By Elissa Gilbert
Most museum dining is more serviceable than noteworthy; there are few places where you’d pay the admission fee just to try the restaurant. But there are some museums with restaurants you can access without paying the admission that are well worth visiting.
1. Don’t hesitate to pay the admission price at the Museum of Modern Art to see special exhibits like the one about Matisse or permanent items in the collection like Van Gogh’s The Starry Night. But you can also stop by MoMA to dine in the Michelin-starred, award-winning restaurant The Modern. The restaurant’s Dining Room looks onto the museum’s sculpture garden, while the Bar Room features more casual dining. Solo diners can feel comfortable seated at either the bar or a low table with sofa-height seating. In the main restaurant, choices include lobster marinated with truffles and suckling pig roasted with spices; a full meal here is expensive. Even the more affordable bar menu, with items like tuna sliders and seared scallops, takes a bite of your wallet.
2. At the Rubin Museum, the collection displays art treasures from the Himalayas and surrounding countries; Café Serai serves tastes from those countries in a low-key restaurant near the gift shop. Order at the counter and find a table where your food will be brought to you. The menu’s small and large plates include momos (they’ve been known to run out of the delicious curried chicken ones), tandoori chicken wraps, pulled bbq pork bao bun, and saag paneer. If you bring your kids, they can try the naan cheese pizza. Or leave the kids with a sitter and come in the evening on Wednesday or Friday after work. Wednesday’s “Himalayan Happy Hour” has live music and a discounted menu. The restaurant’s menu changes for Friday night’s “K2 Lounge,” when it offers Asian tapas and special martinis and cocktails. The Friday night events also include music, gallery tours, and screenings of international films.
3. To dine in the atmosphere of an Old World café, stop in Café Sabarsky at the Neue Galerie. The museum, set in an elegant building on Fifth Avenue, specializes in German and Austrian art from the early twentieth century. The café, in a darkly paneled room with small tables closely packed together, feels as if it was plucked from Germany or Austria around the same era. The servers wear traditional black vests and crisp white aprons. The café opens early enough for a late breakfast of Bavarian ham and eggs; hearty foods later in the day include goulash and of course wiener schnitzel (described by a German waiter as his favorite because of its authenticity). There’s a full selection of Austrian and German beers and wines. Many diners stop in only for dessert; the pastry menu includes classic sachertorte and other tempting choices. The café is quite popular and there can be a wait for entry; the Café Fledermaus beyond the admission desk serves the same menu as Café Sabarsky. The décor at Café Fledermaus is inspired by that from the turn of the century, art nouveau Cabaret Fledermaus in Vienna.