Few outings seem more worthy than packing up the family and heading to a museum -- until the whining, fussing, and boredom kick in. So smart museum operators anticipate the fatigue and install cozy cafés (or, increasingly, even upscale restaurants). Offering an assortment of tasty, nutritious, and well-priced edibles not only enhances the museum experience, it also improves the odds that visitors will become regulars.
The Cleveland Museum of Natural History (1 Wade Park Oval, University Circle) has seen the light -- and it's reflected in the new Blue Planet Café. "The longer we can keep patrons inside, the better," admits chief development officer Bill Lynerd. With the recent opening of this "green" eatery -- a colorful cafeteria with a lengthy lineup of fresh, often organic veggies, meats, and seafood -- visitors certainly have reason to linger.
Operated by Cleveland catering company A Taste of Excellence, Blue Planet replaces the former Steggie's Café -- and then some. Homemade soups, salads (including hummus, tabbouleh, and six-bean couscous), gourmet sandwiches, and entrées like wild salmon, tofu kebabs, and hand-pressed sirloin burgers are a huge step up from the usual hot dogs, soft pretzels, and cola drinks (although those are available too). Nothing is deep-fried, coffee comes from fair-trade sources, and disposable plates and cups are biodegradable. And maybe best of all, the average per-person tab is around $6.
"An enhanced dining experience," Lynerd calls it. Museum-loving families, though, are likely just to tag it a smart move.
On the Waterfront: Exec chef John Bateman has launched a major menu revision at Cyrus Waterfront Restaurant and Patio (2000 Sycamore in the Powerhouse, 216-241-3325), his first since taking over the top-toque position in mid-July. Bateman's lineup features a mix of old faves (such as the lemongrass-infused crab cake) and new additions, including an expanded sandwich selection, featuring a Philly cheesesteak, a build-your-own burger, and a buffalo-chicken option. Prices remain steady, with most sandwiches pegged at $10 or less; entrées like roasted duck breast and spaghetti with clam sauce are mostly set below the $20 mark. And at least until cold weather arrives, the riverfront patio remains the most striking outdoor-dining location in town.