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10 Museum Restaurants That Are Their Own Works of Art

By / April 19, 2016

“The Getty Center 2” by “Rachel Titiriga” via Flickr CC BY 2.0

When it comes to cultural experiences, there’s no better double dose of local flair than dining at a museum restaurant.

Far from a by-product of foot traffic and hungry visitors, museum restaurants often boast renowned chefs, one-of-a-kind views, unparalleled decor, and — perhaps most appropriately — creative menus that draw inspiration from the museum setting. From New York to LA and across the country in-between, many of the nation’s top museums boast restaurants that have earned praise and accolades in their own right. Don’t miss these exhibits — um, restaurants — when you’re visiting museums across the U.S.

Untitled, The Whitney Museum of American Art (NY, NY)

From renowned Chef Michael Anthony of Gramercy Tavern comes this stunning concept at the Whitney, in the Meatpacking District. Housed in a bright, light, open-concept space, the menu reflects the space itself and is filled with plates that could easily be considered works of art themselves. The chef’s dishes mirror the museum’s emphasis on American art, showcasing a menu of seasonal ingredients and inventive New American cuisines. The restaurant offers lunch, brunch, and dinner menus as well as a “Neighbors’ Night,” a take on happy hour available at the bar Sunday-Tuesday from 5:30 PM through closing.

The Modern, The Museum of Modern Art (NY, NY)

If you’re looking for proof that museum restaurants can serve up some top-quality dishes in addition to an unparalleled atmosphere, look no further than The Modern. Boasting two Michelin stars, a three-star NY Times review, and four James Beard Awards, this spot is so much more than its location. The kitchen is led by Chef Adam Bissell, and serves up two distinct experiences: a prix-fixe menu in the main dining room, and an a-la-carte menu in the bar room. The dining room overlooks the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden, including works from Matisse and Picasso, while the bar room offers an environment pulsing with energy and creativity.

Ray’s and Stark Bar, LACMA (Los Angeles, CA)

This indoor-outdoor concept sits alongside the LACMA’s sprawling courtyard, the centerpiece of the museum’s various spaces. They offer a main menu anchored in modern Mediterranean flavors — the cheese plates are particularly big hits — as well as brunch, cocktails, wine, and happy hour. But perhaps the most unique selections are found on the water menu, which includes bottle selections from 11 different countries that range in origin, taste, and mineral composition.

Back to school #mwellsdinette #ps1 #lic #queens

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M. Wells Dinette, MoMA PS1 (Queens, NY)

MoMA’s PS1 concept, located in Queens, is a unique exhibition-style gallery space that highlights experimental art that pushes the boundaries of traditional creativity. The dinette, the museum’s resident restaurant, is aptly provocative and experimental; a cafeteria-style eatery, the M. Wells Dinette reflects the space’s former function as a schoolhouse. Diners order off a rotating, ever-changing menu and sit at communal tables designed like desks, reminiscent of our childhood school days.

Delightfully quaint brunch in this charming little city. #queencity #charlotte #charlotterestaurantweek

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Halcyon, Mint Museum (Charlotte, NC)

With the tagline “flavors of the Earth,” Halcyon delivers on this promise with a seasonal dining experience highlighting the best ingredients local to the Carolinas and the greater region. Chef James Stouffer sources from artisanal farms, cheesemakers, and wineries to build a truly farm-to-table menu only elevated by superb service and a stunning atmosphere. True to the chef’s seasonal vision, the menu is constantly evolving.

별로 안좋아하는 #거베라 🌼마저 이쁘게 보이는 #cafeNOMA #gerbera #nola #cafe #Neworleans

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Café NOMA, New Orleans Museum of Art (New Orleans, LA)

Casual cool style reigns supreme at this cafe concept from Ralph Brennen. Overlooking the historic City Park, the cafe boasts a patio ideal for stretching out and enjoying a meal — or glass of wine — on a warm day. The restaurant only serves lunch, but nails a menu of elevated classics like the prosciutto grilled cheese, salmon bruschetta, and flatbread pizzas.

Lunch at The Modern

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Café Modern, Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth (Fort Worth, TX)

Focusing on sustainable and locally-grown dishes, Chef Denise Shavandy highlights the best local producers across the Texas space. They only offer dinner on Friday nights, where meals are often themed or featuring special guests, ingredients, or wines. The menus are globally conscious, and include dishes that pull from various cultures, such as the lemongrass chicken bahn mi, the achiote pork osso buco, or the duck confit and smoked carrot risotto.

Café a La C’Art, Tucson Museum of Art (Tucson, AZ)

Diners are warmly welcomed into this restaurant that feels like home — and tastes distinctly of the Southwest region. The mother-son duet behind the stellar menu are Tucson natives, and have curated a lineup of dishes that speaks to this city’s culinary pulse. Whether you’re dining inside or on the outdoor patio, this cafe offers breakfast, lunch, dinner, weekend brunch, as well as grab-and-go options from the counter.

Lunch view.

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Palettes, Denver Art Museum (Denver, CO)

While this list proves that museum restaurants are on the rise, Palettes was one of the original chef-driven concepts when it opened its doors in 1997. Floor-to-ceiling windows overlook the Hamilton building, an architectural gem, while the menu impresses with a series of selections that draw from global flavors and ingredients. The restaurant has also garnered attention for their specialty menus, often themed towards specific cultural cuisines or even the art itself — past standouts include Van Gogh and YSL-inspired menus.

Restaurant at The Getty Center, The Getty Center (Los Angeles, CA)

The Getty Center is often touted for being a 360-degree museum experience, but while its gardens and architecture receive praise its onsite restaurant has somehow remained a relatively well-kept secret. While the restaurant, as the entire museum, is only accessible via tram, it’s worth the ride uphill for one of the best dining views in the entire city. But even sweeping vistas of the Santa Monica Mountains and the greater LA area can’t overshadow the menu; seasonal and impeccably fresh, guests can order a-la-carte or opt for the chef’s prix-fixe.

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Nile Cappello is obsessed with: words, cotton candy, Southern California and eating her way across the world. She’s an online and offline over-sharer, screenwriter, only child and total klutz. She’s an expert in LA coffee shops, iced tea varieties and uncovering compelling and unique true stories.

More articles by Nile Cappello

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