Nordstrom NYC Has In-Store Food Delivery, Bars for Hungry Shoppers
(Bloomberg) -- When Nordstrom NYC opens its doors on Oct. 24, it will introduce innovations that could prove compelling, even to the most jaded New Yorkers.
There’s Kate Somerville skin care services and FaceGym, where you go work on “signature muscle manipulation techniques,” but the glam department store’s most noteworthy new feature is headset-enabled salespeople who will deliver food to customers throughout the 320,000-square-foot, seven-floor space, the biggest-ever store in the Seattle-based retailer’s 118-year history.
Hungry shoppers losing focus while trying on an Isabel Marant dress (floor 3) can snack on pear, kale, and blue cheese salad. Customers wavering over a Givenchy coat (floor 4) can chew on it over a double-beef cheeseburger or stop at the Shoe Bar for a martini. Cocktails, wine, and coffee can also be ordered on floors with a liquor license (specifically, floors numbered 5, 3, and 2, plus lower level 1 and, of course, the restaurants at lower level 2).
Does Nordstrom have concerns about getting cilantro lime vinaigrette stains on a Stella McCartney top?
“Yes, we do,” says Vincent Rossetti, vice president of restaurant operations. “That’s the cost of doing business.”
The food will arrive on china. “To-go containers have their place, but not in this situation,” he adds.
Rossetti and company have installed a total of seven food and beverage options, banking on an unlikely statistic to contend with the current state of retail: One in every four transactions at Nordstrom’s 116 full-line stores is a food or beverage purchase.
“It’s the idea of F&B as blood sugar maintenance—to keep shoppers in stores longer,” he says.
In total, eight dishes will be available for in-store delivery, including crunchy, tangy, juicy chicken tacos; Nordstrom sells 750,000 of them a year. The company also goes through more than 1 million pounds of ethically sourced coffee beans annually, brewing Americanos and lattes for flagging customers.
Chefs overseeing several of the projects—James Beard winner Tom Douglas and Ethan Stowell—are Seattle icons. And the food prices are shockingly reasonable, given the Midtown West address. At Bistro Verde, where the deliveries originate, those chicken tacos cost $7 for two, and they’re not small. A big bowl of spaghetti and meatballs comes to $17.50, and the BV Burger with white cheddar and peppercorn aioli and sea salt fries costs $16.50.
“The Nordstrom family aren’t looking at these restaurants as profit centers,” says chef Stowell, who oversees the store’s major restaurant, Wolf. “They see them as amenities, to draw customers in.”
Rossetti won’t commit to delivering food to tenants in the 179-unit, 95-floor Central Park Tower, the self-proclaimed tallest residential building in the world, where a four-bedroom is listed $33.4 million.
“My focus is to draw people into Nordstrom. If I make it too easy for them, I’m not doing my job,” he says.
On a preview tour that involved several thousand calories, I got to taste my way through Nordstrom’s seven spots. Here are highlights.
Stowell’s first New York venture features family-style Italian with the same Pacific Northwest accent that earned him attention at How to Cook a Wolf in Seattle. In a space anchored by an impressively long bar, the all-day menu has starters such as crispy, golf-ball-sized yeasted polenta fritters, with ricotta and chestnut honey, and bright lemon-accented king salmon crudo. The strong pasta selection includes squares of paccheri, with chunks of prawns in a confit-style tomato sauce, and spaghetti with uni butter, leeks, and chile ($22–$28). Mashima Reserve Rib Eye Cap, sliced thick and served on fingerling potatoes with salsa verde, is a deal, at $42.
The user-friendly café on floor 5 is outfitted in stainless steel, with a beige and white color scheme and glassed-in kitchen. In addition to those tacos, there’s a terrific hamachi tostada, with chunks of fish mixed with yuzu vinaigrette and miso aioli, slices of red fresno chiles, and pickled fennel for just $8. Niçoise salad is topped with wild salmon, and a stellar, pan-seared crispy chicken floats in a pool of asparagus pozole verde ($23). When the scaffolding is removed from the building—projected to happen in the mid-2020—Bistro Verde will be able to add a 40-seat outdoor patio.
Here’s an additional opportunity to eat pizza and pasta at Nordstrom, from Seattle’s empire building chef Tom Douglas. His blistered, tender pie crusts have toppings such as house pepperoni and provolone and roasted oyster mushrooms with taleggio. The baked cauliflower mac and cheese features Seattle’s beloved Beecher’s cheddar, mixed with large pasta shells; it’s garnished with a scoop of raw cauliflower salad with pesto, to cut the richness (sort of). And look out for the “Toastie’s,” Douglas’s grilled cheese—particularly the unabashedly rich Beecher’s cheddar—tucked into slices of focaccia, with chives, parsley, and tarragon.
During decades of cooking in Seattle, Douglas developed a predilection for flavors from the Pacific Rim. The menu here is his version of almost every pan-Asian dish you’ve heard of, from kurobato pork potstickers to salty caramel chicken wings and chicken katsu salad. There’s bowl food here—a mix of six grains with kimchi, avocado, soft eggs, and toppings such as grilled lobster tail ($26, not the store’s best bargain).
It’s incredible to think that, even in Vegas, no retailer has thought to put a bar in the middle of the shoe department. Credit to Nordstrom for giving customers the opportunity to order a glass of Veuve Clicquot or a cocktail such as Husband Daycare (rye, amaro, ginger liqueur, Moroccan bitters) from the long, white counter, to help on decisions regarding Jimmy Choo knee boots and Golden Goose Purestar sneakers. Curated snacks include Brussels sprouts frites.
Designed by Rafael de Cardenas with a view of Broadway, this lounge has a handful of graceful sofas and tables, with a few seats at the bar. Up a winding staircase is a mezzanine overlooking the coats. Along with the requisite classic cocktails—martini, Manhattan, Negroni—there are signatures such as the Billionaire (bourbon, absinthe, grenadine, lemon). There’s also a focus on natural wines on the New World/Old World list and the same bar snacks you’ll find at Shoe Bar.
Oh Mochi Donuts
Located next to Hani Pacific, this kiosk features Douglas’s donuts, made with rice flour so they’re gluten free; they are also baked instead of fried, and come in flavors such as matcha and 12-spice with maple glaze. “The flavors aren’t too goofy,” says Douglas. The result is a chewy, mochi-style snack that’s not healthy but doesn’t carry the stale-oil taste of too many fried donuts. The concept has been so popular for Douglas—who sells them at Assembly Hall, his Seattle juice and coffee bar—that he’s looking for a dedicated space to sell them there.
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