Our 10 Best Museum Restaurants


Not long ago, the museum cafeteria was where you lunched on sad ham-and-cheese sandwiches while resting your weary feet after gallivanting through crowded exhibits. No more. New York City boasts not only some of the best museums in the world, but also some of the top museum eateries, offering up everything from classic cookies to haute cuisine to Tibetan rice bowls. This week, we ate our way through city museums to pick Our 10 Best Museum Restaurants. Oh yeah, we saw some art, too. A little.

10. Untitled at the Whitney Museum: While Fork in the Road isn’t the biggest fan of Untitled’s above-pictured tuna fish sandwiches (they’re overly pricey at $12 a pop), we still appreciate the Danny Meyer-run, diner-ish spot for casual bites, particularly its very nice kale salad. At dinnertime, a three-course set menu takes over and the setting is quiet since museumgoers have departed. But if you’re at the Whitney during the day, go contemplate a Hopper painting upstairs, then come down and order up a plate of eggs for some life-imitates-art action. 945 Madison Avenue, 212-570-3670 (restaurant and museum closed Mondays; museum also closed Tuesdays)

9. Robert at the Museum of Arts and Design: One of the newcomers to the museum-restaurant scene. The highlight of this restaurant isn’t so much the food as the neon-colored pop-art décor. It’s got a 1960s futuristic thing going on, and also offers lovely views of Columbus Circle. The American menu can be hit-or-miss, but some of the basics, like tomato and burrata or the beet salad, are perfectly fine. 2 Columbus Circle, 212-299-7730 (museum closed Mondays)

8. Fraunces Tavern at the Fraunces Tavern Museum: You don’t have to be a history buff to enjoy this spot, which was built in 1719, making it one of the oldest structures in the city. In 1762, it was purchased by Samuel Fraunces, who turned it into one of the most popular taverns of the day. The building was even the site where George Washington delivered his farewell address to the officers of the Continental Army in 1783. The premises recently underwent refurbishment, and the adjoining restaurant, Fraunces Tavern, offers an accessible menu peppered with classic Anglo favorites like fish and chips, bangers and mash, and shepherd’s pie along with a very good beer selection. 54 Pearl Street, 212-968-1776 (museum and restaurant open daily)

7. El Café at El Museo del Barrio: El Museo del Barrio highlights the culture and art of Latin America, and its café does, too, featuring dishes from countries throughout the region. Current offerings on the menu include fish ceviches from Peru, chicken tamales from Mexico, and roasted pork chops from Puerto Rico. Take that, boring old egg-salad sandwiches. 1230 Fifth Avenue, 212-831-7272 (museum and café closed Mondays)

6. The Morgan Dining Room at the Morgan Library & Museum: This lovely museum, formerly the private library of financier Pierpont Morgan, showcases a superb collection of manuscripts and artifacts. Highlights include a Gutenberg Bible, musical manuscripts from the likes of Mozart, and the sole surviving manuscript of John Milton’s Paradise Lost, plus so much more. The Renzo Piano light-drenched atrium provides a lovely airy setting for café snacking, but the Morgan Dining Room offers a contemporary menu (lobster and mache salad, sweet corn cannelloni), and even offers specials that correspond with ongoing events. Similarly, cocktails come with trivia and dates of origin to help further the museum’s mission of furthering education and the pursuit of knowledge. 225 Madison Avenue, 212-685-0008 (museum and restaurant closed Mondays)

5. Birdbath at the New Museum: Here at Fork in the Road, we’re big fans of Birdbath, City Bakery’s eco-friendly outposts located throughout the city. And although the branch located inside the bastion-of-cool New Museum doesn’t offer such treats as pistachio-crusted tofu, it does offer soy in the form of smoked tofu sandwiches, along with items like the beloved pretzel croissants, scones, and a delightfully refreshing nonalcoholic sangria. But our favorite nibble is the new New Museum cookie, jam-packed with chocolate chunks, mango, and quinoa, exclusive to this branch. Unlike some of the fixtures at the New Museum, this cookie isn’t just art for art’s sake. It’s a masterpiece in its own right. 235 Bowery, 212-219-1222 (museum and café closed Mondays and Tuesdays)

4. Garden Court Café at the Asia Society: It’s not surprising that the food at the café of this institution devoted to promoting Asian art and culture showcases flavors from the cuisines of that continent (save for dessert, though, which is much more continental in conception). Although China and Korea don’t get much attention, Japan and Thailand get big nods, with dishes like mango spring rolls and chicken curry bento boxes. 725 Park Avenue, 212-327-9322 (museum and café closed Mondays)

3. The Bar Room of the Modern at the Museum of Modern Art: While the main dining room of the Modern showcases Gabriel Kreuther’s seasonally influenced, inventive cuisine, we actually prefer the sleek Bar Room at the front of the restaurant, and particularly as a venue for after-work drinks and snacks. The cocktails, like the Dark and Stormy-ish Shot in the Dark or the cilantro-infused Modern Martini, are top-notch. Don’t drink? No problem — the nonalcoholic beverage selection includes punches and juice cocktails that surpass the plain-old glass of club soda. And if you then work up an appetite, share a plate or two. We’re partial to the tarte flambée (think Alsatian pizza) or the wild-mushroom soup — two staples that never get old. 9 West 53rd Street, 212-333-1220 (dining room of the Modern closed Sundays; museum closed Tuesdays)

2. The Café at the Rubin Museum of Art: No, you don’t have to trek out to Queens to get your momo fix. You can find these Tibetan dumplings at the tranquil café at the Rubin Museum , a lovely small treasure in Chelsea that’s devoted to the art of the Himalayas. We’re partial to the lamb varieties, though chicken and veggie options are available, too. Mumbai-style wraps, samosas, and chutney-topped rice bowls round out the Eastern-leaning menu. When you leave the café, make sure to pop into the gift shop, too, for exotic trinkets and art. 150 West 17th Street, 212-620-5000 (museum and café closed Tuesdays)

1. Café Sabarsky at the Neue Galerie: Not only is the Neue Galerie, which is devoted to German and Austrian art from the 20th century (Klimt, Schiele, Kokoschka, the Blaue Reiter, Kirchner, Klee, etc.), one of our favorite collections of drawings and paintings in all of New York, it also boasts our favorite museum eatery, Café Sabarsky, part of Kurt Gutenbrunner’s Austro empire. You’ll immediately feel transported to Vienna as you sip on the house-made hot cocoa and equally chocolaty Sachertorte (and not just because the prices veer Euro steep — but hey, if you can afford $15 to visit a museum, you can buck up $8 for a slice of cake). While we’re somewhat partial to the sweets, the savory choices are equally good. You can’t beat the goulash or the weisswurst that comes with a warm pretzel. 1048 Fifth Avenue, 212-628-6200 (museum and café closed Tuesdays; museum also closed Wednesdays; museum also temporarily closed, until October 26)