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Museum Dining


Sandra Levine
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Ranitidine and I went to the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford to see the Marsden Hartley exhibit and were pleasantly surprised to discover that the Museum Cafe offered much more than pre-wrapped sandwiches and the like that we expected. This is a real restaurant that people go to even when they are not otherwise visiting the museum. We both had the $28 prix-fixe. There were two choices for the appetizer and main course, but no choice for dessert. R. had lobster chowder, perhaps a little too thick, but tasty and topped with a generous spoonful of cubed lobster meat. His main course was maple-glazed duck -- a generous portion with some crisp skin served over mashed potatoes and shredded sauteed cabbage. I started with a salad of arugula, rock shrimp and black olives, followed by a perfectly cooked piece of cod draped over buttery mashed potatoes, glazed with a sparking brown-ish sauce. Halved, roasted Brussels sprouts surrounded the mound of potatoes and fishThere were also tiny cubes of tart apple scattered here and there that added nothing, but could be ignored. I wasn't thinking about posting about the meal at the time, so I didn't take notes. Dessert was less successful -- a rather clunky black-walnut and chocolate tartlet, with a thick, tough crust and undistinguished chocolate chips embedded in a dry, nutty filling. Coffee (too weak) was included.

In addition to the prix-fixe (which was planned to honor Marsden Hartley's Maine connections) there were nice salads, sandwiches and other entrees. I didn't take a notes or ask for a menu, but I remember seeing an oyster po' boy.

What other museums or concert halls have acceptable restaurants -- casual or more formal. At one time Alice Waters was in negotiations with the Louvre, but nothing came of that. Anything else of interest?

Edited by Sandra Levine (log)
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What other museums or concert halls have acceptable restaurants -- casual or more formal.  At one time Alice Waters was in negotiations with the Louvre, but nothing came of that.  Anything else of interest?

Here in Washington it's very hit or miss. Most of the Smithsonian restaurants cater to vast hordes of tourists, who for the most part aren't interested in a sit-down meal. The Air and Space Museum now features McDonalds and Pizza Hut so that gives you some idea of their focus. The National Gallery of Art has four cafes and the food ranges from good to unacceptable. The Corcoran Gallery has a small but decent menu.

The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts has a nice restaurant (much better than their employee canteen :blink: ) but I haven't been in a couple of years so I can't vouch for the quality now. You're better off going to the Watergate next door for dinner.

The worst food I've had at a concert was at Lincoln Center, followed by the American Museum of Natural History. Never sampled anything at the Met Museum of Art. Fortunately, if I'm going to NY for an exhibit there are other options than dining at the museum. :smile:

P.S. How was the Hartley exhibit?

Edited by hjshorter (log)

Heather Johnson

In Good Thyme

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The exhibit was very good -- a chronological overview of Hartley's career. He painted only about 400 canvases in his life and there were over 100 in the show.

What you have described as museum food is, I am afraid, far more typical than what I had yesterday. Another museum that has decent food is the Allbright-Knox in Buffalo.

Edited by Sandra Levine (log)
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In New York City:

Cafe Sabarsky, at the Neue Galerie (Ronald Lauder's Austrian museum on Museum Mile) -- run by Kurt Gutenbrenner of Wallse. This too can be visited on its own.

Haven't been to the Jewish Museum in years, but I believe their cafe is still supplied by Manna, a catering company owned by a neighbor of mine. I just remember that the brownie I had there was the absolute best Kosher brownie I'd ever tasted. (Please do not turn this into another argument about kosher food!!)

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This is something I wrote in 2001, so it's dated especially with regard to the MoMa paragraph. But it could be a good starting point for anybody who wants to investigate the possibilities in NYC.

Museum Restaurant Oases Revealed

The best of NYC museum dining

by Ellen R. Shapiro

Right in your own backyard and under your nose, there are great dining opportunities that too often escape notice--because they’re hidden from street-view, not apparent to the casual observer or even to the conscientious neighborhood explorer. Just like hotel restaurants, the restaurants tucked inside the city's museums are an uncelebrated dining alternative, great for a change of scenery and pace, not to mention anonymity. All the better if you need a break from an exhibit or fortification for extensive art viewing, but you certainly don't have to be an art connoisseur to become an aficionado of museum dining.

All the way at the end of the peaceful outdoor pavilion at the MoMa are two of the museums three restaurant options (skip the third: a stand at the opposite end of the courtyard with sandwiches, drinks and snacks). The more casual of the two is The Garden Café, a cafeteria and casual restaurant. The selection, considering the format, is pretty extensive with lots of fresh veggies for salads (including fresh cooked beets, as opposed to the canned variety), daily soups, sandwiches and hot entrees. The room overlooks the patio and, though the tables and chairs are of the cafeteria variety, nice touches like the light fixtures--very MoMa-ish--add some spice and class to an old dining concept. Upstairs, for serious dining, is Sette MoMa. An Italian restaurant with an open and airy room, one of the best things about Sette is that you can sit outside on the balcony, overlooking the outdoor pavilion. It’s the best of the city: outdoor dining in one of the world’s finest museums, with nary a hint of street noise or traffic. The menu is familiar fashionable Italian with items like veal scaloppini, grilled salmon, fish and shellfish stew and plenty of pasta. On Thursdays and Saturdays, from 6-10, there’s also live jazz. The Garden Café, 11:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m., Fridays 11:00 a.m. - 7:45 p.m., closed Wednesdays. Sette, 12:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m., 5:00 p.m. - 10:30 p.m., closed Wednesday and Sunday evenings. 11 West 53rd Street, between Fifth and Sixth Avenues. After 5 pm, enter Sette from 12 West 54th St., (212) 708-9710.

The dining options at the Met are as plentiful as the art work (well, almost). The challenge is choosing best. From the Public Restaurant, the Bar/Café and the Cafeteria in one tastefully decorated expanse of a room, to the European Sculpture Court with snacks and afternoon tea at the museum’s old entrance, to the Roof Garden with unparalleled views of the park to the north, west and south and the city skyline to the east, to the Great Hall Balcony Bar, to the Trustees Dining Room (for members only, Associate level and above), the Met hardly wants for selection. The fare at all of the restaurants is straightforward. There's hot food at all the sit-down restaurants, while the others offer drinks, sandwiches and/or snacks. Top pick: the Public Restaurant’s Bar, where you can sip a drink while enjoying the room, the people watching and the art -- and you can order anything the café menu has to offer. Public Restaurant: Friday-Saturday 11:30 a.m. -10:30 p.m., Tuesday-Thursday, Sunday brunch 11:00 a.m. -3:00 p.m., (reservations, 212-570-3964). Bar/Café: Friday-Saturday 11:30 a.m. - 8:30 p.m.,Tuesday-Thursday, Sunday brunch 11:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.. Public Cafeteria: Friday-Saturday 9:30 a.m. - 8:30 p.m., Tuesday-Thursday, Sunday 9:30 a.m - 4:30 p.m. European Sculpture Court and Roof Garden: Friday-Saturday 10:00 a.m. - 8:30 p.m., Tuesday-Thursday, Sunday 10:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.. Great Hall Balcony Bar: Friday-Saturday 4:00 p.m. - 8:30 p.m., music 5:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.. Trustees Dining Room: Call for reservations as far in advance as possible (during regular business hours: 212-570-3975). Fifth Avenue at 82nd Street.

It’s no secret that the Upper West Side and Madison Avenue Sarabeth's are perennial favorites for Sunday brunch, but how about brunch or a weekday lunch at Sarabeth’s at the Whitney? Hidden behind eye-level walls, in the far corner of the bottom floor of the Whitney Museum of American Art, there are two delicious options for dining: the full menu at the restaurant and the makeshift counter for outdoor snacking (and smoking). The menu at the restaurant features Sarabeth’s favorites (excellent omelets, English muffins, and crispy sides of bacon) and the counter specializes in pastry: muffins, currant scones, sweet breads (the flour kind, not the gland kind) and surprisingly fabulous cappuccino and espresso. The best thing about the counter service is that you can grab a seat outside and enjoy the outdoor air without leaving the museum grounds. Sarabeth’s: Tuesday-Wednesday, Friday 11:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. (Café until 5:30 p.m.), Thursday 11:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. (Café until 7:30 p.m.), Saturday-Sunday 10:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. (Café until 5:30 p.m.). No reservations, be prepared to wait, especially during prime brunch hours. 945 Madison Avenue at 75th Street.

The Guggenheim, with its extraordinary architecture, offers the most straightforward dining option of all: one dining room, delicately and subtly decorated, a cafeteria-style selection, and off you go. The food is all fresh and good, if not supremely delicious. There’s an abundant salad and fruit bar, for which you pay by the ounce, about a dozen selections of baked goods and breads, sandwiches, cold drinks and coffees.  The room is cozy and welcoming and for those wishing to sneak in without entering the museum, there’s a direct restaurant entrance at the corner of 88th, just walk down the ramp and you’re there. Museum Café: Monday-Wednesday 8:30 a.m. - 6:00 p.m., Thursday 8:30 a.m. - 3:00 p.m., Friday-Saturday 8:30 a.m. - 8:00 p.m.. For additional information: (212) 423-3657. No reservations. 1071 Fifth Avenue at 89th Street.

A personal favorite: There's no more pleasant place for a casual lunch than at the Café at the Morgan Library. A favorite spot for both in-the-know locals and out-of-towners who got lucky, the big attraction here is the bright, open atrium space. With multi-story ceilings and equally large windows, you’ll feel like you’re in a private, protected garden oasis--and indeed you are. The menu is uncomplicated, featuring salads and other light fare (seasonal soups, quiche, sandwiches and such), as well as afternoon tea and Friday evening drinks and snacks. Café (Located in the Garden Court): Tuesday-Thursday 11:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m., Friday 11:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m., Saturday 11:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m., Sunday 12:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.. No reservations. 29 East 36th Street.

Ellen Shapiro

www.byellen.com

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This is something I wrote in 2001, so it's dated especially with regard to the MoMa paragraph. But it could be a good starting point for anybody who wants to investigate the possibilities in NYC.

Your paragraph on the Morgan Library is about to become a historical footnote. The museum will commence major major expansion and new construction around the end of this month. The Morgan Cafe will be one of the casualties. Its space will be no more.

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What you have described as museum food is, I am afraid, far more typical than what I had yesterday.  Another museum that has decent food is the Allbright-Knox in Buffalo.

Yes, it's usually dismal at best. The Boston Museum of Fine Arts is OK, but no more than that.

I'm embarrassed to say that I wouldn't have imagined Buffalo to have an art museum.

Heather Johnson

In Good Thyme

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We also enjoyed the cafe at the Atheneum, although the view of the courtyard was rather bleak.

We also like: Cafe Sabarsky, Sarabeth's at the Whitney and the Trustees' Dining Room at the Met for dinner, where no expense has been spared in construction, the tables are widely spaced and the room rarely busy at night. The food is acceptable.

Who said "There are no three star restaurants, only three star meals"?

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We have had lunch twice within the past couple of months in the public restaurant at the Met in NYC -- the latest, one week ago. We have tried the mushroom stuffed ravioli, the crab cakes and the antipasti plate, as well as two desserts: the key lime pie and the chocolate tart. Everything was delicious, and service was very efficient.

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Restaurant Associates runs the food services of many of the major NYC museums and a decent number outside Manhattan.

You can be assured that any of their places is at the least passable, as their cafeteria food is, and at their larger museums, they quite often have a full-service restaurant of good quality.

I worked for them a long time ago in a galaxy far far away.

Their site, Website should have a list of all their places.

Herb aka "herbacidal"

Tom is not my friend.

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When Moma was in Manhattan, the restaurant inside wasn't bad at all. Recently, I was at the American Museum of Natural History for the Vietnam exhibition, and had loads of fun at Cafe Pho. Definitely worth checking out.

Ya-Roo Yang aka "Bond Girl"

The Adventures of Bond Girl

I don't ask for much, but whatever you do give me, make it of the highest quality.

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Ah, yes. There was that time I dined at Allard's in Norwich after seeing some Bacons at the University of East Anglia and missed the last train to London. Hotels just love guests who check in without even a toothbrush! You have a point.

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I plan to catch up with Mr Hartley in DC during the summer.  I will probably follow my usual strategy - which is unresponsive to Sandy's question - of dining somewhere other than the museum. :cool:

Luckily all of the Penn Quarter restaurants, Cafe Atlantico, Jaleo, etc. are within easy walking distance of the museums on the Mall. You should do quite well. :smile:

Edit: forgot it's coming to the Phillips Collection. Different neighborhood, but decent food to be had.

Edited by hjshorter (log)

Heather Johnson

In Good Thyme

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I'll second that there is decent food to be had at the Phillips Collection in DC (and what a marvelous collection, too).

The Louisiana outside Copenhagen had a small but lovely menu a few years back.

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The restaurant at the Tate Modern, London, is very attractive and for lunch has good salads, sandwiches and a "real menu" which we didn't go for because of big dinner later the same day.

Of course, LML wrote a great post on the Guggenheim Bilbao Restaurant a while back

http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?act=ST...=2988&hl=bilbao

Edited by yvonne johnson (log)
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I've posted about the restaurant at Tate Britain before; pretty good with a superb wine list (though not the bargain it used to be, apparently). The National Portrait Gallery has a pleasant cafe. Second the Musee d'Orsay - I had a good cafe lunch there a couple of years ago, and the formal restaurant is said to be excellent. And the cream tea at the Eden Project isn't half bad either. :smile:

I used to eat in the Oxford Museum of Modern Art's cafe lots when I was a student, but haven't done so since I moved back to the city. And when we were on honeymoon in New Zealand we lunched in the cafe of Te Papa, the (then) new national museum in Wellington, which was very palatable - and the museum was utterly stunning.

Adam

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Oh, I'm sorry I wasn't clear. I meant that although I had only had bad food at the National Gallery in DC, their gelato is pretty good.

Never been to the Tate or Guggenheim although I'd be happy to sample the art and cuisine given the chance.

Bill Russell

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In Toronto, there are two museum restaurants that people go to for the food, as they are headed by well respected chefs. The Agora restaurant at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) is presided by Anne Yarymowich (formerly of Mildred Pierce). See here for sample menus or for a review.

JKROM with chef Jamie Kennedy, at the Royal Ontario Museum is also very good but unfortunately is closing at the end of April due to renovations at the museum. Apparently he's planning to do catering afterwards. As well, it seems that he wants to have a seasonal restaurant (I guess a la Stadtlander's Eiginsinn Farm) using local wines and foods at his farm in Prince Edward County.

I recently went to JKROM to sample some of Kennedy's wares before his departure. No notes - but here's the gist: I had to have for the last time, his very excellent frites with lemon aioli. Hot crispy fries dusted with thyme and salt accompanied with a very lucious aioli with lemon undertones. They were served on a plate in a huge heap, pouring out of a paper cone. Next came the goat cheese tart, which was a 4" quiche tart with asparagus and sliced grape tomatoes. Very silky, eggy tart with a lot of creamy goat cheese oozing through the centre. The entree was a pan fried vermillion snapper perched on top of swisschard, sun dried tomatoes, and roasted potatoes, with a tomato cream sauce. I finished off with a poached pear with creme anglaise scattered with a few blueberries and raspberries. Good bye JKROM.

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