There are few better ways to feed the brain than by visiting a good museum, and while you’re taking in all that culture, it doesn’t hurt to feed the appetite as well. Of course, once upon a time in New York, museum food was an afterthought, in dire need of some culinary curation, leaving no option but to exit the building for food. Thanks to a few savvy restaurateurs, however, there are a growing number of great dining options right inside some of the city’s museums — a few of which are a destination in their own right. The following seven New York City restaurants within museums show just as much promise and inspiration as the art surrounding them.
Saul at the Brooklyn Museum
The city’s second-largest museum now has a first-rate restaurant, which is more than the largest museum (the Metropolitan Museum of Art) can claim. Local hero Saul Bolton moved his Michelin-starred restaurant Saul from Boerum Hill to the museum in fall 2013. The dining room decor is meant to echo the geometric shapes of the Paul Kelpe murals on the walls; and the New American dishes, such as cod with cauliflower, apple and tagine broth are as thoughtfully composed. Bolton also operates the more casual Counter, open for lunch and brunch, within the museum. The 1.5 million works of art beyond the kitchen include a spectacular collection of American painters, from moody Edward Hoppers to colorful Georgia O’Keeffes. Closed Monday and Tuesday. 200 Eastern Pkwy., Brooklyn, 718-935-9842, saulrestaurant.com
The Modern at the Museum of Modern Art
Like the Warhols, Monets and Pollocks housed within the selfsame walls, Danny Meyer’s delicious duo — The Bar Room and the Dining Room at the Museum of Modern Art — broke new ground when it opened 10 years ago. In fact, as a pair, they were the city’s first museum fine dining. and is currently the most heralded, with a Michelin star, three James Beard Foundation Awards and three stars from The New York Times. A new chef takes over in spring 2014 — the NoMad’s Abram Bissell, whose first job in NYC happened to be at the Modern. 9 W 53rd St., 212-333-1220, themodernnyc.com
Cafe Sabarsky at the Neue Galerie
Michelin-starred chef Kurt Gutenbrunner’s Viennese cuisine bucked the desultory museum cafe trend when it opened in 2001. Austrian and German staples, from goulash to a splendorous offering of pastries, share an elegant kaffehaus alongside Adolf Loos furniture, Josef Hoffmann fixtures and Otto Wagner fabrics. The likes of Klimt and Klee, along with a wealth of decorative arts, make up the museum’s collection, which is dedicated to early 20th-century German and Austrian art and design. Closed Tuesday. 1048 Fifth Ave., 212-288-0665, kg-ny.com
Café Serai at the Rubin Museum
You don’t have to scale Mount Everest to enjoy Himalayan art and cuisine, you just have to head over to Chelsea where the Rubin Museum moved in 2012. Operated by restaurateur Stephen Starr, the cafe serves unique treats from the Himalayas such as momo dumplings and chole, a green pea stew. In the museum, the spiral staircase is the centerpiece, a Zen coil of contemplation. The Gateway to Himalayan Art exhibit, running through January 2016, offers an overview of the culture. Closed Tuesday. 150 W. 17th St., 212-620-5000, rmanyc.org
Robert at the Museum of Arts and Design
The view from the top floor restaurant at this skyscraper is a work of art alone, but there are many more treasures tucked within Columbus Circle’s Lollipop Building, such as an entire gallery dedicated to contemporary jewelry (the first in the U.S.) and open artist studios (the city’s only within a museum) where guests can witness works in progress. Then there’s the restaurant, which excels at the art of pasta-making, with masterpieces such as cavatelli with marcona almonds and pesto. 2 Columbus Circle, 212-299-7730, robertnyc.com
Caffe Storico at the New-York Historical Society
Stephen Starr’s second entry into the New York museum scene is the first restaurant within this museum and library since its opening in 1804. While the collection is all about life in the city — with everything from paintings from the Hudson River School to antique board games to a gallery of Tiffany lamps on display — the menu is Italian, with dishes such as grilled pork chop with butternut squash and pork belly agrodolce. A collection of 19th century china adorns the walls. Closed Monday. 170 Central Park W., 212-485-9211, nyhistory.org/dine
M Wells Dinette at MoMA PS 1
A public school-turned-modern art museum takes the classroom theme and runs with it — if only rabbit and foie gras terrine were served for every school lunch. Hugue Dufour and Sarah Obraitis’s spinoff of their original M Wells concept, within the MoMA’s Queens branch, gives good reason to crave detention — it’s the only cafeteria in town with two stars from The New York Times, after all. When you’ve satisfied your culinary appetite, check out the museum itself, which specializes in large-scale exhibitions. Closed Tuesday and Wednesday. 22-25 Jackson Ave., Queens, 718-786-1800, magasinwells.com
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