Museum restaurants that are serving up works of art

SHERYL NANCE-NASH | 1/28/2021, midnight
Remember the days when the “restaurant” at the museum was a low priority? At best, you might expect a café ...
The Restaurant at The Norton in West Palm Beach, Florida

Remember the days when the “restaurant” at the museum was a low priority? At best, you might expect a café serving up sandwiches, soup or salad to tide you over in-between your museum browsing. Those days are gone. In many museums the restaurant is no pitstop, but a destination. Here we highlight some of them.

The Restaurant at The Norton, West Palm Beach, Florida

The Norton Museum of Art’s $100 million renovation in 2019 included the unveiling of The Restaurant at The Norton. It’s so good, it’s a stand-alone restaurant open to the general public. The restaurant offers light, modern-American fare with nods to coastal influence; think shrimp and grits, smoked salmon benedict, lemon ricotta pancakes, quiches and salads. Pair with wine, champagne or cocktails. Garden views create the ambience.

Verde, Perez Art Museum, Miami

Not that you need another reason to visit the legendary Perez, but Verde is indeed enough to give you another reason to walk through those doors. Verde boasts sweeping views of Biscayne Bay. Sip on cocktails and watch the sailboats. You know you’re in for a treat as the restaurant is led by James Beard Award winning Executive Chef Hedy Goldsmith. If you’re wondering about the cuisine, the magic is Mediterranean, housemade hummus, eggplant, tzatziki, tomato-mint salad, tahini vinaigrette and za’atar flatbread, Tortilla Española, potatoes, onions, piquillo peppers, shaved manchego, lolla rosa salad and more. Top it off with her renowned desserts.

Gertrude’s, Baltimore Museum of Art

Restaurants come and go, but Gertrude’s has been a go-to place for 20 years. It must be that locally sourced food that pays homage to Chesapeake traditions. Then there’s the setting. The main dining room overlooks a sculpture garden featuring works by Alexander Calder, Isamu Noguchi and Auguste Rodin. Gertrude’s was founded by John Gilligan and John Shields, the chef who is the host of the PBS television shows “Chesapeake Bay Cooking with John Shields” and “Coastal Cooking with John Shields.”

Café Leonelli and Le Jardinier, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

What’s cooking is so important that the Museum of Fine Arts, which recently completed a $450 million renovation, is adding not one but two new eateries this spring. Look out for Cafe Leonelli and Le Jardinier. Cafe Leonelli will be helmed by Michelin-starred chef Jonathan Benno and offers Italian goodies ranging from focaccia to fresh pasta. Pastry chef Salvatore Martone will prepare Italian pastries. Le Jardinier is all about veggies and seafood. Expect big things from Executive Chef Alain Verzeroli. Le Jardinier is a hot spot in New York and Miami. The New York restaurant won a Michelin Star last year.

Amuse Restaurant, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Virginia

Relax and take in the views of the museum’s Sculpture Garden and Atrium. Featuring culinary masterpieces that tickle the senses, Amuse is worth a sit-down after you’ve had your fill of fine art. Chef Greg Haley creates dishes based on what’s the best of the season with a focus on local ingredients. New dishes and cocktails are updated often along with the museum’s artwork. Menu highlights include spiced chickpea stew, curry braised chicken breast and pork bolognese. Do yourself a favor and finish off your meal with pecan pie shortbread.

Chez Louie, Nevada Museum of Art, Reno, Nevada

Owned by James Beard Award nominee Chef Mark Estee, the restaurant’s creativity inspires dishes like the chez burger, chili seared ahi or an omelette au fromage. There’s nothing like Sunday afternoon at the museum. Enjoy Sunday brunch with live music and dishes like crème brûlée french toast, chez benedict or smoked salmon crepes. Come thirsty—there is a bottomless Bloody Mary and mimosa bar.