to a subdued environment.
I hope that the slowness of the restaurant was only a fluke on this day, as there are few quiet respites for Loop visitors who want to have a leisurely meal and to experience the retro era and ambiance of this stately and well known restaurant, which holds and represents many cherished memories by those of us who grew up in Chicago as well as any of the many visitors who came from near and afar, to experience a Marshall Field’s Christmas and the Walnut Room.