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Photos: 3 Arts Club Cafe At Restoration Hardware Is A Serene Fairyland

By Anthony Todd in Food on Oct 16, 2015 6:20PM

Lately, there's been a mini-revival of fancy restaurants in stores. Except for my favorite—the incredibly overpriced yet oddly compelling RL—they're pretty mediocre, mixing incredibly high prices, pretense and the need to appease the diet-eating ladies-who-lunch crowd. Thank goodness that the new 3 Arts Club Cafe goes in the exact opposite direction, turning out delicious, substantial food that is still delicate enough to appease the shopping glitterati.

When you walk into the new Gold Coast outpost of Restoration Hardware, located in the beautifully restored 3 Arts Club building, you don't quite know what to expect. From the outside, the building is a bit forbidding and brick, and there is no real indication that there is anything remarkable inside. But as soon as you get a few steps in and catch a glimpse of the courtyard cafe, you know something special is about to open up in front of you.

The restoration of the building has gotten press everywhere from the Tribune to Architectural Digest. I'm not an architecture critic (frankly, I'm probably not fancy enough to own anything sold in this building), so i'll skip the faux-knowledgable talk about ceilings and moldings, except to say: holy crap, this place is gorgeous. A glass-roofed courtyard, complete with fairlytale chandeliers, a quietly tinkling fountain and full-sized trees awaits, and it's the absolute perfect spot for anything from a business meeting to a romantic encounter.

The main restaurant is in the courtyard, though it's a bit confusing to enter (and the staff was not particularly helpful). It's open on all sides, and rather than being deferential, just grab an open table. I waited for 10 minutes, afraid to cross the threshold, before a harried looking server told me to just sit down. This place isn't quite as stiff as it looks.

The food service operations are run by Brendan Sodikoff's Hogsalt organization, the group behind Maude's Liquor Bar, Au Cheval, Green Street Smoked Meats and many more restaurants you've stood in line for. It's an all-day menu, including breakfast options, lunch options and even some dinner entrees, and there's something for everyone.

Start with a bellini. Even if you don't like bubbly, this space cries out for it, and the combination of champagne and peach puree is appropriately celebratory. If you're a bit more of a wine geek, they'll pour a delicious (if a bit pricy), food-friendly Au Bon Climat pinot noir that goes perfectly with the menu.

Sodikoff's menu is perfectly designed to appeal to those looking for a quick shopping bite. Take the prosciutto board, a beautiful spread of thinly sliced meat, perfect grapes, mustard and a mini-baguette. This is better than any department store snack you've had, and while it's a tiny bit expensive at $16, it's pretty much all the prosciutto you'd ever want to eat in one sitting.

You've noticed that twice now I've said "a bit expensive." While the menu does seem slightly overpriced, it's not an insult to the system (like the $21 steak salad at RL or the $18 grilled cheese at Sophie's at Saks) when you compare it to comparable in-store spots. Plus, let's face it: you're renting space in the prettiest room in town. If you're looking to avoid spending a fortune, order my favorite dish on the menu—the $14 bacon club. It's got some of that super thick bacon that Sodikoff is known for, pickled green tomatoes, perfect lettuce and avocado, and is enough to totally fill you up. Don't expect much from the fries (they're undercooked and under-salted) but that's no great loss.

Sodikoff has brought my favorite salad in the entire city over from Maude's, a perfect green salad with herbs. Ok, it's slightly different (they subbed in green goddess for vinaigrette) but it's the same damn salad, and that's great—Hogsalt is one of the few restaurant groups that seems to respect crisp fresh leaves lettuce as an important food item, rather than treat them like industrial-grade filler.

The one hard miss? A charred carrot dish that was mushy and flavorless, and tasted like the carrots had somehow been boiled alive while simultaneously being set on fire. But that's definitely not enough to discourage me from going back to this perfect, serene cafe in the middle of the city.

Finally, the main cafe isn't the only game in the building. There's a full coffee and pastry setup (with Doughnut Vault pastries!) and you can grab a glass of wine and take it with you as you shop. There's a perfect rooftop patio. There's an intimate wine bar that runs along the front of the building.

In other words, shopping has now officially become an all-day affair at Restoration Hardware. Next time I go, I'm grabbing breakfast, picking up a coffee and shopping until I drop, then reviving myself with a luncheon salad and going back at it. Will I buy furniture? Eh. But will I be able to immerse myself in the fantasy of a perfect life for a few hours? Absolutely.

The 3 Arts Club Cafe at Restoration Hardware is located at 1300 N. Dearborn.