Find munchable masterpieces at these museum-based cafes.

Lunch D'Art

Written by Marilyn Hawkes Category: Three Bites Issue: September 2016
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Heard Museum 

Courtyard Café

2301 N. Central Ave., Phoenix


You probably wouldn’t patronize a museum for its culinary prowess, but the Valley is home to some museum restaurants so exceptional that you could be forgiven for bypassing the main attractions altogether. Exhibit No. 1: The Heard Museum’s Courtyard Café, which serves Southwestern-inspired fare featuring American Indian specialties and locally sourced ingredients. Start with creamy tepary bean hummus fashioned from local beans and served with house-made fry bread ($9). Finish with the Dreamcatcher salad ($13, pictured), a bountiful composition of diced ripe tomatoes and avocados, fresh corn, plump golden raisins, pearl couscous, pepitas and crisp baby greens served with balsamic vinaigrette. And if you’ve got a long lunch hour, give the tasty prickly pear margarita ($11) some love.


Musical Instrument Museum Café Allegro

4725 E. Mayo Blvd., Phoenix


At Café Allegro, chef Chris Lenza changes the bill of fare weekly, but keeps a couple of mainstay grill items on the menu. Customer favorites include the super lean Arizona grass-fed beef burger ($11.99) topped with a ripe tomato and red onion slice on a fluffy MJ Bread bun dusted with flour; and a vegetable bean burger ($11.99) made in-house with local chickpeas and pinto beans and 10 chopped vegetables roasted in olive oil, bound with roasted sweet potato. Add a slab of pepper jack cheese for a little kick. “It’s a very nutritious vegetable bean burger with quality ingredients and nothing processed,” Lenza says. All grill items come with sides – from sweet potato fries and green salad to tater tots and hand-cut fresh fruit salad. Seal the deal with a scratch-made chocolate chip or oatmeal raisin cookie. 


Phoenix Art Museum


1625 N. Central Ave., Phoenix


Palette’s menu promises organic vegetables, local meats and cheeses and an ample selection of Arizona beer and wine. General manager and chef David Rivera mixes up the menu three or four times a year to highlight seasonal produce. Chicken lovers will cluck over the farmers’ market sandwich ($13) loaded with a heaven-sent combination of chicken breast, crisp bacon, sweet dates and thinly sliced apple on prairie bread slathered with pesto mayonnaise. Another great choice: grilled salmon ($16) roasted with lemon and herbs, local seasonal vegetables and arugula dressed with tangy mustard-sage vinaigrette. “We want people to feel good about what they’re eating – quality ingredients and clean food,” Rivera says. 

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