The cafe at your local museum might be more than just a place to rest your feet and look cool over an espresso and a pastry. Satisfy both your artistic hunger and the urgent growl in your stomach at one of these dining spots—each one a popular dining destination in its own right. Call ahead for hours. — CHARITY FERREIRA AND ERIN McKNIGHT
Seattle Art Museum
100 University St.
Try inspired sandwiches ($), such as lavender-poached salmon with walnut cream cheese on ciabatta, or salads and entrées from a changing menu that features ingredients from small local farms.
The fresh soup of the day, which changes based on the availability of organic ingredients and to reflect the museum’s exhibits. This month, look for Chinese soups and regional noodle bowls.
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
151 Third St.
Austere gourmet fare ($$) like chicken crêpes, thin-crust pizzas, and other upscale Mediterranean-inspired lunch items and desserts.
The warm chicken panini with onion jam on house-made focaccia. Warmer days call for a seat on the bustling patio; otherwise the tables near the back offer the least traffic and a great view of the cafe’s own art gallery.
PALO ALTO, CA
Cantor Arts Center, Stanford University
328 Lomita Dr.
Jesse Cool is the famed champion of sustainable dining, and her menu ($) bolsters that reputation: Fresh soups, salads, and sandwiches change often, and the featured ingredients are nearly all local and organic.
An outdoor table overlooking the Rodin Sculpture Garden, plus the ultimate PB&J: organic peanut butter and housemade jam on thick slabs of whole-grain toast.
The Museum of Contemporary Art
250 S. Grand Ave.
Joachim Splichal’s Mediterranean-inspired food ($) is served in a sophisticated cafeteria setting. Sandwiches, soups, and salads change daily and can be eaten in or taken out.
Thursdays, when museum admission is free and wine goes for $1 a glass with the purchase of an entrée at the cafe.
2301 N. Central Ave.
The bistro-style cafe serves a rotating menu ($) of seasonally and regionally inspired dishes like a chicken tostada salad or a warm salmon salad with corn succotash.
Chef-owner Carolyn Ellis’s fresh, popular baked goods, such as the iced lemon-cake cookie or the individual three-tiered chocolate-raspberry cake. Also try the savory tarts, such as the chicken tamale with black-bean purée and roasted corn.