Best Museum Restaurants
Photo: Andrea/Fotolia

Museums all over the country appear to be competing to see who can have the best and most glamorous restaurant with the most famous chef, much to the benefit of museum patrons. Instead of the cellophane-wrapped stale ham sandwiches of previous years, they can now enjoy a spectacular spread from world-renowned chefs such as Wolfgang Puck, Abram Bissell, or Dani Volpi.

With the art from the surrounding galleries spilling onto their walls, museum restaurants are exceptionally beautiful venues for a light meal or a celebratory dinner. Most are accessible without entering the museum, although the hope is that people will come not only to eat, but also to enjoy a portion of art appreciation.

»Provenance, Cleveland Museum of Art

Provenance, Cleveland Museum of Art


With its permanent collection of over 45,000 works of art from all over the world and free admittance, the Cleveland Museum of Art is one of the most visited art museums in the world. With Provenance, the museum's elegant and serene restaurant overlooking the bright, light atrium and featuring an international delectable menu, people have even more reason to frequent this exceptional museum.

The restaurant is organized around stations: The Garden Station offers fresh seasonal salads and hot soups; the Heart Oven produces pastas, pizzas, and hot sandwiches; the Tandoor Oven and Grill offers international dishes, burgers, grains, legumes, and claybread; and Fresh Baked Pastries Station has a range of delicious sweets. There is something for everyone, whether you come for a quick meal after exploring the museum or are attending a lavish wedding on the restaurant's premises.

The Cleveland Museum of Art, 11150 East Blvd, Cleveland, OH 44106, website, Phone: 216-707-2600 Photo: Provenance

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»Cafe NOMA, New Orleans Museum of Art

Cafe NOMA, New Orleans Museum of Art


When you decide to take a break from looking at masterpieces by Degas, Monet, Renoir, Picasso, Matisse, and so many other art greats at the New Orleans Museum of Art, take a break at Café NOMA. This lovely modern place overlooks verdant City Park with its lagoons and lush greenery.

Executive Chef Chris Montero offers a light yet imaginative menu of artisanal cheeses, delicious salads and paninis, and great pastries. You might want to try the bruschetta with house-cured salmon, cream cheese, cucumber, capers, and green onions. The outdoor patio is great for a quick bite and a glass of wine with friends.

New Orleans Museum of Art, Collins Diboll Cir, New Orleans, LA 70124, website, Phone: 504-482-1264 Photo: Cafe NOMA

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»Bixby's, Missouri History Museum, St. Louis

Bixby's, Missouri History Museum, St. Louis

It says a lot about Bixby's when the most popular brunch place is located in the Missouri History Museum. This modern, spacious restaurant has spectacular views of Forest Park and its sleek décor and historical exhibits make for a wonderful place for a lunch, dinner, or Sunday brunch.

The menu is focused on local produce and is seasonal and imaginative with clear local influences. Try the healthy winter vegetable tart with parsnip puree, quinoa, carrot, butternut squash, and sauce verte. The restaurant is a great venue for celebrations and parties, and it is so popular that reservations are necessary.

Missouri History Museum, 5700 Lindell Blvd, St. Louis, MO 63112, website, Phone: 314-361-7313 Photo: Bixby's

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»Cafe Phipps, Phipps Conservatory and Gardens, Pittsburgh

Cafe Phipps, Phipps Conservatory and Gardens, Pittsburgh


For more than 120 years, the Phipps Conservatory and Gardens has been the city's most beloved green oasis, a place where Pittsburgh residents and visitors come to connect with nature and remind themselves of her timeless beauty and importance.

One of the newer additions is the neo-Victorian visitors' center, where visitors can take a break in Café Phipps, a comfortable and bright place with light yet imaginative dishes such as salads, panini, pizzas, sandwiches, and soups. The conservatory's strong environmental stewardship philosophy spills into the menu - the focus is on local and organic produce and during the season many veggies and herbs come from their own green rooftop.

1 Schenley Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15213, website, Phone: 412-622-6914 Photo: Cafe Phipps

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»Academy Cafe, California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco

Academy Cafe, California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco

Academy Café, located in the California Academy of Sciences in the heart of Golden Gate Park, is sleek and contemporary, offering a buffet-style international menu with delectable goodies prepared by renowned chef Dani Volpi.

Depending on your fancy, you can stand in line at the sushi station From the Pacific, mix your own rice bowl at Street Foods, or choose one of the many fresh, delicious sandwiches or salads at The Deli. You can also get something hot at The Pizza Oven or The Grill. Chef Volpi uses local ingredients and follows sustainability guidelines according to the mission of the Academy of Sciences, so his meals are sustainable, locally sourced, and seasonal, taking advantage of California's rich regional bounty.

55 Music Concourse Dr, San Francisco, CA 94118, website, Phone: 415-876-6121 Photo: funkyfrogstock/Fotolia

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»Cafe a la C'Art, Tucson Museum of Art

Cafe a la C'Art, Tucson Museum of Art


If you're in Tucson, you cannot miss visiting its historic Presidio District with its magnificent Tucson Museum of Art. Located in the beautiful 1865 Stevens House, the museum has more than 8,000 objects in its permanent collection, and some of them are hanging in the museum's celebrated Cafe à la C'Art.

After you stroll through the eight or nine exhibitions normally showing at the museum, treat yourself to a gourmet meal at this beautiful, serene place, whether you sit inside in the warm-colored dining room or in the magical courtyard Monet would be proud of. The menu has been created by Executive Chef Miciah Beard and one of the examples of his artistry is the pan-seared red drum bass with garlic sautéed spinach, exotic mushroom risotto, beurre rouge, crispy prosciutto, and balsamic reduction. Their mixed berry cake is legendary, so don't miss it.

150 N Main Ave, Tucson, AZ 85701, website, Phone: 520-628-8533 Photo: Cafe a la C'Art

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»Cafe Modern, Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth

Cafe Modern, Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth


Everything about the Modern Art Museum of Forth Worth is a celebration of modern art, from the spectacular Tadao Ando architecture to the more than 3,000 art pieces in the permanent collection to the superb seasonal meals in their classy Café Modern.

Overlooking the museum's pond and courtyard and enclosed in walls of glass, this beautiful restaurant will surprise you with seasonal, inventive meals made with fresh, local ingredients. Lunch is served on weekdays and if you try their venison pierogies, filled with ground venison, rutabagas, parsnips, pickled mustard seeds, and sour cream, you will get an idea of the artistry that Executive Chef Denise Shavandy and her team put into every meal. Dinner is only available on Fridays.

3200 Darnell St, Modern Museum of Fort Worth, Fort Worth, TX 76107-2872(University), website, Phone: 817-840-2157 Photo: Cafe Modern

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»Collections Cafe, Chihuly Garden and Glass, Seattle

Collections Cafe, Chihuly Garden and Glass, Seattle


Chihuly Garden and Glass, located in Seattle's cultural center and mere steps away from the Space Needle and the EMP Museum, is a magical place. Chihuly translates his dreams into spectacular glass objects that are exploding with colors and light. The art on display in the museum does not stop there but continues in the Collections Café, a quirky eatery with glass walls that open onto the greenhouse terrace.

The food is surprisingly good, with delights such as pork belly char siu with fried polenta, apple jam, hazelnuts, butternut purée, and aged balsamic, and there are some really inventive and original burgers. With a glass of local wine, coming for lunch is worthwhile even if you have been to the museum before and don't want to splash out on another ticket - the café's entrance is just next to the entrance to the museum.

Chihuly Garden and Glass, 305 Harrison St, Seattle, WA 98109, website, Phone: 206-753-4935 Photo: Collections Cafe

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»Esker Grove, Walker Art Museum, Minneapolis

Esker Grove, Walker Art Museum, Minneapolis


Esker Grove at the Walker Art Center is a delightful contemporary restaurant with floor-to-ceiling windows providing guests with a clear view of the museum's sculpture garden.

Sleek, modern furniture, a wood bar, and museum exhibits on the walls create a unique, pleasant atmosphere for the world-class menu that features New American cuisine with vegetable-focused dishes, a counter-serve lunch, and a classy dinner. To get an idea of what to expect from Executive Chef Doug Flicker and his team, try their chestnut soup with Brussels sprouts, grain mustard, and bone marrow or the endive and farro salad with blue cheese, delightful smoked honey, and vinaigrette.

723 Vineland Pl, Minneapolis, MN 55403, website, Phone: 612-375-7542 Photo: Esker Grove

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»Halcyon, Mint Museum, Charlotte, NC

Halcyon, Mint Museum, Charlotte, NC


Charlotte's Mint Museum houses the renowned Craft + Design collection as well as superb collections of American, European, and contemporary art. Besides the rich museum collection, the beautiful 145,000-square-foot building designed by Machado and Silvetti Associates is also home to the classy, "eye-candy" of a restaurant, Halcyon. Halcyon, or Flavors from the Earth, supports artisanal farms, wineries, and dairies from the Carolinas and offers seasonal dining experiences designed by Chef James Stouffer.

The farm-to-fork philosophy results in dishes that are visual art but also a gourmet's delight. To get an idea of what to expect, try the local mushroom tart with foraged mushrooms, goat cheese, and caramelized onions in puff pastry, served with mixed greens. The décor is classy but comfortable, suitable for both a casual lunch with colleagues and large celebrations.

500 S Tryon St, Charlotte, NC 28202, website, Phone: 704-910-0865 Photo: Halcyon

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»M. Wells Dinette, MoMA PS1, Queens, NY

M. Wells Dinette, MoMA PS1, Queens, NY


Located in the old school building that is now home to MoMA PS1, the Museum of Modern Art's outpost in Queens, M. Wells Dinette looks so much like a classroom that it could kill your appetite if you didn't enjoy your time at school. However, the communal-style tables that encourage chatting with your fellow diners and the daily menu on the chalk boards on the walls will make you forget your school-time pains.

The restaurant is run by the celebrated Canadian chef Hugue Dufour and his wife Sarah Obraitis, who offer delightful, almost decadent Quebec cuisine with a menu that changes daily. There is also a rooftop annex for warmer days that is perfect for drinks and snacks. The restaurant is open only during museum hours, but can be entered without going to the museum first. To get an idea of what to expect from Chef Dufour, try his pork tongue in a warm vinaigrette or the apple-scented blood pudding with sweet and savory kraut.

MoMA PS1, 22-25 Jackson Ave, Long Island City, NY 11101, website, Phone: 718-786-1800 Photo: M. Wells Dinette

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»Mitsitam Cafe, Museum of the American Indian; Washington, DC

Mitsitam Cafe, Museum of the American Indian; Washington, DC


After you have spent some time learning more about the life, literature, languages, history, and arts of the Native Americans in the fascinating Museum of the American Indian, stop by the Mitsitam Café and learn about gourmet Native American food. This very pleasant cafeteria-style restaurant overlooking the waterfalls and the gardens offers foods eaten in Northern Woodlands, the Northwest Coast, South America, Mesoamerica, and the Great Plains.

Each area has its own food stations where you can taste regional food and learn about cooking techniques, flavors, and ingredients. Chef Freddie J. Bitsoie (Diné [Navajo]) from New Mexico serves traditional as well as contemporary dishes, so you will be able to taste both fry bread and corn totopos and buffalo burgers.

National Museum of the American Indian, 4th St NW & Independence Ave SW, Washington, DC 20560, website, Phone: 866-868-7774 Photo: Mitsitam Cafe

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»Nasher Museum Cafe, Duke University; Durham, NC

Nasher Museum Cafe, Duke University; Durham, NC

The Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University in Durham is focused on the world's contemporary art from artists who have been unrepresented. You will certainly enjoy the museum's 13,000 works of art, but you do not have to visit the museum to enjoy the Nasher Museum Café, a sleek, modern café very popular with students for its superbly prepared food.

The menu relies on local, seasonal, and organic produce and is light and healthy, with great sandwiches and salads. The best deal are the platters, such as the Southern Accent Platter with Mississippi remoulade, pickled okra, celery sticks, spicy tomato jam and three of fried green tomatoes, deviled egg, local corn succotash, smoked Gouda macaroni bites, or NC pimento cheese toasts. The café also has a respectable wine list.

2001 Campus Dr, Durham, NC 27701, website, Phone: 919-684-6032 Photo: Nasher Museum Cafe

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»New American Cafe, Museum of Fine Arts

New American Cafe, Museum of Fine Arts

Enclosed in a magnificent, bright glass atrium filled with light, the New American Café is as outstanding as the grand art masterpieces in the surrounding European art galleries on one side and America's art on the other in Boston's renowned Museum of Fine Arts.

Comfortable chairs, glass walls, and cathedral ceilings create a pleasant venue for a great meal prepared from locally sourced, fresh ingredients. The menu is North and South American, as are the well-selected wines and craft beers. The selection of hot and cold small plates is delightful and so are the imaginative entrées and fresh salads. Try some of the New England favorites, such as seared cod cakes or Angus burgers with Grafton cheese.

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 465 Huntington Ave, Boston, MA 02115, website, Phone: 617-267-9300 Photo: New American Café, Museum of Fine Arts

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»Palettes, Denver Art Museum; Denver

Palettes, Denver Art Museum; Denver

With the magnificent art of the Denver Art Museum spilling onto its walls, the Palettes contemporary restaurant is a true part of its lofty surrounds: airy, elegant, and spacious with the floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Daniel Libeskind's architectural masterpiece, the Frederic C. Hamilton Building.

Palettes was the first American museum restaurant to feature an outstanding chef-driven menu and made museum restaurants a popular destination for food lovers. Chef Kevin Taylor continues with the contemporary theme with globally influenced fresh, locally sourced dishes such as ahi tuna poke with tropical fruit salsa, avocado coulis, crispy plantains, and hominy crisps. On Friday evening the chef prepares three-course fixed price dinners.

100 W 14th Avenue Pkwy, Denver, CO 80204, website, Phone: 303-534-1455 Photo: Palettes

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»Ray's and Stark Bar, Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Ray's and Stark Bar, Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Ray's and Stark Bar is located just off the main entrance to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, close to many other museums, in the heart of the artistic and social hub of the city.

It is the place for art patrons who also enjoy first-class seasonal and locally sourced cuisine, before or after checking out the latest exhibition in the museum. Surrounded by some of the world's most celebrated artwork, you can enjoy fresh, seasonal fare, everyone's favorites pizzas from the wood-burning oven, house-made pastas, fresh, mixed salads from the restaurant's own garden, and delicious shareable small plates. You will love their pork cheeks with spaghetti squash, pumpkin seeds, and caramelized apples, especially with one of the fine wines from the California-centric wine list, a good beer, or a fun cocktail.

5905 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90036, website, Phone: 323-857-6180 Photo: Ray's and Stark Bar

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»Robert, Museum of Arts and Design, New York City

Robert, Museum of Arts and Design, New York City


The Museum of Art and Design on Columbus Circle in New York City celebrates the link between art, crafts, and industry, starting with the interesting architecture of its home, continuing with its permanent collection of fascinating and often participative exhibits, and ending on top of the building, at Robert.

This elegant oasis under the Manhattan sky is a classy spot for lunch, sunset cocktails, or dinner with jazz on weekends. Chef Luisa Fernandes offers contemporary American cuisine with international touches on a small but superb menu - try her Moqueca with shrimps, sea bass, scallop, and coconut milk white rice.

2 Columbus Cir, New York, NY 10019, website, Phone: 212-299-7730 Photo: Maksim Shebeko/Fotolia

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»TASTE, Seattle Art Museum

TASTE, Seattle Art Museum

TASTE Café in Seattle's downtown Art Museum looks like one of the museum's galleries: sleek, modern, with bright and colorful original paintings on the walls and food that is art in itself.

Even the chairs are pieces of art, great design combined with comfort, perfect for lingering over a cup of coffee while checking your Facebook or munching on Chef Josie Urbidk's famous bacon and walnut pesto flatbread or the YSL Croque Monsieur sandwich. All food is made from fresh, seasonal, local ingredients. TASTE is also a great venue for celebrations, parties, and weddings, with great food served in an exceptionally beautiful environment.

Seattle Art Museum, 1300 1st Ave, Seattle, WA 98101, website, Phone: 206-903-5291 Photo: TASTE

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»Terzo Piano, The Art Institute of Chicago

Terzo Piano, The Art Institute of Chicago


If you decide to spend a rainy Sunday morning revisiting your favorite Picasso, Seurat, or Hopper at the beautiful old Art Institute of Chicago, treat yourself to a fabulous brunch at Terzo Piano on the third floor. The place is bright, filled with light, has a wall of glass overlooking the city, and is minimalist and flawless, with food that matches the environment in its artistry, flavors, and presentation.

Chef Tony Mantuano and his team use fresh, local ingredients to prepare interesting dishes such as smoked salmon tartine with avocado mousse, cucumber, radish, egg, and pickled red onion on a toasted, sesame ciabatta. Treat yourself with a mimosa or a glass of wine from their nice selection of Old and New World wines or come back on a sunny day to enjoy their lovely terrace filled with museum sculptures.

The Art Institute of Chicago, 159 E Monroe St, Chicago, IL 60603, website, Phone: 312-443-8650 Photo: Terzo Piano

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»The Buffet Restaurant, Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth

The Buffet Restaurant, Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth

Whether you love Monet's exquisite colors or the timeless beauty of pre-Angkor bronze Bodhisattva Maitreya, you will enjoy a visit to Kimbell Art Museum, where every one of the 350 art pieces is a masterpiece. Your taste for beautiful things will also be satisfied in the museum's lovely, bright buffet restaurant.

The exquisite covered courtyard is filled with light and you might spend a lot of time in this serene space over one of Chef Shelby Schaefer's delicious soups or quiches. Everything is made from scratch using fresh, seasonal ingredients, and while the seating is cafeteria-style, the food is first class. Dinner is offered on Fridays, with a similar, slightly expanded, menu that is equally fresh and healthy.

3333 Camp Bowie Blvd, Fort Worth, TX 76107, website, Phone: 817-332-8451 Photo: mizina/Fotolia

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»The Modern, The Museum of Modern Art, New York City

The Modern, The Museum of Modern Art, New York City


A world-class museum like MOMA requires a world-class restaurant, and The Modern fully qualifies. With its spectacular setting, featuring a wall of glass overlooking the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden, and Chef Abram Bissell's superb, innovative menu that is constantly changing, it is no wonder that the restaurant holds two Michelin stars, four James Beard Awards, and the Wine Spectator's Grand Award.

The Modern offers a fixed price menu for lunch and dinner that changes according to the availability of fresh, seasonal ingredients. The wine list is exceptional, let the sommelier suggest a wine pairing. If you are interested, you had better plan ahead and make a reservation at least a month in advance. The lounge and bar room offer an a la carte menu so you can have a chance to explore Chef Bissel's seasonal menu and superb cocktails and wines. For a true foodie experience, book a private tasting at the chef's table in the heart of the kitchen.

The Museum of Modern Art, 9 W 53rd St, New York, NY 10019, website, Phone: 212-333-1220 Photo: The Modern

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»The Soda Shop, National WWII Museum, New Orleans

The Soda Shop, National WWII Museum, New Orleans

Located on a 6-acre campus in downtown New Orleans, the National WWII Museum describes the American Experience in the Second World War, the war that changed the world. The exhibits and stories explain why it was fought and what we can learn from it today.

The museum is large and you will need to boost your energy, so stop by the delightful Soda Shop. This counter-serve eatery has the quaint décor of a ‘40s diner, with murals and several exhibits that describe scenes from WWII. The menu leans toward comfort food - mac and cheese, hot hearty soups, hot dogs, massive sandwiches and, of course, sodas; the root beer float is one of the most popular.

945 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70130, website, Phone: 504-527-6012 Photo: The Soda Shop

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»The Source by Wolfgang Puck, Newseum, Washington, DC

The Source by Wolfgang Puck, Newseum, Washington, DC

Located in the modern building on Pennsylvania Avenue just around the corner from the White House and the United States Capitol, Newseum's seven levels of interactive galleries explain, defend, and promote free expression and the First Amendment's five freedoms: freedom of speech, religion, press, petition, and assembly. The museum's restaurant The Source is a must-stop, either before you embark on exploring the war history or after, to recover from learning about the horrors of war.

This elegant, beautifully furnished modern restaurant by celebrated Chef Wolfgang Puck consists of a lively, casual bar and lounge on one level, a sophisticated main dining room on another level, and a private dining space underground. The menu is the stuff of foodies' dreams and you might never advance any further than the appetizers, such as crispy suckling pig with pear puree and pickled cipollini with sweet bean sauce or spicy tuna tartare with sesame-miso cones, pickled ginger, shaved bonito, and tobiko. A two-story glass wine wall holds over 2,000 bottles from the restaurant's collection.

575 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC 20565, website, Phone: 202-637-6100 Photo: The Source by Wolfgang Puck

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»Untitled, The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York

Untitled, The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York

The Whitney is one of those museums New Yorkers like to visit often - it features modern, often still living, artists and their works and it always has something new going on. On top of that, the Whitney has the Untitled, a modern and sophisticated restaurant with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the Meatpacking District.

Minimalist décor with super-comfortable, colorful chairs provide the right setting for the treats Chef Michael Anthony offer his patrons: Art on a plate; and not only in presentation, but also in the flavor of each piece of super-fresh, seasonal vegetable, spice, or piece of meat. There is nothing pretentious in the fried fish lettuce wrap with radishes and tartar sauce or the goat cheese fritters with beet tahini and carrot slaw, but it is new and the flavors are exquisite. The beer and wine lists are small but perfect.

Whitney Museum, 99 Gansevoort St, New York, NY 10014, website, Phone: 212-570-3670 Photo: Untitled

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25 Best Museum Restaurants