Sure, it’s easy to fill your Instagram feed with pictures of food — but what about when your surroundings are filled with just as many works of art? Here are some top restaurants for art lovers where what’s on the plate is as impressive as what’s on the walls.
Liquid Art House, Boston, Massachusetts
The cocktails may be shaken and not stirred, but the whole premise behind this combination restaurant and gallery is to stir up Boston’s art scene, says owner Ruta Laukien. It’s the same premise behind social dining, and the open space is meant to inspire conversations and connections, whether it’s with each other or with rotating pieces from domestic and international creative minds. In the same vein, expect an international menu with dishes such as Himalayan chicken momo, Lithuanian cheese dumplings, and pork and leek gyoza. Make a reservation at Liquid Art House.
Lockbox, Lexington, Kentucky
Opened in 2016, boutique 21c Museum Hotel is a contemporary art museum, restaurant, and cultural center all in one. Lexington’s first luxury hotel hosts programs and exhibits from emerging and internationally acclaimed artists. The latest includes “Tomorrow’s Weather,” located in the Lockbox bar (so named as it was the former home to the First National Bank); created by Swedish artists Bigert & Bergstrom, the installation updates three times daily according to the weather report. Hanging orbs represent atmospheric molecules and change color and height depending on meteorological predictions. Make a reservation at Lockbox.
Tico, Washington, D.C.
Tico may be an affectionate name for a local in Costa Rica, but for chef Michael Schlow, perhaps, there is no one more local — nor for whom he has more affection — than his wife Adrienne. It’s her artwork that adorns the walls of all of his D.C. restaurants and Doretta in Boston. The James Beard Award-winning chef lives with her and their two daughters in the South End, where Adrienne’s studio is also based. Expect the same kind of bold and vibrant strokes as the flavors at Tico, featuring six varieties of ceviche daily alongside tacos like fried-chicken with spicy buttermilk or shrimp a la Diablo with chipotle cream. Make a reservation at Tico.
Tru, Chicago, Illinois
Expect contemporary fine dining matched by the best in contemporary art, including pieces by Gerhard Richter, Andy Warhol, Peter Halley, and Vik Muniz. Put on your best attire — including jackets for the gentlemen and business, elegant, or evening attire for ladies — to toast to one of Chicago’s most extensive wine cellars or admire such artful presentations as the Coral Caviar display, up to 10 varieties of roe arranged on bright-red reef replica that has a guaranteed “wow” factor. Make a reservation at Tru.
Esker Grove at Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota
There’s plenty of food for thought at the Walker Art Center, where dance, exhibitions, film, lectures, and more fill the schedule. Fill your belly before or after enjoying a performance at Esker Grove, where wooden floors, expansive skylights, a cozy bar, and floor-to-ceiling windows overlook the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden and the downtown skyline. Open just since December, chef Doug Flicker serves up dishes inspired by regional cheese artisans and local farmers’ harvests (many meals are cooked on a rotisserie) alongside craft beers and cocktails and Spyhouse roasted coffees. Make a reservation at Esker Grove at Walker Art Center.
Gallery, Charlotte, N.C.
It’s all about “approachable elegance” at Gallery, says general manager Peter Grills, so while you can expect stunning artwork, the “comfortable elegance to celebrate a special occasion is matched with a great place to enjoy one of the best burgers in town,” he says. Besides exclusive pieces from contemporary local art dealer Shain Gallery, expect a refined approach to Southern cuisine with locally sourced dishes such as rack of boar with cherry glaze, duck breast with prosciutto vinaigrette, and tuna with red curry. Make a reservation at Gallery.
Mr. Chow, Beverly Hills, California
Restaurateur Michael Chow brings his taste for art to his dining rooms at all Mr. Chow locations, including the recently expanded Beverly Hills. The restaurant boasts one-of-a-kind works from famed artists like Helmut Newton, Andy Warhol, and Antonio Lopez, and one-of-a-kind signature recipes like Mr. Chow noodles, fiery beef, and Peking duck. Mr. Chow also includes an impressively designed flower collection, spotlighting lilies that are cared for several times a week. Head Beverly Hills chef Ren Zheng Bing has a limited-time menu utilizing lily bulbs and cherry blossoms for the Lobster Lily and Forest Treasure. The ingredients are not only edible but also nourishing, as in traditional Chinese cuisine, the lily is purported to heal lungs. Make a reservation at Mr. Chow.
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Carley Thornell is a travel writer whose experiences eating street food in Japan, English peas in the UK, free-range steak in Argentina, and Brussels sprouts at Estragon tapas in her hometown of Boston have provided unforgettable culinary inspiration. Shout out at email@example.com.