With its chic new lunchtime destination, Saks truly caters to Chicago’s fashionable set.
Sophie’s Summer Barbeque burger with grilled Angus beef, bacon tomato jam, and Point Reyes toma cheese.
Long before there was Donna, Ralph, or Tom (Ford, that is), there was Sophie, an elegant designer who for 40 years set the tone for couture at Saks Fifth Avenue, creating a signature style that was purely American. It’s apropos, then, that Sophie Gimbel’s name should now grace a fashionable new restaurant that has become a go-to destination for the city’s chicest luncheon crowd.
Perched atop the flagship Saks store on Michigan Avenue, Sophie’s beckons with a stylish, muted setting: inviting cream leather banquettes; a stunning glass art installation that divides the room; and expansive views overlooking Michigan Avenue and the lake. On any given day here, you’ll find a mix of the city’s socialite set alongside visitors in town for a quick shopping trip, nibbling lovely, composed salads and sandwiches while sipping the signature martini with lavender and grapefruit bitters.
King salmon with cumin-scented heirloom carrots and carrot-mascarpone sauce.
“It’s a long-overdue, wonderful addition,” says the ever-stylish Nena Ivon, president of the Costume Council at the Chicago History Museum and no stranger to Saks herself (before retiring in 2009, Ivon was the company’s longest-tenured employee at 53 years). “It’s a wonderful place to relax while shopping or just stopping by.”
With its location adjacent to the flagship’s new Fifth Avenue Man shop, the long, recycled-glass bar also makes an inviting beacon for power players like Johnson Publishing Company CEO and Choose Chicago board chair Desirée Rogers, former White House staffer and current motivational speaker Laura Schwartz, and even actor Billy Zane, who dined here multiple times during his recent starring run in The Sound of Music at the Lyric.
The restaurant offers freshly made cocktails such as a rhubarb-basil gimlet with gin from CH Distillery.
Indeed, despite the influential clientele, Sophie’s maintains a feminine appeal. “Rather than a power room, it’s more of a powder room, really. It’s why I like it,” says Zane. “‘Power dining’ restaurants are often filled with a lot of BS. The powerful women who drive Sophie’s clientele know what time it is. That’s why they go there.”
They also go for chef Ron Aleman’s smart, seasonal American menu, which offers decadent dishes like a barely breaded, generously sized jumbo blue crab cake atop San Marzano tomato bisque; garlicky, crisp kale chicken Caesar with the perfect kiss of dressing; and the Summer Barbeque burger with creamy Point Reyes toma cheese and a rich bacon tomato jam.
Sophie’s elegantly minimalist dining room.
“The food is designed in a fashionable way that ties it [to Saks],” Aleman attests. “The presentations are attractive and beautiful, but nothing is over your head.” That has proven to be a winning combination for Sophie’s, whose lively lunch scene transitions into a hidden-gem happy hour vibe in the early evening, when an after-work crowd convenes over bites of tuna tataki and black truffle salt pita and sips of rhubarbbasil gimlet cocktails with local CH Distillery gin.
As Zane decrees of this stylish destination, “Fellows in the know go there to do deals and dine among beautiful, powerful women. That’s a balanced meal.” 700 N. Michigan Ave., 7th Fl., 312-525-3400