The Austin Chronicle

Blanton Museum Cafe

Reviewed by Kate Thornberry, November 14, 2008, Food

Blanton Museum Cafe

Tuesday-Friday, 9:30am-5pm; Saturday, 11am-5pm; Sunday, 1-5pm; third Thursday open until 9pm; first Friday open until 11pm

Frequenters of art museums tend to be discerning and knowledgeable about food as well as art; consequently, there's been a trend nationwide to bring the level of concessions at museums up to the high standard of the art within. It is a happy idea in every way to place a really good restaurant in the middle of such harmonious surroundings, and the university's Blanton Museum of Art will be following suit today, Thursday, Nov. 13, opening the Blanton Cafe for members in the newly completed Edgar A. Smith Building.

The Blanton Cafe will seat roughly a hundred people, with 88 inside seats and 20 outdoor patio tables. Like the restaurants at New York City's Museum of Modern Art and Stanford University Museum of Art, you don't have to pay admission to the museum to eat at the cafe. The menu has been developed by local chef Josh Watkins, known for his work at the Driskill Hotel and the AT&T Conference Center.

The Blanton Cafe will be serving primarily breakfast and lunch, with evening hours twice a month. The breakfast offerings will be along the lines of an espresso bar: a full range of coffee drinks plus pastries, bagels, fresh fruit, and yogurt, as well as smoothies and a great variety of other chilled and blended beverages suitable for our Texas climate.

Lunch is the primary focus, and here the hand of Watkins can be discerned. Ten sandwiches ranging from smoked ham and Brie with caramelized onions (the Eclectic) to the classic tuna melt (the Blantuna) are listed, and the sides are nicely up-to-date: wasabi potato salad, peanut coleslaw, and balsamic roasted vegetable salad.

Ten different flat-bread pizzas make up the next section of the menu, and the toppings are fashionable and appetizing: One combination pairs buffalo chicken, blue cheese, and hot sauce; another combines Yukon potatoes, rosemary, and Asiago. For traditionalists, a trio of ricotta cheese, fresh spinach, and mozzarella is offered, as well as seven other suggested topping combinations. Building your own tossed salad from an array of upscale ingredients will be another lunchtime option, as well as seasonal soups both standard and du jour.

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