New York’s museums have always been an essential part of a visit here, and lately their restaurants have become serious draws of their own—even earning Michelin stars. Our round-up nails down 10 of the best; read on for museums that exhibit another kind of great taste.
Cafe Sabarsky (at Neue Galerie)
Cafe Sabarsky is a faithful recreation of an old world Viennese coffeehouse, its dark wood elegance and Adolf Loos furnishings evoking the early 20th century when Loos’ fellow Austrians Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele were at their creative heights. Neue Galerie, across the street from the Met Fifth Avenue, is a superb place to appreciate Klimt’s and Schiele’s works, but the line stretching onto the sidewalk is for a table in the 60-seat café. Chef-owner Kurt Gutenbrunner reels in patrons for authentic Wiener schnitzel, Sachertorte and apple strudel, among other savory and sweet specialties.
Café Serai (at the Rubin Museum of Art)
Chelsea’s Rubin Museum brings together 1,500 years of Himalayan art, with scroll paintings, sculptures, masks and textiles from the Tibetan plateau and surrounding regions. To really immerse yourself in the culture, stop in the spacious, lobby level Café Serai for pan-fried or steamed momos (South Asian dumplings), creamy chicken tikka masala or black pepper lamb curry. During the day, the lounge is a peaceful place for tea and pastries. On Friday nights, when the museum offers free admission from 6 to 10pm, it morphs into K2—a dark, clubby spot with a DJ.
Flora Bar (at the Met Breuer)
Floral arrangements dress up the concrete, bunker-like environs of Flora Bar, the Met Breuer’s exceptional, audacious restaurant. Chef Ignacio Mattos and business partner Thomas Carter (Estela, Café Altro Paradiso) were chosen to rev up the museum’s underground dining area, and they’ve risen to the occasion. During the day, Flora Coffee features expert baristas, delicious pastries and sandwiches. The adjacent Flora Bar is a full-fledged restaurant serving an oft-changing New American menu that succinctly lists seafood platters, savory tarts, lobster dumplings with greens and steak with béarnaise sauce; in Mattos’ hands, it all becomes so much more.
M. Wells Dinette (at MoMA PS1)
Chef Hugue Dufour is as daring as the art on display at Long Island City’s MoMA PS1, a former public school with edgy exhibitions that break the rules. Dufour and his wife, Sarah Obraitis, do daytime duty here (Thursday–Monday, noon–6pm) and at night shuttle to the brilliant M. Wells Steakhouse. The New American menu in the museum’s classroom-themed cafeteria includes fun concoctions like a spaghetti sandwich topped with Caesar salad, and grilled cheese and foie gras with blueberries. Less eccentric items include avocado toast and cream of tomato soup—though dishes change with some frequency.
The Modern (at the Museum of Modern Art)
The Modern, a Danny Meyer restaurant, snagged two Michelin stars in 2016—the highest rating for any of his establishments. The formal, white-tablecloth dining room overlooks MoMA’s sculpture garden and offers a prix-fixe menu, service included. Walk-ins are welcome in the more casual Bar Room, where dishes come à la carte; from 3 to 5pm, there’s a truncated snack menu. The Modern’s New American menu changes with the seasons, but possibilities include cauliflower roasted in crab butter, pork tenderloin with a cassoulet of beans and seared black bass with Meyer lemon confit.
The Morgan Dining Room & Café (at the Morgan Library & Museum)
The glass-enclosed atrium at the Morgan Library & Museum is an eminently pleasant place, where attention is paid when it comes to service and careful preparations of deviled eggs, soup, sandwiches, salads and afternoon tea. The 19th-century brownstone complex also has a small, chic dining room with an ornate fireplace. It’s ideal for a three-martini lunch, if nothing detail-oriented is on the afternoon agenda.
Robert (at the Museum of Arts and Design)
Reserve in advance for a table along the bank of windows looking down on Columbus Circle and Central Park, one of the most stupendous views in the City. Robert, named for the late party planner and New York personality Robert Isabell, is on the ninth floor of the Museum of Arts and Design and shows off its design flair with video and light installations. Its New American fare with European accents includes squid ink pasta with sea urchin and cream sauce and branzino with smashed Yukon gold potatoes.
Russ & Daughters (at the Jewish Museum)
The Jewish Museum’s spin-off of Russ & Daughters, found on the lower level, is the first certified kosher location of the century-old bagels-and-lox landmark. This location sports a takeout appetizing counter and a restaurant with noshes like knishes, mushroom barley soup, pickled herring, blintzes and chocolate babka French toast with sour cream and berries. The deli-like design references the flagship shop on Houston Street and also has a personality of its own—exemplified by a delightful, vignette-filled mural by artist Maira Kalman.
Storico (at New-York Historical Society)
At lunch, Storico is bathed in natural light, its picture windows facing the tree-shrouded American Museum of Natural History across the street. An international crowd of museumgoers blends with Upper West Side locals at this lively enterprise, which features a seasonal Italian menu from chef Tim Kensett (formerly of London's River Cafe). Pasta is a staple, but the masterpieces here are the abundant salads, such as arugula with candied almonds, shallots and a showering of salted ricotta. Finish with a scoop of house-made gelato or granita, whose flavors also change with the seasons.
Untitled (at the Whitney Museum of American Art)
Danny Meyer’s restaurant at the Whitney might bear a simple name, but it’s certainly not lacking for imagination. The stylish, glass-walled dining room is animated by touches of red and an open kitchen turning out plates of beef tartare with turnips and pasta with swiss chard and aji peppers. Hit it at happy hour (Monday–Friday, 5:30–7:30pm), when fried fish lettuce wraps and a burger covered with cheddar and crispy onions help soak up discounted drinks.