Museum Mile, the stretch of museums lining Fifth Avenue between East 82nd and 105th streets, is home to some of New York’s most incredible and comprehensive art collections. Visiting one (or more) of them is a great way to work in some culture and work up an appetite. When that happens, don’t panic and down a hot dog from the nearest street cart (or if you must, call it a pre-dinner snack). Head instead to one of the Upper East Side restaurants we’ve highlighted, where you can enjoy a meal as striking as the art you’ve just seen.
We’ve paired popular destinations—the Met Fifth Avenue, the Guggenheim and the rest (institutions listed from north to south)—with the best nearby spots to fuel up after getting your culture on. Bonus: we’ve included suggestions for two major museums just south of the Mile. Read the details below, and avoid becoming a starving art-viewer.
Museum of the City of New York
While the museum’s collection seeks to highlight the history and culture of NYC, neighboring restaurant Earl’s Beer and Cheese is a bit narrower in scope. But despite its straightforward name, the menu is far from basic. Grab a seat at the communal table, and pair an elevated cheese sandwich like the Calabro Mozzarella (topped with miso mayo, pickles and potato chips) with a locally brewed beer such as Grimm Light Year, a double IPA from Brooklyn.
We’d bet that after exploring the art and historical objects at the Jewish Museum—which has around 30,000 works in its permanent collection—you’ll be ready for a little nosh. Proceed to the museum’s basement floor and choose from an array of fresh bagels, smoked fish, knishes, blintzes and egg creams at Russ & Daughters. This 70-seat outpost of the beloved Lower East Side appetizing shop offers a takeout option, too, in case you’re in the mood for an upscale bagel picnic in Central Park.
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
The sound installations, design objects and assorted innovative exhibits at Cooper Hewitt deserve to be followed by something other than a run-of-the-mill meal. Stop in Kaia for an appropriately adventurous sequel to your museum visit. The South African wine bar offers bold dishes like elk carpaccio and bison chili; even the kale salad is noteworthy, spiced up with dukkah (an African condiment) and hot honey vinaigrette. Settle in at the bar, explore the lengthy wine list and discuss your favorite exhibits of the day.
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
Once you’ve wound your way around the Guggenheim’s permanent collection and down its famous ramp, walk one block north to Bluestone Lane to recharge with coffee, avocado toast and grain bowls. You can also enjoy the Bluestone’s own distinctive architecture: the Australian coffee shop was built inside an early 20th-century cathedral.
A bit east, you’ll still be surrounded with history at the Writing Room, which pays tribute to its predecessor, famed literati hangout Elaine’s. Bookshelves and photographs of former literary patrons adorn the dining area, and the menu offers casual fare like fish and chips, smoked St. Louis ribs and country fried chicken.
Following the theme of the Austrian and German art galleries above it, Café Sabarsky at the Neue Galerie gives visitors a taste of old-world European culture. Its period lighting fixtures, upholstery and a Bösendorfer grand piano could pass as scenery for a play in late 19th-century Vienna, but rest assured, the hearty food (Bavarian sausage, spätzle, schnitzel and pastries) isn’t a fabrication.
For a grab-and-go option, try the newly opened PQR Pizza. Its airy, crispy square slices, made by celebrated Roman pizza maestro Angelo Iezzi, are well worth the walk to Second Avenue.
The Met Fifth Avenue
After you’ve taken a stroll through Met antiquities like the Temple of Dendur, step back not quite as far in time at the Lexington Candy Shop, an old-school soda fountain serving diner staples like pancakes, burgers and shakes. This 1920s establishment even has its own collection on view: an assortment of rare and vintage Coca-Cola bottles.
Pastrami Queen serves up New York deli classics a few blocks south. Everything comes supersized here, but go for the queen herself: an overstuffed hot pastrami sandwich, piled two inches high on toasted rye bread and served with a pickle. Other favorites like corned beef and matzo ball soup are also worth a taste.
The Met Breuer
After surveying the Met Breuer’s contemporary and modern art, make a beeline down to the on-site Flora Bar. The space’s tall windows and lofty ceilings make it feel surprisingly airy, even on the lowest floor of the Breuer building. What’s more alluring, though, is chef Ignacio Mattos’ seafood-centric menu of small plates, like red shrimp with sea urchin and nori or tuna tartare with sunflower and hijiki. For a quick (and more informal) bite, try the adjacent Flora Coffee; it has sticky buns, tarts and sandwiches to-go.
Turn down 76th street for another Upper East Side favorite, this one operating since 1998. Chef Daniel Boulud’s namesake Café Boulud is a Michelin-starred option with an accessible, polished prix-fixe lunch menu. Selections include elegant French fare like salad Lyonnaise and lamb navarin.
The Frick Collection
While J.G. Melon hasn’t been on the Upper East Side quite as long as the Frick, almost 50 years is enough to make it a neighborhood standby. Prepare for a wait during the evening, and bring cash to sample the beloved burgers and cottage fries on tables bedecked with homey gingham tablecloths.
For dessert, the vibrantly colored macarons at Ladurée Madison Avenue will surely hit the spot. Take a seat in the posh café space to taste the imported treats in flavors like rose, pistachio, caramel and licorice.