The City’s Best Museum Restaurants
The sleek, contemporary, high-design space befits its New Museum setting, with tables fashioned from recycled aluminum and steel and wood-scrap stools. But the menu is classic Birdbath (an offshoot of beloved lunch spot City Bakery), with can’t-miss pretzel croissants, kale salad, pizzas, sandwiches, and even a special New Museum Cookie, made with chocolate chunks, mango, and quinoa.
This small, elegant museum is devoted to 20th century German and Austrian art (think Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, Max Beckmann, Otto Dix), and it’s fittingly housed in a gorgeous restored 1914 mansion. The dining room at Sabarsky channels Vienna’s cafes in their early-20th-century artistic and intellectual heyday by means of antique furnishings and fabrics. Food from chef Kurt Gutenbruner (Wallse, Blaue Gans) hews simple and good: chocolate-infused coffee, spatzle, sausage, and pretzels are among the appropriately classic offerings.
Take your pick of Danny Meyer (Union Square Cafe) dining experiences here — up front is the more casual Bar Room, ideal for drinks and bites, while the dining is suitable for a special sit-down meal. Either way, enjoy chef Gabriel Kreuther’s seasonal, creative cooking. Yuzu-marinated langoustines; grilled foie gras with pistachio praline; and baked quail with macaroni, spinach, and morels are among the inventive selections on the blowout, $155 tasting menu (dining room only), while Alsatian tarte flambee flatbread and horseradish-crusted salmon headline the Bar Room’s slightly more rustic fare. Cocktails aren’t ignored either: The house martini features Tanqueray infused with cilantro.
Another throwback museum restaurant, this one is housed with gilded age opulence in the Morgan family’s actual century-old dining room. It’s lunch-only (except on Friday nights until 8pm at the more casual Morgan Cafe), but what a way to lunch: amid white columns, a marble fireplace, and silver place settings. The small lunch menus offers mostly classics a la lobster salad, chicken Paillard, roasted salmon. The Pierpont Salad is a house-signature riff on the Cobb, made with grilled chicken, bacon, Vermont Cheddar, tomatoes, haricot verts, a honey-Dijon dressing.
The Museum of Arts & Design named their restaurant for legendary party planner Robert Isabell, who died in 2009. The design, a chief draw here, is sufficiently flamboyant to honor Isabell’s over-the-top style (the man wasn’t afraid to adorn a ceiling with 10,000 roses or gild a naked woman entirely in gold body paint); there are lighting installations and a room-encompassing sculpture in the form of hovering Plexiglas panels. The other draw is the Central Park views, not to mention dinner nightly — a rare thing for a museum restaurant. The mostly straightforward menu has a few surprises, like a colorful summery watermelon, tomato, and kiwi salad, or smoked chicken and sundried tomato samosas — we suspect Isabell would have approved.
Normally, tasting Tibetan momos requires a trip to far-out Queens. But the posticker-like dumplings are served here (with chicken or edamame filling) to complement the Rubin’s Himalayan art collection. Other fare leans Thai (paneer curry, chicken korma), or Indian, including samosas and the wraps known as Frankies, similar to an Indian taco.
Danny Meyer conquers another museum’s restaurant, this one the high-ceilinged, rather charmless cafeteria inside the Whitney. Nevermind that — the updated coffee-shop grub makes sense for the space, and utilizes all that’s vogueish in this locavore era: greenmarket produce, seasonality, and namebrand Brooklyn producers. There’s a killer Reuben, perfect egg creams, and every iteration of burger and grilled cheese you could want. Though largely a breakfast and lunch destination, dinner is served Thursdays through Saturdays.
The spiral-shaped Guggenheim building could host no ordinary restaurant, and the Wright rises to the design occasion: the sleek, curved, futurist space created by Andre Kikoski won a James Beard Award for Best Restuarant Design in 2010. The menu from Bouley alum Rodolfo Contreras is a simple seasonal American lineup. Should you pop in for lunch (the restaurant does not serve dinner) you might dine on seared scallops with peaches and arugula, organic chicken schnitzel, or risotto with zucchini, mascarpone, and macadamia nuts.