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Embrace the Fine Art of Dining
This article was written by Melissa Davidson, one half of the CityPASS social media duo. After her recent visit to San Francisco, she was inspired by the wonderful food she found at the San Francisco CityPASS attractions.
On a recent trip to San Francisco, my husband and I wanted to check out the final days of Richard Serra’s exhibition at SFMOMA. We popped in, took a look around the atrium and caught a glimpse high above of a flickering grid of tiny lights before a kind employee politely told us the museum wasn’t open for the day.
Lucky for us, the museum’s restaurant was open, and we were starving. We decided to eat an early lunch in Caffé Museo before submerging ourselves in art. After all, one must be properly fueled to fully appreciate art.
Located on the first floor of SFMOMA, the café’s walk-up counter was inviting and the menu looked tasty, albeit pricey. I easily decided on the soup of the day, which was a simple and nourishing yam soup, and a fresh mixed greens salad. A good place for a nosh and people-watching on Third Street, Caffé Museo was the perfect pit stop pre-opening. And we didn’t stuff ourselves so much that we couldn’t enjoy a casual walk through the museum.
Part of the fun of using our San Francisco CityPASSes was eating the museum fare. We were at these museums already, so why not give them a try, if not for the convenience and ease, then for the delicious, creative and fresh dishes? It goes without saying you can expect to pay a bit more at museums, but don’t forget they usually use lots of local, fresh, organic ingredients. The vibrant orange soup and dark green salad definitely put a smile on my face!
The next day, at the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park, we grabbed a bite at the de Young Café, this time after several hours of art viewing. My husband, whose eyes are typically larger than his stomach, ordered a healthy quinoa salad with lots of fresh herbs and veggies, but the star of his meal was the “fall-off-the-bone” tender chicken cacciatore with porcini, fennel, carrots, onions, capers, faro and mushrooms. He loved it. The flavors blended well and warmed our insides.
The menu even recommended a wine pairing for each dish. Had he been in the mood, he might have enjoyed a glass of Jade Cabernet Sauvignon. As for me, I was perfectly content chowing down a huge, moist Rice Krispie treat topped with a thick layer of dark chocolate and a sandwich.
On the East Coast, the next time you’re in Philly visiting attractions with your Philadelphia CityPASS and have a need to calm cranky kids, stop by Please Touch Museum’s eatery, the appropriately named "Please Taste Café.” It offers a pasta station with fresh veggies and homemade sauce, hand-crafted pizzas, homemade soups, and grilled or baked items. The café also offers gluten, dairy, nut and egg free foods. Please Touch Museum is such a fun place, it’s hard not to enjoy everything it has to offer, including the restaurant’s variety of treats.
If plastic trays and straws aren’t quite upscale enough, perhaps something more sophisticated will entice you. Count on New York City museums to serve up high-end, visually impressive restaurants.
The Modern is one of the favorites. Located on the ground floor at MOMA in Midtown Manhattan, lunch will run you $55 for a two-course meal plus dessert and $70 for a three-course meal plus dessert. Be prepared to tempt your taste buds with foie gras, rabbit terrine, tartars and palette-cleansing desserts. The Modern might be that restaurant to check off your bucket list, or maybe you’re just having a business lunch. Call for reservations, (212) 333-1220 or visit www.themodernnyc.com.
You can always eat in the restaurant’s Bar Room if you want a more casual setting and rustic menu. Or, on the second floor of MOMA, there’s Cafe 2, specializing in pasta, salumi, panini and other Italian dishes ordered deli-style and served at large communal tables.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, American Museum of Natural History and Guggenheim also have fantastic restaurants.
The Guggenheim’s The Wright, named for Frank Lloyd Wright, who designed the Guggenheim, comprises only 58 seats. A New York Times article (Jan. 2010) describes the room itself, which can also be entered from the street, as “largely white, with lots of sweeping curves that arch to the ceiling and a sinuous communal table in the middle, both of which manage to evoke the circling ramp and spare aesthetic of the museum building without mimicking them.”
“Our old cafe was a get-your-own-tray cafeteria with photos of artists and a kind of rinky-dink buffet,” said Maria Celi, the Guggenheim’s director of visitor services and retail operations. “Some of the old-timers may miss those photographs, but people are more sophisticated now about food, and that is something we had to recognize that if we are going to grow the repeat visits we want.”
Big names in fine dining, such as Wolfgang Puck, have extended to museums across the country, including many museums included in CityPASS. Over the past several years, Wolfgang Puck has partnered with museums in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Atlanta and Toronto.
Visitors to Boston’s Museum of Science can enjoy views of the Charles River and Cambridge while eating Wolfgang Puck pizza in Riverview Café. Catering services are also available.
Many museums offer a similar experience, and while you’re enjoying the fine art that brought you to the museum in the first place, you can also embrace the fine art of dining. Bon appetit!