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The Best Museum Restaurants in the Bay Area

Satiate your appetite and broaden your palate at these three museums, which offer fresh takes on creative dining.


Indulge in a four-course dinner at BAMPFA’s next Film to Table gathering on October 13.

Photo courtesy of Babette

There’s nothing like wandering through a gallery and feeling an unexpected emotional connection with a painting or a sculpture. And while the original intention of visiting a museum is to experience art, part of the fun is the food. Here are three cultural institutions curating deliciously artistic eats.


A Moveable Feast

The weekly Friday Nights @ OMCA (Oakland Museum of California) events are big fun. Not only is museum admission half-price for the evening, but also Off the Grid’s food trucks roll up to serve killer street food. Though their lineups vary week to week, chances are you can taste everything from Lamas Peruvian Food’s lomo saltado to Southern Comfort Kitchen’s crawfish étouffée to Scotch Bonnet’s jerk chicken, and so much more. Add beer, wine, live music, and dancing into the mix, and it’s definitely a party. Just don’t forget to check out OMCA’s exhibitions, too. museumca.org.


Quirky Café

You may already know that BAMPFA stands for the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, but you might not realize that you can grab a bite at the very cool Babette café without paying museum admission. The eatery is tucked under a curving orange ceiling on the center’s second level, where diners can look down on the main exhibition floor while savoring breakfast (such as a bowl of ricotta, poached pear, hazelnuts, honey, and mint), brunch (try the red rice bowl with roasted turmeric yams), or lunch (bite into the roasted lamb sandwich with smoky babaganoush). Regardless of when you eat, leave room for dessert—the house specialty—and relish a morsel of Sicilian lemon almond pistachio cake. For a different dining experience, consider attending one of the monthly Film to Table dinners to enjoy a cinematically themed menu following a film screening. babettecafe.com.


Fine-Art Treats

Not surprisingly, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) features the Bay Area’s most ambitious on-site museum restaurant with In Situ. Chef Corey Lee views his food as both art and a celebration of innovative ideas. To that end, Lee and his staff replicate dishes created by some of the best chefs from around the world—including East Bay culinary icons Alice Waters of Chez Panisse, Tanya Holland of Brown Sugar Kitchen, and James Syhabout of Commis. While the menu rotates on a regular basis, there just might be a shorter wait for Holland’s shrimp and grits at SFMOMA than at her Oakland eatery. The food is high-end with prices to match, but having the opportunity to try award-winning meals surrounded by fine art is priceless. insitu.sfmoma.org.


What’s On View

After filling your belly, check out the latest exhibitions on display.


Through October 21, take in a tribute to the Oakland Athletics in Homegrown Heroes: Oakland A’s at 50; or, beginning October 11, The World of Charles and Ray Eames, which celebrates the life and legacy of the renowned 20th century designers. And starting November 10, check out Cruisin’ the Fossil Coastline, a prehistoric-themed examination of California’s natural environment.


The museum showcases portraits by photo-​grapher Peter Hujar (Peter Hujar: Speed of Life) through November 18, while the film archive explores the cinematic works of Ingmar Bergman (Bergman 100: Discoveries and Rarities) until November 4.


The marvelous René Magritte: The Fifth Season installation runs through October 28, and the contemporary photos of Susan Meiselas: Meditations are on view until October 21. Wayne Thiebaud: Artist’s Choice (featuring works hand-selected by the artist himself) will be on display until March 10.



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