Atmosphere: Chic and cherry. Hours: Monday through Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Thursdays, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.; Saturdays, 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Price range: $3.25 to $4.50. Reservations: no. Credit cards: Lord and Taylor, American express. Special facilities: Free parking in outdoor lot; elevator makes third floor room accessible to handicapped; high chairs for very young diners.
It happens every summer: The kids won't stop growing, and it becomes painfully clear that the clothese that saw them through spring won't do for fall. The only solution is the annual shopping spree.
We chose a Thursday to get on with the refurbishing job. By 6:30 in the evening, we were in need of something to eat and a respite from the afternoon's shopping. We stopped in at the Cafe at Lord and Taylor at Seven Corners.
The Cafe is basically a lunch place, but on Thursday evenings, hours are extended through 7 p.m. In its former life, the Cafe was the Bird Cage, specializing in tea sandwiches served with little scoops of carrot and raisin, fruited gelatin and grated beet salads.
At Seven Corners, the Bird Cage was a circular room -- just like a big bird cage -- and its center core was hung with what seemed to be hundreds of bamboo bird cages. That's all gone; the Cafe is done in a contemporary orange and green print. The carpet is the color of grass, and the tile aisles look like white brick. The menu also has undergone a revolution. Gone are the prix fixe salad/sandwich and dessert-from-the-cart lunches. Everything is a la carte and the choices run from an exotic chicken and grape salad with fresh spinach and orange wedges, $4.75, to the more ordinary bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich, $3.75.
Although lines sometimes snake down the corridor at lunch time, dinner is not the most popular hour at the Cafe. The large room was almost empty at 6:30 p.m. and our needs were seen to almost immediately. (This has not been our experience at lunch time when service is incredibly slow, even when the restaurant is half empty.)
The dinner menu at the Cafe is the same as the luncheon menu. We thought the portions might be too small, but we found the soup plus sandwich or salad and dessert was an adequate summer dinner.
The soup of the day was corn chowder, 90 cents a la carte. It was rich and spicy with a sprinkling of corn. It was not, however, a milky, sweet type of chowder. For our main courses we ordered a grilled cheese with bacon sandwich, $3.65, a grilled cheese with tomato sandwich, $3.50, a baked ham and swiss sandwich, $3.75, and quiche with spinach salad, $4.50.
The grilled cheese sandwiches were nicely buttered, crisp and grilled to an appetizing brown. No complaints from that department.
The baked ham and swiss was another matter. Our daughter, who ordered it, thought the sandwich would be baked. She had visions of melted cheese dripping over ham. It was not the Cafe's fault, but the disappointment on the face of the diner was clear.
"No problem," said out waitress, whisking the sandwich away. "We're grill it for you."
Quiches at the Cafe come in three flavors: bacon, mushroom or spinach. The mushroom quiche I had tried at lunch one day had been marvelously light and creamy; the crust had been perfect.
This time the bacon quiche did not come off as well. The crust was soggy and the bacon had too meaty a flavor. The accompanying spinach salad, however, was superb. Dessert at the Cafe is still served from a rolling cart. The selection had been depleted by those who had dined earlier and our choices were limited to pecan pie or black forest cake, $1.50 each.
A note at the bottom of the Summer Specials menu announced that in July "a la mode" on dessert was complimentary. (In August, fruit sherbert is complimentary.) The black forest cake, smothered in icing-like whipped cream and stuffed with maraschino rather than bing cherries, had few redeeming qualities.
The pecan pie was very sweet. But then, that's why most people order peacan pie.
As a rest stop on a busy shopping tour and as a light summer meal, we thought the Cafe came off well. Dinner for four came to $22.47, including tax.