Museums, like department stores and airports, are now counting food among their attractions. They recognize that after a few hours of John Singer Sargent or Betye Saar visitors might have an appetite for a plate of pasta or a juicy burger instead of basic coffee-shop fare. The following museum restaurants would be worth a meal even if not surrounded by masterpieces. Most of them can be visited independently of the museums.
Garden Court Café
A serene oasis filled with trees and plants is where the chef de cuisine, Tsering Nyima, touches down on several Asian destinations. Steamed Chinese dumplings served in bamboo baskets share the menu with Indian samosas, Korean japchae glass noodles and a Japanese bento box assortment. Wine and beer are served. Keep the Garden Court Café in mind when visiting the Frick Collection a block away, where the food options are limited. Open daily from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., except Mondays (reservations accepted, no museum admission required). 725 Park Avenue, Manhattan; 212-570-5202, asiasociety.org.
Saul Bolton, one of Brooklyn’s star chefs, runs this art-filled dining room with a contemporary American menu. But for the duration of the museum’s Pierre Cardin show, through Jan. 5, haute couture takes over with décor to suggest the Paris restaurant Maxim’s, owned by Mr. Cardin. The food is French. Open from noon to 5 p.m. Wednesdays and Fridays, noon to 9 p.m. Thursdays, 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays (reservations, no museum admission). 200 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn; 718-230-0897, thenormbkm.com.
El Museo del Barrio
Side Park Café
Mexican street food, done with some refinement, is the order of the day. Vibrantly spiced tacos, enchiladas suizas, rotisserie chicken, quesadillas, wraps and breakfast items like huevos rancheros (served all day) are among the options. The restaurant can also whip up a mean frozen margarita and pour some demanding mezcals. There’s an efficient counter for ordering but management should browse the museum’s storeroom for something bright to enliven the dining room walls. Open from 8 a.m. Mondays through Fridays, and 11 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays, until 8 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays and 6 p.m. Sundays through Tuesdays (no reservations, no museum admission). 1230 Fifth Avenue, Manhattan; 212-831-7272, elmuseo.org.
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
The Wright and Cafe 3
A colorful abstraction by the painter Sarah Crowner beribbons the curving white walls of the Wright restaurant, where seasonal fare like spaghetti squash pancakes and pumpkin gnocchi share the menu with a beef-and-mushroom burger and a quinoa bowl. Upstairs at Cafe 3, a simpler menu has sandwiches, salads and pastries. Open daily from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., opens at 11 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays, with extended hours during the holidays (reservations, no museum admission for the Wright). The cafe is open from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, and until 7:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Saturdays. 1071 Fifth Avenue, Manhattan; 212-427-5690, guggenheim.org.
Russ & Daughters Cafe
Here the Lower East Side meets Museum Mile. Smoked fish, bagels, knishes, herring, lox and eggs and borscht — the items that New Yorkers call appetizing — are served and also sold to take away in a downstairs cafe. Everything is kosher (pareve) and comes from a company that has been in business for more than 100 years. Open 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays; 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Fridays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays, and 9 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. Sundays; takeout is also available daily except Wednesdays and Saturdays (reservations on Saturday only, no museum admission). 1109 Fifth Avenue, Manhattan; 212-423-3200, thejewishmuseum.org.
Museum of Arts and Design
Museum dining in a jazzy ninth-floor aerie comes with a view and perhaps a well-made MAD Manhattan, a New York sour with a splash of red wine or the Olmsted, a suitably herbaceous gin drink. Crowd-pleasing food includes crab cakes, Wagyu beef sliders and duck breast. Lunch: 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays; dinner: 5 to 11 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays, and 5 to 10 p.m. Sundays through Tuesdays (reservations, no museum admission). 2 Columbus Circle, Manhattan; 212-299-7730, robertnyc.com.
The Brutalist style of the museum is also expressed in the underground, semi-secluded dining room and bar run by the team from Estela and Altro Paradiso restaurants downtown. But the food from a concise menu is anything but: refined, excellent and graciously served. It begins with breakfast when it pays to arrive before the epic cinnamon buns run out. Open for lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, dinner from 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays (reservations, no museum admission). 945 Madison Avenue, Manhattan; 646-558-5383, florabarnyc.com.
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Dining Room, Petrie Court, Cafes
In the vast mother ship a few blocks uptown there are assorted choices including the serious, formal Dining Room with prices to match; the ground-floor Petrie Court with waiter service for salads, sandwiches, pastries, beer and wine; a cafe in the American Wing; and the sprawling kid-friendly cafeteria in the back of the museum. For a quick sandwich, or in the afternoon, a drink, the balcony that surrounds the Great Hall is a good choice. Open during museum hours (reservations for Dining Room only). 1000 Fifth Avenue, Manhattan; 212-535-7710, metmuseum.org.
Museum of Modern Art
The museum’s massive renovation and expansion has yielded one new place to eat, the efficient sixth-floor Terrace Café now showing Kerstin Brätsch’s pieces on the wall. It has waiter service, a fairly basic contemporary American menu and seasonal outdoor seating. A long stretch of narrow marble counter has seats for solo diners. Elsewhere in the museum is Café 2, a basic coffee and Italian snack spot. And on street level, there are two options with a dedicated entrance: the Bar Room at the Modern, featuring creative American fare, and, with two Michelin-stars, The Modern, a plush dining room with views of the Sculpture Garden. All are in the hands of Danny Meyer’s organization. Hours vary; reservations for the Terrace Café, the Bar Room and The Modern; no museum admission for the Bar Room or The Modern. 11 West 53rd Street, Manhattan; moma.org/visit/eating.
MoMA PS 1
Mina Stone, a chef who has often cooked for artists, draws on her Greek and Georgian roots for the menu at the newly redone cafe. Greek meze, market greens, yellow lentil soup and a few breakfast items are on the menu. Open from noon to 6 p.m. Thursdays through Mondays (no museum admission). 22-25 Jackson Avenue, Long Island City, Queens; 718-440-4616, minas.nyc.
Morgan Library & Museum
Morgan Dining Room and Morgan Café
Tom Colicchio, the celebrity chef, is now in charge of J.P. Morgan’s former dining room, serving lunchtime hamachi crudo, seared quail, ricotta gnocchi, and, for brunch, a lobster omelet. The spacious cafe adjacent to it has easygoing fare like onion dip, steamed mussels and a burger. Beer, wine and cocktails are served. Open noon to 2:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays for the Dining Room, from 11 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays. The cafe serves from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., daily except Mondays and until 8 p.m. Fridays (reservations for the Dining Room, no admission). 225 Madison Avenue, Manhattan; 212-683-2130, themorgan.org.
Homage to Austrian and German art carries over to this elegant wood-paneled dining room where the chef, Kurt Gutenbrunner, channels Vienna with goulash, Wiener schnitzel and spaetzle. Clouds of schlag dress coffee and chocolate drinks and more than a dozen desserts, as dazzling as Klimts, beckon from a display. Open daily, except Tuesdays, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., closes at 6 p.m. Monday and Wednesday (reservations, no museum admission). 1048 Fifth Avenue, Manhattan; 212-628-6200, neuegalerie.org.
New-York Historical Society
An Italian-accented menu of salads, sandwiches, pasta and dishes like a frittata and burgers with and without meat at lunchtime is bolstered at dinner with roast chicken and steak. There’s a full bar. Across the entryway from the high-ceilinged white room is Parliament Espresso and Coffee with all sorts of alluring pastries. Open for lunch, from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and dinner, from 5 to 10 p.m., Tuesdays through Fridays, dinner starts at 5:30 on Saturday; brunch from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays (reservations, no admission). 170 Central Park West, Manhattan; 646-293-9912, storicorestaurant.com.
Whitney Museum of American Art
Small plates, often with a generous vegetable component, dominate the menu at this breezy ground-floor restaurant. Salads, sandwiches and beverages can be ordered at a cafe on the museum’s eighth floor. Open daily, except Tuesdays, from 11 a.m. to 6.m., and Fridays until 10 p.m. (reservations, no museum admission). 99 Gansevoort Street, Manhattan; 212-570-3670, untitledatthewhitney.com.