We all know the feeling of being two hours into a museum visit and having our stomachs start to grumble. And when it comes to re-energizing after gazing at seemingly endless collections, New York City’s cultural institutions tell us to look no further than what’s available on their premises for a light refreshment or a multiple-course meal.
We asked some of NYC’s major museums to share their restaurants’ menu highlights — and diligently combed through pages of online reviews — to bring you the inside scoop on where to snack, where to sip, and most importantly, what to skip — from a whole menu conceived for The Met’s Tudors exhibition to an overpriced grilled cheese sandwich in Brooklyn.
The Robert at the Museum of Arts and Design
The Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) is proud to direct members and visitors to the Robert, a modern American restaurant situated on the top floor overlooking Columbus Circle and Central Park. With a Google review rating higher than that of the museum itself, the Robert proudly offers lunch, brunch, dinner, and cocktails accompanied by live piano featuring musicians booked through the end of the month. As it’s considered a fine dining experience, the restaurant is tagged with three dollar signs and visitors must resign to the fact that the gin and tonic off the cocktail menu is $17.
Chef Armando Cortes described the Robert’s dishes as “seasonal modern American” because his menu takes influences from around the world while honoring the locally sourced seasonal ingredients. He told Hyperallergic that the menu’s current highlights are the roasted acorn squash, the tuna tartare, the pork chop, and the black sea bass.
The Robert (robertnyc.com)
2 Columbus Circle, Midtown West
The Eatery and the Dining Room at The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Museumgoers looking for options already know that The Metropolitan Museum of Art is the place to be. The Met has several dining spaces across the four floors. Starting with the least favorite: Anyone who has taken a school field trip to The Met should be well-acquainted with the Eatery on the ground floor. With the ambiance of a hospital cafeteria, the Eatery offers run-of-the-mill options like pizza, soup, salads, sandwiches, and soft drinks. According to diners, the quality of the experience doesn’t line up with the price on the receipt. The Yelp and Google reviews tell all.
Visitors aiming for a more sophisticated experience can head to the fourth floor for The Met’s Dining Room. Originally a lunch-only spot, the Dining Room is introducing its Friday and Saturday dinner service starting October 14. The inaugural four-course tasting menu, created by Executive Chef Bill Telepan and his culinary team, celebrates The Met’s new exhibition, The Tudors: Art and Majesty in Renaissance England. The menu features a modern, playful twist on quintessential English cuisine. Those who aren’t inspired by the menu item called “Bubble and Squeak” can look at the Dining Room’s regular seasonal tasting menu with options for vegans, vegetarians, and meat-lovers alike.
Additionally, people-watchers should rejoice now that a spokesperson for The Met confirmed that the Great Hall Balcony Bar and Cafe is set to reopen on October 27. Visitors can once again enjoy the monumental view of The Met’s entranceway over some convenient quick pick-me-ups and perhaps a drink.
The Eatery and the Dining Room (metmuseum.org)
1000 Fifth Avenue, Upper East Side
Café Sabarsky at Neue Galerie
There has always been lots of buzz around the Neue Galerie’s iconic restaurant Café Sabarsky. Intentionally modeled after traditional Viennese coffee houses, Café Sabarsky commemorates Austria’s 19th- and 20th-century aesthetic contributions through period objects such as furniture by Adolf Loos, lighting fixtures by Josef Hoffmann, and a Bösendorfer grand piano. Executive Chef Christopher Engel elaborated on Café Sabarsky’s intentions to Hyperallergic.
“The concept of Café Sabarsky is all about Vienna 1900 to match the Gesamtkunstwerk concept of the Neue Galerie — in German, this word means ‘total work of art,’” Engels said. The menu highlights seasonal specials such as crispy duck breast, Dover sole “Müllerin Art,” and during the holiday season, whole roasted goose. The Café is also well known for its award-winning pastries, including Wiener Apfelstrudel, Sachertorte, and much more.
Café Sabarsky (neuegalerie.org/cafesabarsky)
1048 Fifth Avenue, Upper East Side
Mina’s at MoMA PS1
Across the river in Queens, the Museum of Modern Art’s PS1 location invites visitors to dine at Mina’s, a Mediterranean-inspired café with a hand-picked selection of Greek wines.
“We offer a selection of natural Greek wines from different parts of mainland Greece. We selected them in part because yes — we have a Greek restaurant — but because natural wines from Greece are lesser known,” cafe namesake, chef, and author Mina Stone told Hyperallergic. “We have a retsina that is very special as it is made the traditional way, aged in pine barrels that impart the distinctive taste of pine to the golden-colored wine.”
Regarding the must-haves on the menu right now, Stone sang her praises of the tangy cabbage salad. The salad paired with a mezze of fava (split peas puréed with olive and lemon), warm fennel and golden raisin bread, and a glass of wine is “truly a great lunch or whole afternoon!”
Mina’s currently holds a 4.6-star rating on Google reviews, but a single one-star complaint derides the establishment for having a small menu with vegan options rather than being a sit-down spot.
Mina’s NYC (minas.nyc)
22-25 Jackson Avenue, Long Island City
Café Rebay at the Guggenheim Museum
Many of us have dined at the Wright in the Guggenheim Museum prior to the onset of the pandemic. The restaurant was actually a nice pick-me-up when I visited the museum with my non-artsy family who didn’t really care for the exhibition on view at the time. Unfortunately, the restaurant was closed permanently in 2021, and now we’re left with Café Rebay.
Hyperallergic News Editor Valentina Di Liscia describes the café as “one of the saddest places I’ve ever eaten at.”
Many of the Yelp reviews echo this visitor’s sentiments regarding the pricing versus quality of the available refreshments, but do so with far less grace. The chief complaints are that the coffee doesn’t taste very good and the sandwiches are small, tasteless, and relatively soggy for what people have paid out of convenience. If you have a moment for a gripping Café Rebay review trilogy, or even just a laugh from the sheer passion behind the tale, I would highly recommend reading Marianne W.’s detailed retelling of her experiences.
Café Rebay (guggenheim.org)
1070 Fifth Avenue, Upper East Side
The Whitney Café and the Studio Bar at The Whitney Museum
With innumerable dining options between the Meatpacking District and Chelsea, The Whitney Museum of American Art likely had to step up its game to attract the attention of hungry visitors whose minds start drifting from the exhibits. The Whitney Café is right on the ground floor to the right of the ticketing area. Its menu of sandwiches, salads, and soups hovers at a reasonable $15 and there’s limited outdoor seating.
The Whitney Museum holds a 4.5-star rating on Google reviews, and The Whitney Café is right behind it at 4.3 stars. Not bad, though reviewers say that their cafe experience is very hit or miss.
On the eighth floor of The Whitney Museum is the Studio Bar. The lounge setting provides an indoor/outdoor experience as visitors have access to the Thomas H. Lee Family Terrace for an unbeatable view of the New York City skyline. One can enjoy reasonably priced cocktails (or exorbitantly priced beers) coupled with small plates while taking in the city views or pondering about the exhibitions or collections they’ve just seen.
The Studio Bar, operating daily from 12 to closing, has also yielded some mixed reviews so far. A Google reviewer named Lily, a frequent visitor to the museum’s bar, said she had to wait 45 minutes for a plate of six cookies, which were $24, by the way. To be fair, who goes to a museum to eat cookies, anyway?
The Whitney Cafe and Studio Bar (whitney.org/visit/dining)
99 Gansevoort Street, Meatpacking District
Storico and Parliament at The New-York Historical Society
The New-York Historical Society has two options for visitors: a sit-down restaurant with seasonal but safe options, and a coffee shop with some hit-or-miss pastries. The last time he visited, Hyperallergic Senior Editor Hakim Bishara had a croissant that “was so stale it should have been part of the museum’s collection.”
Storico restaurant offers seasonal brunch, lunch, and dinner menus with desserts and cocktails in a bright environment with lots of windows and accents that I’m sure someone would call “farmhouse chic.” The offerings are pretty standard, including but not limited to Caesar salads, Faroe Island salmon, mushroom pastas, and a chicken parmesan sandwich.
At this point, I’ll spare you the reviews on the Parliament cafe … Just know that the sentiments about poor service bleed over there as well.
170 Central Park West, Upper West Side
The Norm at the Brooklyn Museum
Alright, back across the East River we go. Visitors are bound to work up an appetite knowing that the Brooklyn Museum has 560,000 square feet to cover. The Norm, funded by and named after Brooklyn Museum Board member Norman Feinberg, says that their seasonal menu is inspired by the “cultural diversity in Brooklyn.” I’m not saying it’s an easy task representing the multicultural cuisine experiences of Brooklyn, but I think the Norm has to do a little bit better than an $18 grilled cheese with New York white cheddar.
The Norm (thenormbkm.com)
200 Eastern Parkway, Prospect Park
The Modern at the MoMA
Established in 2005, the Modern at the Museum of Modern Art has earned two Michelin stars as the pinnacle of fine dining within a cultural institution. Four dollar signs are marked next to the restaurant on Google, so come prepared with a new line of credit or simply be wealthy enough for the $250 per person dinner experience curated by Chef Thomas Allan.
To be fair, the lunch menu is only $150 per person. But if that extra $100 you saved is burning a hole in your pocket, you can always add the white truffle tagliatelle. Regardless, it seems that most people have had an overwhelmingly positive experience dining at the Modern. Most reviewers across Google, Yelp, and TripAdvisor laud the restaurant for its “inventive” culinary excellence and exceptional service. Nevertheless, even Michelin-star restaurants have bad days, too.
As winter approaches, sometimes you really can’t beat the convenience of knocking out a museum visit and getting a fancy meal in one fell swoop. Just know that at some places, it really is a roll of the dice.
The Modern (themodernnyc.com)
9 West 53rd Street, Midtown
Editor’s note 10/20/22 10:30am EDT: A previous version of this article erroneously referred to “the late Norman Feinberg”; the article has been corrected.
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