Few things can work up an appetite like a dive into centuries of art and culture. Fortunately, a growing number of museums around the world take the guesswork out of where to dine during your visit by featuring gourmet cafés and restaurants right on the premises. When you take in an exhibition and then enjoy a leisurely lunch without the added hassle of transportation, you can relax and maximize your museum time, too — although in some places like the Acropolis Museum in Athens and the Modern, you can also dine at the restaurant without visiting the museum. In Malibu recently we did both at the Getty Villa, which was so pleasant even in winter that we place it at the top of our museum “must feast there in 2017” short list:
Café at the Getty Villa
The Mediterranean-inspired menu at the Getty Villa’s big al fresco restaurant (located behind the villa) may not be vast, but it is based on fresh local ingredients that feature organic produce whenever possible, and pretty much everything is delicious. My simple dish of spaghetti Bolognese was tastier than many a similar dish I’ve had in Italy. Here, you order and pay first and then waiters bring the food to whatever table (inside or out) you have chosen. Closed Tuesdays.
Drago at the Petersen Automotive Museum
The Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles showcases some of the hottest wheels around, and now has a restaurant to match. Drago Ristorante’s lunch menu is a tribute to the most popular dishes from each of the Drago Brothers and ranges from hand-cranked pastas (try the trenne all’amatriciana with pancetta and pecorino), savory burgers and delectable desserts like a frozen coconut cake. This is Italian cuisine with a contemporary kick.
The Modern at The Israel Museum, Jerusalem
The Israel Museum is Israel’s national museum and, with its wealth of archaeological and artistic treasures, you’d expect it to have a restaurant to match. And it does: The Modern, designed in an early modernist style, is the museum’s kosher meat restaurant and the menu is one of innovative new Israeli cuisine utilizing locally sourced ingredients. It’s the kind of creative cooking you’d normally expect to find in a trendy Tel Aviv restaurant. For menu details, check out modern.co.il.
Civic Museums of
While not restaurants in the strict sense, we make special mention of the singular specialty of Venice, the pocket-sized museum café. One of our favorites is the Culto Caffè e Cioccolato inside the Palazzo Ducale — the Doge’s Palace. As in other museum cafes in Venice, you’ll experience a high degree of design in very historic settings, with a superlative range of coffees (espresso is just the start!), wines, light dishes and pastries adding to the allure.
The Modern at MoMA,
No list of museum restaurants would be complete without mention of New York’s illustrious Museum of Modern Art, where the Modern offers gourmet fare overlooking the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden. Here desserts from Pastry Chef Jiho Kim and a wine program led by Michaël Engelmann, Master Sommelier, complement a seasonal menu. The Modern holds two Michelin stars. More details at themodernnyc.com
Acropolis Museum, Athens
If the idea of relaxed gourmet dining with amazing Acropolis views sounds good to you, well, we agree: The second-floor restaurant is the place to tuck into feta cheese from Dodoni, wrapped in phyllo pastry from Zagori, with sesame and homemade yellow pumpkin sweetened with asteroid anise and many more savory and sweet small plates and entrées. They also serve a traditional Greek breakfast daily until noon, and it’s a winner: Think koulouri (bread roll with sesame) served with Cretan gruyere, two fried eggs with prosciutto from Thrace, pancakes with grape molasses and tahini, and full cream Greek yogurt served with thyme honey. And, every Monday-Thursday during lunch, Thodoris Matoulas plays the harp. theacropolismuseum.gr/en/restaurant