Museum Restaurants Worth Your Palate Slideshow
Café Sabarsky at the Neue Galerie (New York, N.Y.)
German and Austrian art and design is the heart of this museum, and its Cafe Sabarsky lends much to the atmosphere with its dignified European elegance. After getting your fill of Klimt's spectacularly robed ladies, get your fill within the caf's wood-paneled walls, brocade upholstery, and marble tables. Enjoy the rich selection of authentic strudels and tortes (recommended is the Sachertorte, a dark chocolate cake with apricot preserves) and selection of Viennese coffees. There are of course traditional meat and sausage-based entres, and many other options, like the sptzle with mushrooms, and Bavarian soft pretzels.
Mitsitam Native Foods Café at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian (Washington, D.C.)
Mitsitam meaning "lets eat" in the native language of the Delaware and Piscataway people invites visitors to try indigenous foods of several regions: Themed food stations, like Northwest Coast (examples of dishes include cedar planked fire-roasted salmon and a cold side dish of wild purslane, sunchokes, and yellow beets with ginger dressing) and Great Plains (buffalo chili, root vegetables) mean that though served cafeteria-style, the fare at the Mitsitam Cafe is anything but standard.
Iris at the North Carolina Museum of Art (Raleigh, N.C.)
White and airy and surrounded by gardens, Iris is in keeping with its artful surroundings. The North Carolina Museum of Art has a fine arts collection spanning culture across the ages, and includes such exhibits as John James Audubons "The Birds of America". Inventive meals include seared scallops with light red curry lemongrass broth and forbidden black rice. Sunday brunch is replete with self-styled omelettes topped with Iris' grainy mustard Hollandaise, teas and sparkling sodas, and their popular scones.
El Café at El Museo del Barrio (New York, N.Y.)
Reflecting the artistic offerings of its small, lively host museum, El Cafe provides visitors with tastes of the Caribbean and Latin America; bright and engaging works of art are reflected with bright flavors. Empanadas, Cuban sandwiches, and salads are offered alongside choices like Pupusas con Vegetales: a handmade thick corn tortilla filled with vegetables and cheese.
Ray’s and Stark Bar at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (Los Angeles, Calif.)
Although decorative arts and design are but one part of this large museum's collection, clearly much thought was put into making its restaurant a decorative statement. Lots of energetic red and retro ambiance sets the tone for this Mediterranean-inspired eatery, which overlooks the palm-surrounded Resnick Pavilion; small details like silverware drawers in each table charm diners. People-watch as you try the squid ink pasta with mint and bottarga; top it off with a dessert of dark chocolate mousse and hazelnut brittle.
TASTE at the Seattle Art Museum (Seattle, Wash.)
This contemporary yet stately setting, with plenty of natural light, hosts artistically presented meals with a focus on fresh, healthy foods. The menu changes frequently, reflecting the produce and artisanal food from local suppliers, exemplified by lunch option "Louie Louie": butter lettuce, arugula, avocado, Oregon pink shrimp, and deviled egg. The restaurant often works in tandem with museum events; for a recent film noir series, TASTE's bar crafted the "35mm Manhattan."
The Moss Room at The California Academy of Sciences (San Francisco, Calif.)
This coolest of science museums has so much to see given that they house not just a natural history section but also a planetarium, aquarium, and a four-story rainforest you won't want to have to leave just to eat. Luckily, they happen to have not one but two restaurants, the casual Academy Caf and the upscale Moss Room. The latter offers lunch service away from the masses in an intimate, serene space with a "living wall" covered with plants and ferns. An organic menu has items such as heirloom tomato salad and grilled California yellowtail with local asparagus, green garlic, and gribiche egg sauce.
Caffè Museo and Blue Bottle Coffee Bar, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (San Francisco, Calif.)
The urban-vibed Caffe Museo offers the cuisine of the Mexican Yucatan Peninsula, presented casually via tortas and salads (try the Calabazas a La Yucateca with roasted green and yellow zucchini, tomato, red onion, jalapeo, cilantro, pumpkin seeds, queso fresco, and sour cream); sit indoors or out on the patio. For dessert and some caffeine, head up to the Blue Bottle Coffee Bar on the rooftop of SFMOMA. The desserts are inspired by the art; try the colorful, blocky white-velvet Mondrian cake.
Museum Cafe at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (La Jolla, Calif.)
This museum by the sea puts a Mediterranean scene in mind; that impression's only magnified when you dine at its European-style cafe; the sunny, white courtyard setting abounding with plants is charming. The weekend brunch is a particularly popular choice here; also give the regular lunch menu a try with its inventive sandwiches like Local Butternut Squash Panini on sourdough with truffle butter, wild arugula, mozzarella, and manchego cheese.
Mr. Rain's Fun House at the American Visionary Art Museum (Baltimore, Md.)
The American Visionary Art Museum is non-traditional, eclectic, and quirky, showcasing a variety of exhibits from 3-D art to amazingly intricate toothpick sculptures (don't knock 'em until you've seen them!). The museum's resident restaurant, Mr. Rain's, is just as funky in an upscale kind of way. Weekdays, a prix fixe lunch is offered, where guests might choose potato and leek soup with chile oil, a roasted vegetable sandwich, or pheasant sausage. The dinner menu may begin with the house pickle plate, and offers such items as shrimp and grits with Grafton Cheddar grits, spinach, and bacon. A creative cocktail selection tops off the menu.