Whatever NYC museum adventure is next on your wish list – whether it’s taking in the culture at the Guggenheim or the Whitney, or stimulating your mind at MoMA – it’s sure to make you hungry. Fortunately, many museums serve food as impressive as the works in their permanent collections.
Besides the latest shows and exhibitions, the most coveted ticket at these seven institutions is, for many, a reservation at their restaurants. Helmed by top chefs and restauranteurs, the dining experience at each is inspired by the museum that it calls home, from plate presentations that look like modern artworks to overall style and design.
Complete your visit to any one of these museums with an unforgettable meal. You may find that the greatest masterpiece of the day is on your plate. Of course, you can always make the restaurant your sole destination. None of the following require admission to get in.
The Museum of Modern Art, 9 West 53rd Street, NYC
Critics and patrons alike have been raving about The Modern since it first opened in 2005, and it continues to receive high acclaim for its standout contemporary cooking, beautifully presented dishes and bright, elegant dining room, which features floor to ceiling windows overlooking MoMA’s Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden. In fact, it received a AAA Five Diamond Rating in 2016.
Originally led by Chef Gabriel Kreuther – currently of his eponymous Five Diamond restaurant in Midtown – the kitchen is now headed by Abram Bissell (previously Executive Sous Chef at Eleven Madison Park and Chef de Cuisine at The NoMad), who worked under Kreuther in The Modern kitchen early in his career.
Bissell’s inventive plates are ever-changing to reflect each season. Factor in the award-winning wine program that includes almost 3,000 offerings from around the world and equally exciting desserts from pastry chef Jiho Kim and it’s easy to see what all the fuss is about.
The Modern serves only set-priced tasting menus for lunch (3-course/$118, 6-course/$158) and dinner (4-course/$158, 8-course/$208), but there is also the option of sitting in The Bar Room, which includes a lounge area and marble bar. Here, guests can order from an a la carte menu, while still enjoying the wine program and a list of cocktails, beers and spirits.
As part of Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group, it was the first restaurant to implement the trailblazing “hospitality included” no-tipping policy to increase wages for employees.
Solomon R. Guggenheim, 1071 5th Ave (at 89th Street), NYC
Named for architect Frank Lloyd Wright and found within one of his most iconic and groundbreaking buildings, it’s no surprise that The Wright has impressive style. The white setting and modern feeling of the space mimics the layout of the building, with a cascading ceiling that is evocative of the museum’s famous spiral rotunda. Soon after it opened in 2009, it received the James Beard Award for Best Restaurant Design in 2010.
The Wright is open every day for lunch, except for Thursdays when the museum is closed, and on the weekends for brunch. You can also stop in for a drink at the bar or something sweet. Menus are seasonal but typically feature artful presentations of light dishes such as house-made pastas, soups and salads. Brunch is a $34 two-course prix fixe menu and includes your choice of Mimosa, Bellini or Bloody Mary.
AAA members save $3 on adult admission at the Guggenheim when a valid membership card is shown at the counter.
Museum of Arts and Design, 2 Columbus Circle, NYC
You’ll want to get a window seat at Robert. Looking down over Columbus Circle, it offers a gorgeous view of Central Park and the busy traffic below on Broadway. The view from the inside isn’t too shabby either; modern décor and bright, funky colors are fitting for the Museum of Arts and Design.
The menu features a variety of options that range from sandwiches and pasta dishes to poached lobster and Long Island Duck, so there’s something for everyone. Live jazz performances during the week and on the weekends, including a jazz brunch on Sundays, also make Robert a great option for a special occasion or a night out.
Open daily for lunch and dinner, and on the weekends for brunch, small plates, desserts and cocktails in the lounge.
MoMA PS1, 22-25 Jackson Avenue, Long Island City
Inside of the MoMA PS1 contemporary art museum, the M. Wells Dinette will take you back to your grade school days – only with delicious food and minus the awkwardness. Honoring the building’s former life as a schoolhouse, the cafeteria-style restaurant has a classroom setting with communal tables that look like desks and green chalkboards that list what’s on the ever-changing menu.
Long Island City devotees Hugue Dufour and Sara Obraitis, also of M. Wells Steakhouse, are the forces behind the dinette, which stems from the popular but short-lived M. Wells Diner where the couple originally built their name.
Chef Dufour, who hails from Quebec, is known for French Canadian fare – in other words, hearty, meat-heavy, nothing-wasted type of cooking. Some examples of what he has served since opening in 2012 include crispy veal brains and ramps, sweet breads cassoulet, blood pudding and foie gras bread pudding. For the less adventurous, there are more approachable options such as roasted pork belly, shepherd’s pie and the Instagram famous spaghetti Bolognese sandwich. Comforting home baked desserts round out the meal.
Neue Galerie Museum for German and Austrian Art, 1048 5th Ave, NYC
Drawing inspiration from the museum where it resides, Café Sabarsky is made to elicit the feeling of a turn-of-the-century Viennese cafe. These cafes played an important role in shaping Viennese culture as many writers, artists and politicians chose the “kaffeehaus” as their place to socialize and work.
“Some come to the Neue Galerie for the German and Austrian art, but foodies in the know give the masterpieces a cursory glance, then slip into the café for a bite to eat,” describes the AAA Inspector in their review of the Two Diamond Rated establishment.
Outfitted with period objects, the cozy Café Sabarsky (named for Neue Galerie co-founder Serge Sabarksy) overlooks Central Park and is known, naturally, for its specialty coffee drinks like Kaiser Mélange (fresh ground coffee with whipped cream). But it’s the amazing Viennese dessert spread that really wows. Dark chocolate cake, strudel, linzertorte, opera cake and a variety of sweets are all put on display and ready to be devoured.
If you’re looking for a full meal, they also serve up an attractive list of traditional savory items such as goulash, creamed spätzle, wiener schnitzel and sausages. Order with or without a glass of Sekt (German sparkling wine).
Lunch reservations are only for Neue Galerie members, but tables for breakfast and dinner are available to the public. For a night out, Cabaret at Café Sabarsky is a series devoted to the music of the 1890s and 1930s. Usually on Thursdays, performances surround the café’s Bösendorfer grand piano and take place at 9 p.m. preceded by a prix-fixe dinner (combined cost is $140 and dinner and show must be purchased together).
Whitney Museum of American Arts, 99 Gansevoort Street, NYC
Like The Modern, Untitled at the Whitney is another NYC museum restaurant part of the Union Square Hospitality Group. And like The Modern, it has helped to change the face of museum dining for the better.
In conjunction with the museum’s move to the Meatpacking District, Untitled reopened in 2015 and is led by Chef Michael Anthony, also of Gramercy Tavern, who serves a seasonal American a la carte menu. Excellent but unpretentious and reasonably priced, there’s everything from light, sharable plates to bright fish dishes and heartier comfort foods like country rib and rotisserie lamb.
During happy hour (weekdays from 5:30-7:30 p.m.), cocktails are served with a fun selection that includes the Untitled burger topped with cherry bomb pimento cheese and fried chicken, along with light snacks, a cheese plate and irresistible spins on nostalgic desserts from Pastry Chef Miro Uskokovic like triple chocolate chunk cookies and caramelized cheesecake.
You’ll find the restaurant on the ground floor of the museum, adjacent to the exit of the High Line. Bright, open and stylish, the glass-enclosed space was designed by renowned architect Renzo Piano and can be spotted by its sloping ceiling.
Untitled is open every day for coffee and pastry, lunch and dinner, and brunch on the weekend. Union Square Hospitality Group’s no-tipping policy is implemented.
New York Historical Society, 170 Central Park West at Richard Gilder Way (77th Street), NYC
The New York Historical Society is known to hold many treasures within its walls, and Storico is one of them.
Open since 2012, the 74-seat Italian restaurant was part of a three-year renovation of the museum and library. Executive chef Tim Kensett, who honed his Italian cooking skills in Italy and at the prestigious River Café in London, is in the kitchen.
The charming space is evocative of the building’s 19th century Victorian past, featuring a bright yellow banquette and white shelves lined with white tableware of all shapes and sizes. Windows look out into the museum for a bit of people watching while you dine.
For lunch and dinner, the regional Italian menu showcases local ingredients with a focus on simple, bold flavors, housemade pastas and hearty mains. For weekend brunch, a list of sweet and savory items has whatever you’re in the mood for, from panini and smoked salmon to Nutella crepes.
Have you been to any of these NYC museum restaurants? What’s your favorite? Tell us in the comments below!
To learn more about AAA Diamonds, visit AAA.com/Diamonds.