LOS ANGELES — After a couple hours of trekking through the halls of a museum, fatigue can set in, even for the most seasoned art aficionados. Los Angeles’s museums offer a wide range of culinary options for run-down aesthetes to recharge before they tackle the second half of that career retrospective. This being LA, those range from fast casual spots that serve avocado toast, to midrange sit-down eateries (also serving avocado toast), to high-end, chef-driven concept restaurants that come alive as soon as the museums they’re attached to shut down for the day.
To make sense of it all, we bring you the scoop on eight LA museum restaurants — some best for a quick, affordable bite, others better suited for power lunches to pitch a screenplay or an afternoon of celebrity spotting.
Otium at The Broad
There are some museum restaurants that seem like a sad afterthought (cough, the café at the Guggenheim, cough), and then there are full-fledged restaurants that are almost better than the museum they’re attached to. Otium is in the latter category. Sure, it’s not cheap, but it’s helmed by chef Tim Hollingsworth, who previously spent 13 years at the French Laundry in Napa and received the James Beard Foundation’s Rising Star Chef of the Year Award in 2010, so you’re in good hands, or at least fancy ones. The restaurant’s name comes from a Latin word apparently suggesting “a place where time can be spent on leisurely social activities,” which is reflected in its open dining room, centered around a wood-fired oven, and in the casual $19 you’ll pay for a bibb lettuce salad.
The menu vibes are described as “elegant rusticity,” which could really mean anything, but specifically points to items such as naan accompanied by truffle butter, bone marrow emulsion, or caviar; honeynut squash with burrata; a whole grilled branzino for $65; and a $190 32-ounce tomahawk steak. Make note that Otium is only open for dinner, so it’s not the place to get midday sustenance, but a good spot to relax, recharge, and impress your in-laws after a day at the Broad.
222 South Hope Street, Downtown
Lulu at The Hammer Museum
Lulu at the Hammer Museum is another restaurant with a lofty culinary pedigree, namely a collaboration between farm-to-table pioneer Alice Waters and chef and writer David Tanis. As with a few other entries on the list, its website touts an emphasis on “sustainability through local, regenerative food” and sourcing ingredients from small area farms. (A refreshing contrast to the huge agribusiness run by major Hammer donors Lynda and Stewart Resnick, whose farms have been criticized for guzzling up “more water than every home in Los Angeles combined.”)
Located in the Hammer’s open-air courtyard with Jorge Pardo-designed lamps overhead, Lulu offers an à la carte menu of sandwiches, soups, and salads, but their seasonal concept is highlighted by a three-course prix fixe menu that changes daily, available for lunch or dinner. An example from this past summer featured a tomato salad with anchovy vinaigrette, ricotta gnocchi with zucchini and squash blossoms, and espresso granita for $45.
10899 Wilshire Boulevard, Westwood
Lemonade at the Museum of Contemporary Art
“Fast casual” are not words that generally inspire culinary confidence, but the branch of the chain restaurant Lemonade located at the Museum of Contemporary Art may be an exception, with reasonably priced fresh fare that channels a healthy, SoCal lifestyle worthy of an influencer’s braggy post. (Their motto: “Eating your vegetables shouldn’t feel like punishment.”) Tucked away behind the museum’s entrance staircase down from the street, this small restaurant with outdoor seating offers signature chef’s bowls like “Mango Chicken” or “Ahi Tuna” for about $15 (with special $7 bowls like “Hatch Green Chile” every Tuesday), or other options like a “Golden Cauliflower Sandwich” and, of course, avocado toast. Oh, and they’ve got about a dozen flavors of lemonade. You know what they say: When life gives you art …
250 South Grand Avenue, Downtown
The Getty Center, LA’s cultural citadel on a hill, is not one of those museums you can just pop into for a quick visit. After a short tram ride to the top, visitors disembark into a travertine-lined campus, seemingly a world away from the freeway traffic below. In short, you’re probably gonna need something to eat up there. Luckily, the Getty has several options at different price points. For special occasions or power lunches, there’s the deceptively humbly named “Restaurant,” which boasts seasonal fare, views of the Santa Monica mountains, and three dollar signs on Yelp. Treat yourself to $14 classic cocktails like a martini or negroni while enjoying dishes like swordfish with sweet pepper emulsion. For more cost-conscious visitors who just want a quick bite, there is the Garden Terrace Cafe and a couple of coffee carts.
Hot tip: Order online to pick up a latte or chai, brownies, cookies, salads or splurge on a $21 charcuterie box with soppressata, prosciutto, and purple mustard. Even hotter tip: Unlike many museums, the Getty allows you to bring your own food, so you can pack a picnic lunch to enjoy on the lawn or other public areas.
Getty Center (getty.edu)
1200 Getty Center Drive, Brentwood
Fanny’s at the Academy Museum
Named for iconic film actress and comedian Fanny Brice, Fanny’s at the Academy Museum gives old Hollywood a contemporary makeover with an interior inspired by bygone eateries like the Brown Derby, courtesy of Commune Design. By day, the café and bar serves museumgoers a selection of baked goods (fig and salmon tartines) and heartier fare like lamb-chicken meatballs. After the museum closes, the restaurant cranks up the Tinseltown charm with a deal-maker’s dinner menu of pasta, fish, and exponentially expensive steaks that culminate in the $155 Aspen Ridge Beef T-Bone. In conjunction with the Academy Museum’s newly opened exhibition focused on Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather (1972), Fanny’s offers a “Godfather Menu” for Sunday dinner featuring “Don Vito Corleone’s Bread and Olive Oil,” “Mickey Cohen’s Sticky Ribs,” or gelato, which they’ve dubbed “revenge” — a dish best served cold. (Tragically, they missed a couple of perfect opportunities — may I suggest “Luca Brasi Sleeps with the Whole, Roasted Fish” and “Leave the Gun, Take the Cannoli“?)
6067 Wilshire Boulevard, Miracle Mile
Ray’s and Stark Bar at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Ray’s and Stark Bar is located smack in the center of LACMA’s campus, just steps from throngs of museum-goers, crowds of selfie-snappers at Chris Burden’s “Urban Light,” and the bustle of Wilshire Boulevard, making the mid-century styled indoor/outdoor space perfect for people-watching. Named for prolific film producer Ray Stark (West Side Story, Funny Girl, Steel Magnolias), the restaurant menu lists classics such as pizza, pasta, and roasted chicken, and a California-heavy wine list. They also claim to have “the nation’s most extensive water menu,” but with only seven options listed on their menu online, that seems dubious. (Several reviewers also remarked that costly bottled water was the only option.) They average a four-star rating from 250 Google reviews, with mostly positive comments about the food and setting peppered with complaints about bad service. The Los Angeles Times noted that the restaurant can “easily hold its own against some of Los Angeles’s best Mediterranean bistros” when it opened a decade ago, an impression echoed by a more recent reviewer who wrote that it is “the kind of place you would assume is violently mediocre, but in reality is very solid.”
Ray’s and Stark Bar (patinagroup.com/rays-and-stark-bar)
5905 Wilshire Boulevard, Miracle Mile
Meyers Manx at the Petersen Automotive Museum
The Meyers Manx Cafe is only a few months old, so it’s hard to get an accurate impression, but its 4.8 rating on Google Reviews from nine recent visitors bodes well. The Manx replaces the Italian cuisine of Drago — the former restaurant at the Petersen — with a menu of California classics such as burgers, breakfast burritos, and shrimp tacos. Inspired by the Meyers Manx, the popular dune buggy created in 1964, the menu reflects “the lifestyle the car embodies,” according to General Manager Greg Scarborough, namely a laid-back beachy vibe emphasized by surfing decor and vintage records on the wall. Open from 9am to 3pm (and 4pm on weekends), Meyers Manx is a spot to start your day or re-energize mid-afternoon, not a place to see or be seen after hours.
Meyers Manx Cafe (meyersmanxcafe.com)
6060 Wilshire Boulevard, Miracle Mile
Zeidler’s Café at the Skirball Cultural Center
Zeidler’s Café seems like a museum restaurant with an identity crisis. The “Mediterranean-inspired menu” includes Za’atar flatbread and an olive-oil poached Niçoise salad, but then throws in Ashkenazi Jewish staples like a bagel and lox or smoked salmon pastrami Reuben, a kosher substitute for traditional beef brisket pastrami. Add to that an entree selection that includes pasta, pizza, and a mushroom and kale empanada, and you’ve got a rather uninspired, unfocused culinary experience. During the run of I’ll Have What She’s Having, the Skirball’s exhibition dedicated to the Jewish Deli in America, Zeidler’s did offer an associated menu with matzo ball soup, blintzes, knishes, and a vegan corned beef sandwich, but that ended when the show did in September. It garners a fair 3.5-star rating from 32 reviews on Yelp, with visitors praising its affordability and healthiness. Given the diversity of Jewish cuisine from around the world, it seems like Zeidler’s could offer a more adventurous menu as opposed to one that is just adequate.
Zeidler’s Café (skirball.org)
2701 North Sepulveda Boulevard, Brentwood
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