Getting Culture Is Hungry Business
Museum restaurants and cafes have come a long way from their roots as dingy cafeterias full of screaming kids and warmed-over chicken fingers. Sure, some of those still exist, but museums all over the U.S. are serving up head-turning cuisine featuring carefully curated flavors and thoughtfully sourced ingredients. From quick-bite stops to sit-down spots, these are just a few of our favorite museum eateries.
Stir, Philadelphia Museum of Art
One of the newest places on this list, Stir is also the fanciest. Designed by famed architect Frank Gehry as part of his work on the $200 million renovation of the PMA, Stir opened in late 2018. And it immediately caused quite a, um, hubbub. The space is gorgeous, full of wood and steel and frosted glass, and the food is excellent. Popular dishes include the chicken liver mousse, absurdly large potato gnocchi, and wild-caught striped bass with chanterelle mushrooms and a caramelized-onion butter sauce.
Mitsitam, National Museum of the American Indian
A cafeteria-style eatery in one of youngest museums in Washington, D.C., Mitsitam offers a spectrum of Native American cuisines. Try a buffalo burger from the Great Plains tradition, cedar-planked wild salmon from the Northwest Coast, mushroom-and-summer-squash tostadas from Meso America, and more.
New American Cafe, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Parked in a soaring, 12,000-square-foot atrium, the New American Cafe is a popular stop between American and European galleries. Snack on chilled soba noodles, chicken quesadillas, steamed mussels, or a local cheese plate, or just pop by for a beer or a glass of wine.
Otium, The Broad
The seasonal, oft-changing menu at Otium is masterminded by the former chef of Napa Valley’s famed French Laundry. Now, the Broad gets pretty hopping, so if you can’t get into Otium for spinach bucatini with bacon and clams or black cod with potatoes and sea beans, you’re not totally out of luck. Food trucks routinely line up outside this museum to feed the hungry masses waiting in line to get in!
Russ & Daughters at the Jewish Museum
New York City is full of museums with fabulous restaurants. Among the best, though, is this extension of the iconic Russ & Daughters. The original opened on the Lower East Side in 1914, and you’ll find all their hits—knishes, lox, herring, and more—at the Jewish Museum on the Upper East Side.
Terzo Piano, Art Institute of Chicago
Generally considered one of the best museum restaurants anyway, Terzo Piano—Italian for “third floor”—serves lunch, brunch, and dinner on the third floor of the AIC. Visit its chic dining room or sculpture-filled garden terrace for offerings like mushroom salad, rabbit cannelloni, a wagyu steak sandwich, and more.
Sunday at the Museum, Asian Art Museum
Visit San Francisco’s lovely Asian Art Museum for an equally lovely meal. The menu at Sunday at the Museum (which is open six days a week, oddly) offers snacks like chicken wings and ricotta toast with avocado, sandwiches—hoisin barbecue pulled-pork, yum!—rice and noodle bowls, and more. Or just stop in for tea and milk tea by San Francisco’s own Boba Guys.
Souper Jenny, Atlanta History Center
Come for the history, stay for the soups, salads, and sandwiches at Atlanta native Jenny Levinson’s much-loved Souper Jenny. Beat the heat with a cool cucumber-dill soup, or tuck into a PB&J made with Georgia Grinders Peanut Butter and Fairywood Thicket Jam.
TASTE, Seattle Art Museum
The bright, airy, art-filled cafe that is SAM’s TASTE is all about local: Almost every ingredient that goes into their food originates within a hundred or so miles of Seattle. Helps that it all tastes good, too. Favorites include the marinated mozzarella sandwich and the miso noodle bowl.
Photo courtesy of Pexels: Abdallah Maqboul