To hear more about the Chintz Room and other Lazarus Dining establishments and to see objects purchased from the Lazarus Company, join Curator Emily Lang Saturday, January 17th at 2 pm at the Ohio History Center. Curator Talks are free with admission.
In late 2014, the Columbus Food League opened a re-imagined Chintz Room. The Chintz Room had become something of a legend in central Ohio, a dining establishment opened for 45 years in the downtown location of the Lazarus Company Store. The menu celebrates favorites of the former restaurant, including the famed celery dressing, in addition to current food trends, like a cauliflower steak. While many fondly remember the original incarnation of the restaurant, the opening created many questions for younger residents and new transplants to the city.
What was Lazarus?
The F and R Lazarus & Company was started as a one room men’s clothing store in Columbus, Ohio in 1851 by tailor and Prussian immigrant Simon Lazarus. Simon’s sons help grow the company rapidly into a large scale department store as they expanded into ready to wear clothing. On Monday, August 17, 1909, the company opened the doors of its new building on the northwest corner of High and Town Streets under the ownership of Fred Lazarus. This building became known as the flagship or “main store” of the company as it expanded throughout the 20th century. In 1929, several department stores, including Lazarus, combined to form the Federated Department Stores, headquartered in Columbus.
What was the Chintz Room?
In 1953, the fifth floor tea room was remolded and opened as the “Chintz Room”, named for its chintz-patterned curtains. The restaurant served both lunch and dinner and became infamous for its chicken salad with pineapples and pecans; it is still the most requested Lazarus recipe today. The Chintz Room became a destination point for residents of the city and visitors passing through; a jockey sculpture greeted visitors to its doors. Many women remember getting dressed up in white gloves and hats to go to the restaurant; others remember dining there as a special treat before seeing a live show downtown. The menu featured special items for children under 12 (golden macaroni au gratin) and teenagers (barbecued meat balls kabob in finger bun). The “wee tot” could indulge in JoJo ice cream sundaes; the toasted pecan ice cream ball with chocolate fudge sauce became a must have for many adult patrons of the Chintz Room. The dishes became so popular that Lazarus introduced a “take home” section for those not wanting to dine in with chicken salad, dressings, and desserts. As mall food courts became increasingly popular, the restaurants in Lazarus began to suffer. On January 30, 1998, the Chintz room closed after 45 years of service.
How many restaurants did the downtown Lazarus Company store run?
The flagship store feature dozens of restaurants throughout the years. Historians David Meyers, Beverly Meyers, and Elise Meyers Walker put together a comprehensive list of some of the dining establishments in their book Looking To Lazarus including the Highlander Grill, the Copper Kettle, the Buckeye Room, and the Colonial Room. There was even a cafeteria for workers and an executive dining room in the main building. However, the downtown store featured many smaller and specialized eateries including a bake shop and various pop up shops, so an exact number of restaurants has not been complied.
Did you ever eat at the Chintz Room? What do you remember about the food at Lazarus?
Emily Lang, History Curator