NYC’s Fanciest Department Store Serves Shabbat Dinner

New York City's most upscale store is serving up flanken and babka every Friday.

Upon entering Barney’s, the uber luxury retailer on Madison Avenue in Manhattan, be prepared to be enveloped in beauty: Elegantly designed handbags from Celine; sapphire rings of the richest blues from McTeigue & McClelland; movie star worthy sunglasses from Dior and Givenchy.

What you might not expect to see is flanken. But it’s there. On the top floor of the flagship store, in its well known and well loved restaurant, Fred’s.

On Friday evenings, from 5 to 9 pm, you can order flanken or stuffed cabbage, Estelle’s chicken soup with matzoh balls or potato latkes with homemade applesauce at Fred’s, the go-to eatery for ladies who lunch, and increasingly for those looking for dinner, too. For the last few months, Chef Mark Strausman has been preparing old world Shabbat dishes for his restaurant’s patrons who hunger for traditional Jewish food.

As Chef Strausman explained, many of those ladies who fill his restaurant at lunchtime are moms and often, empty nesters, too. Shabbat dinners at Fred’s are, he said, “…a service for my customers. I’m here to care for them. ” And to complete this virtuous circle, Strausman has noted an uptick in guests on Friday night.

And why Jewish food in a menu that reads largely Italian? Fred’s was named by Strausman in honor of Fred Pressman, the former chairman of Barney’s and son of the store’s founder. Barney Pressman’s son is credited with turning the store around, transforming it from a discount clothier to a high-end temple of the finest in clothing and accessories, for women and men. Father and son Pressman were Jews from New York. Jewish food roots are part of the family tree.

And so, for all the reasons listed above, Chef Strausman, who has his own Jewish food memories, felt it made sense to have the flanken and other Eastern European dishes as part of the restaurant’s offerings. In fact, when you go to Fred’s for lunch, tucked into the menu that lists Fred’s iconic salads and pizzas and grilled fish dishes, is a separate card that reads:

Fred’s Knows Good Taste

Join Us For Shabbat Dinner

Friday 5pm – 9 pm

And while you won’t find Shabbat candles when you go to Fred’s for Shabbat dinner – by law, open flames are not allowed in restaurants – you will find sliced challah in the bread basket circulated by wait staff as well as a variety of Eastern European delicacies. And for dessert, you can choose from two types of babka, a brioche like loaf sweetened with chocolate or apple and cinnamon. Chef Strausman makes them himself.

On a recent Friday night, the current majority owner of the store, Richard Perry, and his wife, clothing designer, Lisa Perry, were there. To start their meal off they ordered one of the special, Friday night dishes – a 3” high piece of the soft, rich flanken, royally ensconced on a whipped mound of mashed potatoes and crowned with grated white horseradish, a dish grand enough to feel right at home in its posh surroundings.

Photo credit Mark Strausman

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