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Thursday, December 11, 2008

ATTENTION, HOLIDAY SHOPPERS

Posted on Thu, Dec 11, 2008 at 4:00 AM

Deep pockets are essential when shopping at Nordstrom, but if outbound cash flow has you dizzy, a stop at the store's secluded café this season is in order. Though it's more fast-casual restaurant than café, the joint is a far cry from those plebeian Woolworth's diners and, more importantly, a calming sanctuary from the Florida Mall foofaraw.

The culinarians here have flown under the radar, but they do good work, churning out a just-so selection of salads, brick-oven pizza, sandwiches and bistro mains. But it's the fries, or rather frites, that upstage the meals. Order the crisp roast chicken pommes frites ($14.25) or the wonderfully flavorful steak pommes frites ($17.95) and you'll see; the crisp slivers are sprinkled with fresh rosemary, parsley, thyme and chives and served with a kalamata olive aioli.

The au gratin finish of the tequila lime chicken pasta ($12.95) was a cheesy comfort, but there are plenty of options in the $10 range as well: wild mushroom and herb ricotta pizza ($9.95); bistro club ($10.25) sandwich with avocado and French green beans; and blue cheese and pear salad ($9.95) tossed with candied pecans. The desserts are made in-house, and a single order of spongy lemon angel food cake ($5.25), served with fresh berries, satisfied the diners at our table. Ladies, if your man displays any reluctance, the restaurant's location behind the second-floor lingerie section should be a lure.

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