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Museum dining: your experiences


Gifted Gourmet
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ah yes, I went to St. Peters. You must know a thing or two about the parochial school system in DC. :smile: My graduating class consisted of 13 kids. Not exactly a huge school, but I imagine that could have changed since then ('90).

My favorite things from Smithsonian gift shops were the freeze-dried ice cream and the onion-paper Constitutions you could buy from the American History Museum (and others.) god I was a weird kid.

I agree about the restaurants nearby. Unfortunately (or not!), their presence goes virtually undetected by the tourist masses.

I suppose we should just be happy they haven't managed to plant a McD's on the base of the Monument or something. :biggrin:

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Some thoughts/questions having read this thread:

(1) are you reluctant to stop your museum enjoyment and to heed the call of nature (not that call!!) and seek out a more formal meal within the museum itself during lunch or dinner?

(2) are you willing to settle on eating just a quick bite at a museum snack bar, or the like, so as not to waste precious visiting time?

(3) are you so intent on the dining that you will leave the museum and seek out dining within the environs or the immediate neighborhood?

Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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I worked at the Kennedy Center in a previous life, and it gets a huge number of tourists because it's a memorial to JFK in addition to being a theater. The view from the roof in amazing, but the food used to be awful. The restaurant has been revamped so I want to try it next time we go to a show. The best part about working there was being allowed onto the roof terrace on the 4th of July to watch the fireworks on the Mall.

The National Gallery of Art (hillvalley is right, it's not part of the Smithsonian) has resisted fast food, but it's restaurants very wildly in quality from pretty good to awful. The sit-down place on the ground floor (Garden Cafe?) is a nice place to get a bowl of soup and a cup of coffee. The cafeteria ranges from bad to acceptable. The gelato is good but pricey and my kids love the moving walkway that runs past the fountain to the East Wing. :smile:

The Smithsonian buffet tucked away in the castle is only for members and staff. It's unmemorable but a more civilized meal that McD's at the Air & Space.

The Corcoran Gallery's restaurant is nothing special. If you're there on a weekday I recommend hoofing it to Breadline.

Heather Johnson

In Good Thyme

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MassMOCA in North Adams, MA, has a decent restaurant called Eleven--I had a pizza with fresh mozzarella, basil and tomato there last week. I think they're trying to attract a non-museum crowd with the restaurant itself as destination. The decor and food is kind of studied cool.

The Cooper Hewitt makes you pay admission to eat at the restaurant!

I do tend to get over-involved with the galleries in museums generally, trying to cram everything in, but I'm always happier with myself if I take a food break. I needed that hotdog to get through the Whitney Biennial.

Margo Thompson

Allentown, PA

You're my little potato, you're my little potato,

You're my little potato, they dug you up!

You come from underground!

-Malcolm Dalglish

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  • 3 weeks later...

The Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in KC has a fabulous restaurant, Cafe Sebastienne. Unbelievable, it's pretty much a destination in its own right.

As for the National Gallery of Art, ahhh, Restaurant Associates, how I love and hate thee. Thine stuff looks so good, and yet is overpriced, gummy, cold, or otherwise invariably not worth it.

What do you mean I shouldn't feed the baby sushi?

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Some thoughts/questions having read this thread:

(1)  are you reluctant to stop your museum enjoyment and to heed the call of nature (not that call!!) and seek out a more formal meal within the museum itself during lunch or dinner?

(2)  are you willing to settle on eating just a quick bite at a museum snack bar, or the like, so as not to waste precious visiting time?

(3)  are you so intent on the dining that you will leave the museum and seek out dining within the environs or the immediate neighborhood?

(1) heck no - all part of the day. and the eyes fuzz over so quickly anyway.

Sometimes I go to the Seattle Art museum just to eat and then feel guilty if I don't at least pop into a gallery or two.

(2) If the food isn't decent, I wouldn't bother. More likely if there is nothing else around (such as the roman ruins outside Coimbra, Portugal - reached by bus) and I need a break.

(3) yes, but there is something enticing about museum cafes.

Grew up going to LA County Art Museum - always an excuse to go to The Egg and I or the Farmers Market. But I also liked the cafeteria inside the museum.

The Getty, in Los Angeles, is better known for its buildings, gardens and the restaurant than its collection.

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  • 1 year later...

article from the NY Daily News

The Cafe at the Rubin Museum of Art, 150 W. 17th St.

Asian chef's salad with red curried shrimp and chicken and cumin-scented sliced steak sandwich with mint chili aoili and horseradish raiti
seems a cut above the usual ....

Bonnie and Tom Strauss Cafe in the American Folk Art Museum, 45 W. 53rd St. between Fifth and Sixth Aves

The Terrace Cafe at Brooklyn Botanic Garden, 900 Washington Ave

Abigael's at the Museum, Museum of Jewish Heritage, 36 Battery Place, between West St. and First Place

If you live in New York City, or have visited there, have you any feedback on these museum cafes?

Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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The lounge at the Ontario Art Galery is a good rest-stop when surveying the collection but since OAG is in the Toronto original Chinatown we usually plan for a substancial dinner elsewhere in the neighborhood. The Royal Ontario Museum on the other hand, houses the restaurant of a local celebrity chef James Kennedy. This is worth a detour in your itinerary.

The cafeteria in the Louvre cannot conceivably be made worse while the old one in the NY Metropolitan, the one you enter through the Roman collection was not bad except for the wait staff who were very emphatic in telling you that the tab does not include gratuities. They deal with a lot of foreign tourists, just add the damn gratuities in the bill.

Gato ming gato miao busca la vida para comer

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When dh and I visited Paris a few years ago, I felt rather elegant eating under the ceiling in this restaurant:

http://www.musee-orsay.fr/ORSAY/orsaygb/HT...fe?OpenDocument

They served a cold buffet which was tasty.

And eating here:

http://www.musee-jacquemart-andre.com/jand..._services_3.htm

almost made me feel like I owned the place.

~ Lori in PA

My blog: http://inmykitcheninmylife.blogspot.com/

My egullet blog: http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=89647&hl=

"Cooking is not a chore, it is a joy."

- Julia Child

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The restaurant on the top floor of the Pompidou center in Paris is very good, quite pricy though. I'm not sure if it really counts though, as it is sort of separate from the actual museum. I just had some nibbles there as it was in between lunch and dinner, so I do not recall exactly what I had. Still, a highly reccomended break from walking around the museum.

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In NYC, we have the much publicized Modern at the MOMA which is a cut above the typical museum eating but the other cafe at the MOMA is also pretty good with a really interesting system. You take a number and give your order, then you place the number on the table. The servers find you by identifying the number on your table.

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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I worked at the Kennedy Center in a previous life, and it gets a huge number of tourists because it's a memorial to JFK in addition to being a theater.  The view from the roof in amazing, but the food used to be awful.  The restaurant has been revamped so I want to try it next time we go to a show.

I finally got my chance. :hmmm:

I wound up running late for my 7:30 curtain last night (tenor Ian Bostridge, program of Schubert Lieder, for the curious :smile: ) and left my ticket at home requiring a trip to the box office to get a replacement. So, rather than try Notte Bianchi as planned I risked a meal at the bar at the Roof Terrace Restaurant. The two appetizers, while edible, were among the most haphazardly plated offerings I have ever had set in front of me and very poor value for the prices they are charging. The Roof Terrace year after year tries to present itself as a convenient fine dining destination. It's convenient if it's right before curtain and you have no other options, but that is the best that can be said of it.

Baby beet salad arrived as a tangle of frisee next to chunks of quartered beets and a small wedge of nearly flavorless goat cheese. Beets and frisee were underdressed with a lackluster vinaigrette, and sprinkled with a few chives that added color rather than herbal sharpness. $12.00. When I compare it to the beet salad at Corduroy it makes me want to cry.

Smoked Salmon with caper mayonnaise Four slices of smoked salmon, baby romaine dressed with not quite enough vinaigrette, and a blob of caper mayonnaise, slapped on a plate. $14.00. I have had better, tastier smoked salmon at Bagel City.

The bread was spongy and full of sunflower and flax seeds and the unsalted butter was the right temperature but also flavorless - a theme for the whole meal.

I drank a half bottle of Latour Puligny-Montrachet. Total bill $80 including tip. A ripoff, especially with far superior food two blocks away.

Heather Johnson

In Good Thyme

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My husband and I recently returned from San Francisco, and we went to the Museum of Fine Art at the Legion of Honor. It is way at the end of the Presidio, and there is nothing nearby, so we went to the cafeteria for lunch. It was excellent!

We had a delicious creamy carmelized onion soup with a selection of interesting and yummy tea sandwiches. We did not order drinks, but had water instead. They had several pitchers of water set up with different flavorings. One pitcher had fresh cucumber and mint, another with sliced oranges and lemons, one with pineapple rind, etc. They also have the coolest china.

By the way, here is my recreation of the onion soup:

Creamy Carmelized Onion Soup

Edited by scordelia (log)

S. Cue

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Two museums in Baltimore: The Walters is a superb museum; their food court is basically cold sandwiches and salads. The Baltimore Museum of Art has an upscale restaurant, Gertrudes, run by minor-celebrity chef John Shields, that is vastly over priced and mediocre, with poor service. There are many good restaurants in Baltimore, so enjoy the museums and walk elsewhere for the food.

He who distinguishes the true savor of his food can never be a glutton; he who does not cannot be otherwise. --- Henry David Thoreau
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The cafeteria in the Louvre cannot conceivably be made worse while the old one in the NY Metropolitan, the one you enter through the Roman collection was not bad except for the wait staff who were very emphatic in telling you that the tab does not include gratuities.  They deal with a lot of foreign tourists, just add the damn gratuities in the bill.

No reflections on current museum dining to offer, but I do have some strong memories of that old cafeteria in the Metropolitan, as that museum was one of the perennial favorite field trip destinations for public schools throughout the New York metro area (probably still that way to this day, but right now I'm talking way the heck back in the 1960s). Even as a kid I remember thinking the Met cafeteria's food was a major bummer, and a major mis-match with the grandiosity of the room's decor. I guess I was a little food snob already at age eight, eh? And I was also enough of a wise-acre at that age to notice how outrageous the prices were. Plus they served you hot water for tea in those little heat-proof glass carafes, which are a hazard to life and limb in a cafeteria setting--ever try to jockey a full tray of food, plus one of these little glass hand-grenades full of near-boiling water, through swarms of school-kids while searching desperately for an unoccupied table? Recipe for disaster, that was.

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The restaurant at the Hartford Atheneum (a very good, small museum) is a destination in itself for locals.

Hey, thanks for the tip, Sandra. The Harftford Atheneum is indeed a very good museum--for both their permanent collections as well as their visiting exhibits. I go there about twice a year when I am back visiting in CT but have never eaten there...

Two other nice places for food and art, both:

The Georgia O'Keefe Museum in Santa Fe. (click)

In addition to great food, they also have a relatively good and extensive list of wines by the glass. Nice outdoor seating too.

It's been mentioned before on the forum quite a few times, but The Cafe Sabarsky at The Neue Gallerie in NYC (click) is very good. It's also a beautful space that truly evokes cafes in Vienna. The museum is nice, but small. (I've only been to it once). Nevertheless, we often go the cafe for an Austrian pastry and coffee break during visits to the Met which is right nearby. The cafe was started by Kurt Gutenbrunner, chef and owner of Wallse, also in NYC.

Edited by ludja (log)

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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The cafeteria in the Louvre cannot conceivably be made worse while the old one in the NY Metropolitan, the one you enter through the Roman collection was not bad except for the wait staff who were very emphatic in telling you that the tab does not include gratuities.  They deal with a lot of foreign tourists, just add the damn gratuities in the bill.

No reflections on current museum dining to offer, but I do have some strong memories of that old cafeteria in the Metropolitan, as that museum was one of the perennial favorite field trip destinations for public schools throughout the New York metro area (probably still that way to this day, but right now I'm talking way the heck back in the 1960s). Even as a kid I remember thinking the Met cafeteria's food was a major bummer, and a major mis-match with the grandiosity of the room's decor. I guess I was a little food snob already at age eight, eh? And I was also enough of a wise-acre at that age to notice how outrageous the prices were. Plus they served you hot water for tea in those little heat-proof glass carafes, which are a hazard to life and limb in a cafeteria setting--ever try to jockey a full tray of food, plus one of these little glass hand-grenades full of near-boiling water, through swarms of school-kids while searching desperately for an unoccupied table? Recipe for disaster, that was.

The meat plate I had at the Met was at the second floor cocktail lounge-like area,

I can not comment on the cafeteria having never eaten there I have never found a caf I like.

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Two art museums in Honolulu have cafés with lovely food & settings.

The Honolulu Academy of Arts, set in a beautiful mansion, has the Pavilion Café in a landscaped courtyard with teak tables and a light, modern menu of sandwiches (many on focaccia), soups, salads, and always a special pasta entree. I am enamoured with their daily fruit crisp and always reserve that when I make my restaurant reservation. Besides an enviable collection of more than 35,000 pieces of Western and Asian art, the museum is architecturally interesting, boasting a European-style cloisered walkway as well as Japanese and Mediterranean courtyards. An elegant respite for lunch in the midst of the bustling city.

The Contemporary Museum, on sprawling grounds on a residential hillside overlooking the city, features the Contemporary Café with an indoor-outdoor garden setting amidst changing works of art. Light fusion menu of appetizers, salads, soups, sandwiches, and desserts. Another jewel in the city.

SuzySushi

"She sells shiso by the seashore."

My eGullet Foodblog: A Tropical Christmas in the Suburbs

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The initial entry here mentions the museum where I had one of my favorite experiences: the National Gallery in London. There is an upstairs dining room with tables placed next to a huge window with a spectacular view of the city. All I remember from the meal was a curried red lentil soup...but it was delicious. For a determined six or seven-hour visit, it was a tranquil break, a relief shifting focus from sight to taste.

During that same trip, the V & A had a wonderful spread at lunch, if more traditional than postcolonial: a perfectly roasted turkey, fresh salads....

At the Uffizi in Florence, there is a very small bar with an open view of a terrace that is popular for tourists since it's situated high above the Piazza della Signoria, the civic center. The selections are very limited, though they expand at lunch time. Very pricey. However, it the middle of the tourist season when lines for entry stretch around the block, it is good to have a place to go for a cappuccino, a freshly squeezed orange juice and a spinach and mozzarella panino.

Here in D.C., the introduction of gelato to visitors of the National Gallery of Art caused a flurry of excitement especially since it comes with those darling little plastic shovel spoons that I used to carry back from trips to Italy. The texture and some of the flavors are good. However, since all the fixings are imported, you don't get the quality that you find in superior Italian gelaterie; there's no fresh strawberrry made with real fruit in spring, no fresh peach in July.... Right next to the gelato, there are selections of grain salads and a few other items which show that the place is trying to be good. However, if memory does not fail me, I believe the restaurant Kuna was started by a chef who was originally at the NGA. Quality may have slipped after his departure.

The diner affiliated with The Spy Museum has gotten some press, but I can't say anything about its quality.

One Christmas I received Museum Cafe's & Arts by Sharon O'Connor which is devoted to U.S. institutions. You're supposed to slide the CD of chamber music* into your system as you read recipes and look at the tasteful illustrations of still-life paintings (split pomegranates, bunches of pale green grapes, sections of orange reflected upon the surface of a polished tea tray in the house of Henri Fanton-Latour), black and white pleats of a cabbage leaf and a young girl towering over the words "CAKE WALK" in a collage.

*Sigh, yes, edited. How come everyone gotta no?

Edited by Pontormo (log)

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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One Christmas I received Museum Cafe's & Arts by Sharon O'Connor which is devoted to U.S. institutions.  You're supposed to slide the CD of chamber museum into your system as you read recipes and look at the tasteful illustrations of still-life paintings (split pomegranates, bunches of pale green grapes, sections of orange reflected upon the surface of a polished tea tray in the house of Henri Fanton-Latour), black and white pleats of a cabbage leaf and a young girl towering over the words "CAKE WALK" in a collage.

ordering it today . on your recommendation/description!

Sharon O'Connor - Museum Cafes & Arts with CD (Audio) (Sharon O'Connor's Menus and Music)    ISBN: 1883914345

Menus & Music Productions (ISBN: 1883914345)

Price: £ 13.69 

and I very much agree with you about the dining at the National Gallery in London ... the British Museum has a lovely place to enjoy some delightful food ...

Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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I have eaten at two memorable museum restaurants: that at the Musée d'Orsay, which was pleasant, although I can't remember the food particularly (it was more than 5 years ago, and details are sketchy).

Last February I was in London, and blew £50 on lunch (for one) at the Restaurant at the Tate Britain. Due to the half bottle of red I swigged on a largely empty stomach, I don't remember exactly what I ate; I do know that there was duck involved. It was a lovely lunch, part of a lovely day.

Agenda-free since 1966.

Foodblog: Power, Convection and Lies

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