I love museums and I love to eat. Here are my favorite museum restaurants.

Southern California Museum Restaurants

Huntington Library, Pasadena

1919 has a sandwich/salad counter, a Mexican grill counter, and a pizza and grill counter. I love the variety, even though I usually go for the bowl at the Mexican counter with the carnitas. Delicious, freshly made food at reasonable prices ($17 for the bowl), in a lovely setting (I prefer to be out on the patio where I can see the lovely succulent garden). They also have a great selection of teas, sweets and even a bar. What’s not to love?

The Broad Museum and Grand Central Market, Los Angeles

Though this museum and café aren’t officially affiliated, I can never visit one without going to the other. The Broad Museum has no official café but with downtown’s massive food hall only a quarter mile away, it hardly seems they need one! The Broad displays a huge rotating collection of the most interesting and stirring modern and contemporary art (I love taking my wife and daughters to ensure some lively discussion) and doesn’t charge a cent for admission. Which means I have that much more to spend at LA’s greatest collection of food under one roof. Grand Central Market houses dozens of vendors serving up every cuisine you can think of: from a veritable cheese monger, authentic pupusas, fresh ceviche, to vegan ramen, Berlin style curry-wurst, and something called “Egg Slut”. I always walk away feeling much more up-to-day and in-touch with Los Angeles’ food and art scene.

Greater United States Museum Restaurants

Philadelphia Museum of Art

Like the Huntington Library & Gardens, the PMA has several stations in its restaurant so I get all the variety I could want. What brings me to Philly so often? I have family there, and Karen and I are in the Washington area at least 3-4 times a year for meetings. The last time I was at the PMA, there was a Ghanaian chef: fantastic peanut soup. What a great day: fantastic art and food I don’t usually get to eat.

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Café Leonelli is a cafeteria style set-up with huge floor-to-ceiling windows watching over Houston’s Main Street. When my daughters attended nearby Rice University, I enjoyed taking an afternoon to browse the MFAH’s collections followed by a perfect lemon tart in the café. The pastries and ice cream always send my mouth watering; I have an unbelievable sweet tooth.

International Museum Restaurants

Musée D’Orsay, Paris

It’s hard to decide what’s better at the D’Orsay’s restaurant: the decor of the dining room which is Louis XIV-inspired and beautiful, the extraordinary views of the Seine, or the Croque Madame. And talk about being spoiled: you get fantastic food in a spectacularly beautiful setting *after* having viewed some of the most beautiful Impressionist art in one of the most stunning conversions of a railroad station to an alternate use. Oh-la-la!

Kunsthistorische Museum, Vienna

Another unreal, massive museum of Europe with incredible surroundings. The Kunsthistorische Museum Restaurant is set in the exact center of the huge museum, in a mosaic tiled rotunda. The pastries are works of art themselves, and the location is perfect to do some museum-goer people watching. When I want to work on my German, I may even try to throw some art-centered conversation into my people watching. The scale of this museum makes this café an absolute must even to just rest your feet before continuing on the grand trek.

January 19, 2024

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