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NYC museum restaurants: dinner with a side of art

When Saul Bolton opened his new restaurant, the acclaimed chef didn't do it on a trendy block in Brooklyn or an up-and-coming neighborhood. He did it in a nearly 120-year-old museum.

"I'm a little idealistic, I like the idea of being in an iconic institution," said Bolton, who opened his eponymous restaurant in the Brooklyn Museum in October 2013. "It's very inclusive and community-oriented, but also a world-class museum."

Bolton isn't the only chef cooking amid centuries-old artifacts and priceless works of art. Saul Restaurant is just the latest in a long line of restaurants to open inside the city's museums and art institutions over the past 10 years or so.

Here's your definitive guide to museum dining in the city. You don't need to pay admission to dine at these restaurants, but why not feed your mind and your stomach at the same time?

Untitled at the Whitney

99 Gansevoort St., untitledatthewhitney.com Since: 2015 (reopened) Cuisine:
Photo Credit: Alice Gao

99 Gansevoort St., untitledatthewhitney.com

Since: 2015 (reopened)

Cuisine: New American

Chef: Michael Anthony

Price point: Items range from $7 to $28

Open: Daily

The 411: Danny Meyer's restaurant at the Whitney Museum has packed up and followed the institution to its new, Renzo Piano-designed museum in the Meatpacking District. Closed since October 2014, it'll reopen May 1 along with the museum, with Michael Anthony of Gramercy Tavern at the helm and a seasonal, veggie-friendly menu, including sugar snap peas, roasted cauliflower and crab ravioli (pictured). Anthony is also overseeing the museum's eighth-floor Studio Cafe, open to museumgoers only and serving a selection of salads, soups and toasts.

The Modern at the Museum of Modern Art

9 W. 53rd St., 212-333-1220, themodernnyc.com Since: 2005
Photo Credit: Ellen Silverman

9 W. 53rd St., 212-333-1220, themodernnyc.com

Since: 2005

Cuisine: French-American

Chef: Abram Bissell

Price point: $108 for four-course prix fixe

Open: Lunch and dinner daily

The 411: It's been nearly 10 years since Danny Meyer opened a dining room and bar inside the Museum of Modern Art with Chef Gabriel Kreuther. Since then, the restaurant, which features dishes that are like works of art themselves, has received four James Beard Foundation Awards, one Michelin star and a three-star review from the New York Times. Recently, Chef Kreuther departed to open his own restaurant, leaving Chef Abram Bissell of The NoMad, whose first job in New York was at the Modern, to take the reigns. So look out for some menu changes over the next few months.

Robert, at the Museum of Arts and Design

Museum of Arts and Design, 2 Columbus Circle,
Photo Credit: Robert

Museum of Arts and Design, 2 Columbus Circle, 212-299-7730, robertnyc.com

Since: December 2009

Cuisine: Contemporary American with Mediterranean influences

Chef: Luisa Fernandes

Price point: Main courses range from $30-$42

Open: Lunch and dinner daily

The 411: Opening just a week after the Wright, Robert offers some of the best views in the city, overlooking Columbus Circle and Central Park from atop the Museum of Arts and Design. Given its location, it's no surprise that the space is also an eclectic, colorful experience, with a collection of contemporary art and design commissioned specifically for the restaurant, including light installations by Johanna Grawunder and bright upholstered pieces by Vladimir Kagan.

Saul Restaurant at the Brooklyn Museum

Brooklyn Museum, 200 Eastern Pkwy., Prospect Heights, 718-935-9842,
Photo Credit: Brent Herrig

Brooklyn Museum, 200 Eastern Pkwy., Prospect Heights, 718-935-9842, saulrestaurant.com

Since: 2013

Cuisine: New American

Chef: Saul Bolton

Price point: $60 lunch, $85 dinner chef’s tasting menus

Open: Lunch and dinner. Closed Monday and Tuesday

The 411: Chef Saul Bolton previously ran the Michelin-starred restaurant Saul in Cobble Hill for 14 years before moving his famed establishment to the Brooklyn Museum last fall. Designed by Red Hook-based UHURU, the main dining room is inspired by the abstract, geometric Paul Kelpe murals on the walls. In addition to the fine dining spot, Bolton oversees the Counter, a more casual spot in the museum for lunch and brunch. As the weather warms up, Bolton hopes to add outdoor seating and do events like BBQs.

M. Wells Dinette at MoMA P.S. 1

MoMA PS1, 22-25 Jackson Ave., Long Island City,
Photo Credit: Jesse Winter

MoMA PS1, 22-25 Jackson Ave., Long Island City, 718-786-1800, magasinwells.com

Since: September 2012

Cuisine: New American

Chef: Hugue Dufour

Price point: Menu items range from $8-$30

Open: Lunch. Closed Tuesday and Wednesday

The 411: From the defunct M. Wells Diner to their current M. Wells Steakhouse, husband-and-wife team Hugue Dufour and Sarah Obraitis have had all eyes on Long Island City. Their dinette inside MoMA PSI is no exception, as the two serve up an ever-changing menu that's inspired by Dufour's Quebecois upbringing. In a charming nod to the museum's former past as a public school, the restaurant serves up its foie gras bread pudding and pork tongue French onion soup cafeteria-style on communal tables and writes specials on green chalkboards.

The Wright Restaurant, the Guggenheim Museum

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 1071 Fifth Ave., 212-427-5690,
Photo Credit: The Wright

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 1071 Fifth Ave., 212-427-5690, thewrightrestaurant.com

Since: December 2009

Cuisine: New American

Chef: Rodolfo Contreras

Price point: $38 for three-course prix fixe

Open: Lunch weekdays, Sunday brunch. Closed Thursday

The 411: It's all about design at this museum spot. Designed by Andre Kikowski, the fine-dining establishment, named after Guggenheim architect Frank Lloyd Wright, borrows from the sleek white curves of the iconic museum but throws in splashes of color thanks to a site-specific installation by Liam Gillick. The space even won the 2010 James Beard Award for Best Restaurant Design. Since opening, the restaurant has become so popular for private events that the Wright is no longer open to the public for dinner. As for the food, Mexico City-born Chef Contreras draws inspiration from France and Spain in his lunch and brunch menus.

Caffe Storico at the New York Historical Society

170 Central Park West, 212-873-3400; nyhistory.org/dine Since: 2011
Photo Credit: Corry Arnold

170 Central Park West, 212-873-3400; nyhistory.org/dine

Since: 2011

Cuisine: Italian

Chef: Edward Crochet

Price point: $28 prix fixe offered Sunday evenings

Open: Lunch and dinner. Closed Monday

The 411: Stephen Starr's catering company Starr Events oversees the Italian eatery tucked inside the NY Historical Society, which itself opened in 1804. Highlights on the seasonal menu include an ever-evolving menu of handmade pastas, though you may be equally enthralled by the collection of 19th century china that lines the walls while you dine.

Cafe Serai at the Rubin Museum of Art

150 W. 17th St., 212-820-5000, rubinmuseum.org Since: March
Photo Credit: Peter Dressel

150 W. 17th St., 212-820-5000, rubinmuseum.org

Since: March 2012

Cuisine: Himalayan

Chef: Ali Loukzada

Price point: Large plates range from $10-$17

Open: Lunch Sunday, Monday, Thursday, Saturday; lunch and dinner Wednesday and Friday. Closed Tuesday

The 411: Starr Events's other museum restaurant in the city, Café Serai opened two years ago as a reboot of the Rubin Museum of Art's café. The museum is home to the city's largest collection of Himalayan artwork, and the café fittingly features a menu of seasonal Indian and Tibetan specialties inspired by the Himalayas. Not to be missed are its signature momos, or Tibetan dumplings. And in case you're curious, the restaurant takes its name from the overnight stopovers for caravans along trade routes such as the Silk Road.

Cafe Sebarsky at the Neue Gallery

1048 Fifth Ave., 212-288-0655, kg-ny.com Since: 2001 Cuisine:
Photo Credit: Cafe Sebarsky

1048 Fifth Ave., 212-288-0655, kg-ny.com

Since: 2001

Cuisine: Viennese

Chef: Kurt Gutenbrunner

Price point: Entrees range from $13-$30

Open: Breakfast and lunch Monday and Wednesday; breakfast, lunch and dinner Thursday through Sunday. Closed Tuesday

The 411: Inspired by the Kaffehaus culture of fin-de-siecle Vienna, this café boasts authentic Viennese specialties and pastries, such as borschdsch and torte, served alongside period objects including light fixtures by Josef Hoffmann and furniture by Adolf Loos. Many of the cakes, such as the gold-speckled Klimt torte, pay homage to the artists displayed in the Neue Galerie, which specializes in early 20th century German and Austrian art and design. You'll have to be a museum member to have lunch here, though dinner reservations are open to the public.

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