Side Dish: Eating Uptown

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A recent media preview of the new Museum of Contemporary Art — set to make its grand debut this weekend at the corner of Euclid Avenue and Mayfield Road, right between Wade Oval and Little Italy — offered an appetizing look at a neighborhood on the brink of a cultural explosion. Sure, the $27-million MOCA is key to Uptown's emergence as a don't-miss destination. But what really got our juices flowing is the abundance of dining options set to emerge.

Just a short stroll across Toby's Plaza, on the east side of the museum, you'll soon find a lineup of new restaurants. Set to open just about any minute now, the pan-Asian Accent will be Scott and Brenda Kim's newest venture. Jonathon Sawyer's as-yet-unnamed Italian concept will open in the spring. They'll both be joined later this year by another ABC Tavern . Panera, Jimmy John's, and Chipotle also will plant their flags along Uptown Avenue.

But the most unique eatery may be the one inside MOCA, operated by Marigold Catering. Founder and owner Joan Rosenthal says that the Marigold kiosk inside the museum's main lobby may be small, but it will feature an avant-garde menu full of big tastes.

"It's like a little French cafe with an upscale menu," says Rosenthal, who adds that the lineup will feature fresh, seasonal ingredients with non-traditional twists. A sneak peek at the opening menu reveals reasonably priced temptations like a roasted tomato tartine with shaved Gruyere ($4.25), a roasted beet salad with poached pear, spiced pecans, and cilantro ($4.50), and a PLT sandwich featuring crisp prosciutto, bibb lettuce, yellow tomato, and herbed mayo on challah ($6.50).

And thanks to MOCA's full liquor license, visitors can enjoy their salads and sandwiches with a glass of beer or wine.

Admission to the lobby — and the cafe — is free when the museum is open; that includes evening hours on Thursdays and the first Friday of each month, when the vibe will be more like a bar and less like a lunch spot. "We want to keep the food selections fresh and interesting," says Rosenthal, "so we can appeal to the entire neighborhood — including Case students and staffers at University Hospitals."

In addition to the kiosk, Marigold Catering will also provide MOCA's on-site catering. "It's an amazing space," says Rosenthal. "We're already slammed with inquiries. Any caterer would be thrilled with the opportunities this provides." — Elaine T. Cicora

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