10 Best Museum Restaurants
Museum restaurants are no longer an afterthought. Find some of the best meals at Rijks at Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, In Situ at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and Nerua at Guggenheim Bilbao in Spain.
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V&A Café, Victoria and Albert Museum, London
The Victoria and Albert Museum isn’t just the world's largest museum of decorative arts and design, but it’s also home to the world’s oldest museum cafe. James Gamble, William Morris and Edward Poynter designed the original Victorian period rooms, which have been serving hungry museum-goers since 1868. Today, in addition to grabbing the likes of a brie, pistachio and spiced apple chutney sandwich, diners can choose a proper hot meal with poached salmon or roast duck leg, followed by a coconut, clementine and polenta cake. For the ultimate experience, plan your visit around the Sunday afternoon tea, a historically accurate recreation of Queen Victoria’s posh pastime, complete with crustless cucumber sandwiches and gooseberry tarts.
In Situ, San Francisco Museum of Art
In 2016, The New York Times called In Situ "the most original new restaurant in the country", because it features rotating dishes from other chefs, spanning years and countries. For example, the current menu lists a Maine sea scallops dish that was served at NYC’s Le Cirque in 1986, a wasabi lobster circa 2013 at Restaurant Tim Raue in Berlin and Oops! I Dropped the Lemon Tart, a 2012 favorite from Osteria Francescana in Italy (currently number two on the list of World’s 50 Best Restaurants.) The selection is curated by Chef Corey Lee, whose other restaurant, Benu, holds a much-coveted three Michelin-star ranking.
Rijks, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
Come to Rijksmuseum for the world-class Dutch art (Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Vermeer), then stay for the world-class restaurant Rijks. The locally leaning menu helped earn Rijks a Michelin star in 2016. Its best of 2017 tasting menu tempts with Brussel sprouts with curry, veal sweetbread ceviche and pear frangipane. Keep an eye out for globally-acclaimed guest chefs, who periodically pop up throughout the year. Past chefs included Tim Raue from his eponymous restaurant in Berlin (one of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants), and André Chiang, who most recently helmed the two-Michelin-starred Restaurant André in Singapore.
The Source, Newseum, Washington, D.C.
Part of the Wolfgang Puck empire, The Source is a sprawling affair, spanning three floors in a modern, airy design. (Take note of more than 2,000 bottles of wine along the two-story, glass-enclosed wall.) The focus is on modern Asian fare, and the extensive dinner menu ranges from a whole roast duck for two to vegetarian dan dan noodles. Lunch doesn’t disappoint either, where you can opt for a dumpling flight (shrimp and carrot, pork belly and cabbage), chirashi bowl or crispy chicken bao buns. Go all out for the popular dim sum tasting menu at brunch, sampling bacon and sausage fried rice, Amish chicken wontons, steak and egg siu mai and more.
Café Jacquemart-André, Musée Jacquemart-André, Paris
Too often, museum cafes are drab spaces that have more in common with high school cafeterias. Not so at the Café Jacquemart-André, a jewel box of a space that allows you to feel as though you’re actually dining in one of the museum’s galleries. (It was the mansion’s former dining room.) It's not just about looks, though. The café serves a light lunch (quiches, salads, etc.), a popular brunch, as well as some of the finest French pastries you’ll ever find in a museum.
Terzo Piano, The Art Institute of Chicago
Located in the Renzo Piano-designed Modern Art wing of the Art Institute of Chicago, Terzo Piano’s minimalist decor guides your eyes to Chicago’s dramatic skyline views. The views aren’t the only aspect worth consuming. Chef Tony Mantuano (the James Beard Award winner behind Chicago’s Spiaggia) is responsible for the modern Italian menu, which emphasizes local and organic made-from-scratch fare. Gnocchi with mushrooms, egg yolk and shaved truffles is among the crowdpleasers, but you can’t go wrong with tagliatelle with lamb bolognese, seared hake with salmon roe or a mulled red wine chocolate cake for dessert.
Nerua, Guggenheim Bilbao, Spain
It’s the 20th anniversary of Guggenheim Bilbao, designed by Frank Gehry. Celebrate at Nerua (closed for the holidays until Jan. 18), a World's 50 Best Restaurants pick, where you’ll find a minimalist setting for the modern menu. Michelin-starred chef Josean Alija and his team create the seasonal menu a year out, exemplified in a five-, nine-, 14- or 18-course tasting menu. Those springing for the latter get to sample an eclectic assortment including grilled frog legs, langoustine with pollen eggnog, monkfish liver with whiskey and prawn sauce, turnip tatine with bone marrow and yucca pie with banana ice cream. The abbreviated five-course menu isn’t too shabby either, getting you oysters in brown butter sauce, salted leeks and shrimp and an orange-and-mint sponge cake.
The Modern at the Museum of Modern Art, New York City
The Rijks isn’t the only museum restaurant to boast a Michelin star. The Modern, featuring a seasonal menu from Chef Abram Bissell, holds two Michelin stars for its sophisticated American dishes. (It also won four James Beard Awards and a Wine Spectator’s Grand Award.) Current offerings include charred avocado with king crab and spiced breadcrumbs, chestnut ravioli with black truffles, roasted lobster with gala apples and champagne-poached chicken and black sesame custard. Experience the menu in the Bar Room if you can’t nab reservations in the main restaurant, or try for a coveted seat at The Kitchen Table in order to savor the tasting menu while watching all the kitchen action.
Otium at The Broad Museum, Los Angeles
Just a few years old, Otium has made a name for itself with its eclectic New American fare in a trendy ambiance, while redefining the concept of stuffy museum restaurants. Chef Timothy Hollingsworth put in time at French Laundry before taking on Otium, but don’t expect fine French fare here. That’s not a bad thing, since diners are confronted with a laundry list of small plates instead. A recent menu spanned the globe with chicken tostadas, korubuta pork short ribs, falafel, hamachi and Peruvian scallops.
Esker Grove, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis
Keep an eye on Esker Grove at the Walker Art Center, a 2017 James Beard Foundation semifinalist for Best New Restaurant. Here, chef Doug Flicker experiments with duck with yaki onigiri and mussels with octopus and pimenton, although comforts such as grilled cheese and a corned beef sandwich can also be found. Brunch earns rave reviews, where you’ll find French toast with duck confit, semolina porridge and homemade maple doughnuts.