By Jim Ferri
With more museums than you could shake a paintbrush at, New York is a cultural cornucopia. There’s plenty to do in New York, even on the coldest days of winter.
But there comes a time in your cultural wandering when you’ve had enough of the walking and need to sit. For me, thankfully, that’s often about the same time my stomach starts ringing its lunchtime alarm bell.
But since you’re often only partway through a museum, who wants to leave in search of a sandwich? Certainly not me.
If you agree, visit any of these eight great New York museums with good restaurants to ease those hunger pains.
I’m also tossing in another that doesn’t have a dining facility, but it has a solution to the problem.
Neue Galerie: Café Saborsky
The Neue Galerie is a Museum for German and Austrian Art across from the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Fifth Avenue. Inside it is the superb Café Saborsky, a Viennese coffeehouse, and restaurant that is a bit of old Vienna in New York.
Here you’ll feel you’ve stepped back into the Old World amid its beautiful carved wooden walls with ornate moldings, the chandelier hanging in the center of the room, the small marble tables, and fireplace mantel.
You’ll find many of the patrons here are from the local German-speaking community reading the local newspapers as they sip a Viennese coffee, or who return later for Spätzle, Bratwurst, Smoked Trout Crêpes and dozens of other delicious offerings, as well as some excellent Austrian wines.
Metropolitan Museum of Art: The Petrie Court Café
New York’s world-renown Metropolitan Museum of Art continues to be one of the great museums of the world. Which is why you would expect it to have a better offering of restaurants.
Yes, you can dine in the museum – and it has plenty of places to eat and/or drink – but unless you’re a Museum Member (memberships range from $60 – $20,000) or a Patron of the Metropolitan, you’re relegated to cafeteria-style eating as you dash from one section of the museum to the other.
There is the moderately priced self-service cafeteria on the ground floor, which offers pasta, snacks, and sandwiches. The American Wing Café is in a more upscale setting but provides more of the same.
More upscale (and a bit more expensive) is The Petrie Court Café and Wine Bar, a European-style restaurant set against the backdrop of Central Park. Offerings go beyond sandwiches and salads with more extensive entrées including brook trout and chicken, among others.
Museum of Modern Art: the Modern
MoMA has some good places to stop for a bite to eat as you’re making a world-wind tour of this magnificent museum. It has three restaurants – the Café 2 on the second floor, Terrace 5 on the fifth floor and the Modern on 53rd St. The first two require admittance to the museum, the third is open to the general public. The affluent general public.
You enter Café 2 through a modernistic espresso bar, place your order and pay for it at the counter. It is brought to you at a communal table. Terrace 5 is a full-service café with a view of the Sculpture Garden and has seasonal outdoor terrace dining. Its menu is more upscale than Café 2’s but is also more limited.
The Modern on 53rd Street, a bit east of MoMA’s entrance, is one of New York’s superb culinary experiences. Suffice it to say it has earned two James Beard Foundation Awards, three stars from The New York Times and one Michelin star. The Bar Room is usually crowded and noisy, but the dining room in the back is perfect.
Pierpont Morgan Museum: The Morgan Dining Room
The Pierpont Morgan Museum is the original private library of financier Pierpont Morgan. It has two restaurants.
The Morgan Café is in the glass-enclosed central court of the house. It’s the more casual of the two and serves sandwiches, salads, and soups. Here they trend more towards gourmet than you’re likely to find in other museum restaurants.
The second restaurant is The Morgan Dining Room. And it is precisely that: a small restaurant in the original Morgan family dining room in the restored nineteenth-century brownstone.
It’s a small place, though, only about 25’ X 25’ with a glass wall, and entered via the central lobby of the museum. Its menu, inspired by the cuisine of early-twentieth-century New York City, includes Pork Loin Milanese, Roasted Scottish Salmon, and Chilled Maine Lobster Salad. The New York Times rated it as “…probably the best museum canteen in New York City.”
Both are open only for lunch (the Café until 8:00 pm on Fridays). Admission to the museum isn’t required to dine in either of them.
Whitney Museum of American Art: Untitled
Making the move with it downtown is its popular restaurant “Untitled,” with a contemporary American menu. It now occupies a ground-floor location in the museum. It’s open for lunch and dinner, and also offers coffee and pastries in the morning and weekend brunch.
On the museum’s eighth floor there’s also the Studio Cafe, which serves toasts, soups, salads, and other light fare.
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum: The Wright
In the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, aka the Guggenheim, “The Wright,” the menu “emphasizes seasonal, local, and sustainable” ingredients. Since it’s in the Guggenheim, however, the setting is perhaps even more important than what’s on the menu or your plate.
You needn’t enter the museum to access The Wright since the restaurant is accessible from Fifth Avenue. It’s geared mostly towards sit-down meals, but If you only want a snack, small plates are served at the bar.
Museum of Arts and Design: Robert
You can’t beat the view at Robert, the restaurant at the Museum of Arts and Design on Columbus Circle. Naturally, many others feel the same, since you must book in advance for one of the prized window tables. But it’s worth it for its fantastic views of Central Park and Columbus Circle.
Named for a New York party planner and personality, it aptly describes itself as “a modern classic.” Since its opening in 2009, it’s become quite popular with New Yorkers for both its view and New American menu.
Most people don’t think of Fraunces Tavern as a museum, but more as a place for a drink. But it’s the oldest building in New York City and where General Washington made his farewell speech to his officers. The two floors above the restaurant and bar include a small museum and the room in which Washington spoke. The bar and restaurant attract mostly Wall Street types and tourists, and the food is hearty.
The Frick (no restaurant but…)
The Frick at Fifth Avenue and 70th St. is one of the most outstanding and small museums in New York. When we visited, it had a special collection of Picasso’s sketches, which quickly became crowded. It’s good that we arrived early in the morning.
It holds some of the great art treasures of the world just about every room filled with masterpieces. Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s Mother and Children sits in the hallway across from Françoise’s Boucher’s portrait of his wife, next to two Vermeers. Free audiotapes provide a good overview of the many treasures here.
Unfortunately, this great, small, intimate museum doesn’t have a restaurant. There is a workaround, however. Go to the little museum shop and ask for the list of neighborhood restaurants they recommend.
Then have a leisurely lunch around the corner before continuing your cultural foraging.