Destination-Worthy Museum Restaurants

Photo by Ellen Silverman

Dining out has become entertainment, education and art all in one, so it’s no surprise that museum restaurants have evolved from quick stops to placate the kids to destinations in their own right.

In Situ, the restaurant that accompanies the impressive redesign of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, is a museum of food: Chef Corey Lee replicates iconic dishes from famed chefs of different eras. It’s a tricky conceit but brilliantly executed.

The vegetable-driven cuisine at Esker Grove, the new restaurant in Minneapolis’s contemporary Walker Art Museum, takes inspiration from the museum’s collection: An entree of roasted parsnip with coffee, caramelized goat’s milk and escarole combines the drama of Edward Hopper with the whimsy of Yayoi Kusama.

At the new Sweet Home Café in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History & Culture, African-American food traditions old and new are separated by geographic origin: Agricultural Coast, Creole South, North States and Western Range. It’s comfort food as history lesson.

The Art Institute of Chicago’s recently renovated Terzo Piano is helmed by another Chicago legend, Spiaggia Chef Tony Mantuano. Otium, in The Broad, a contemporary art museum in Downtown LA, opened in late 2015 with food as innovative and irreverent as the art on display. Across town, LACMA’s Ray’s and Stark Bar serves California wines and wood-fired cuisine on a sunny patio.

Patrons of The Modern, located in New York’s Museum of Modern Art but with a separate entrance, can enjoy a view of the Sculpture Garden. Farther uptown, some of the city’s best Italian food—which is saying a lot—can be found at Storico, in the New York Historical Society Museum & Library. Executive Chef Tim Kensett, an alum of London’s River Café, serves dishes that delve deep into Italian culinary tradition with a personal spin, like buckwheat pizzoccheri pasta with Fontina, speck and poppy seeds.

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Published on June 15, 2017