Edible Art: Ever been to a museum restaurant? If you have, you've probably noticed that you can almost always count on the food to be 1) overpriced and 2) mediocre.
That's why I was so startled after a visit to the Phoenix Art Museum. Looking over the collection, you won't think you're in the Louvre, Prado or the Met. But you don't have to be an art lover to enjoy this place. That's because the museum restaurant is itself a major attraction.
Give management credit for the idea of handing over restaurant responsibility to Eddie's Grill. Its crew has put together a reasonably priced menu offering first-rate lunchtime fare. If you work downtown or in the Central Avenue corridor, you can't do much better at noontime than Eddie's Art Museum Cafe.
The food can be as striking as the art. Tortellini salad ($6.25) features cheese-stuffed pasta topped with pesto-crusted slices of grilled white-meat chicken, dressed with basil-garlic olive oil and embellished with cherry tomatoes, red onion, pine nuts and shaved Parmesan cheese. It's heavy, filling and very tasty.
Thai beef salad ($7.25) will also rouse you from your noontime torpor. Thin-sliced grilled flank steak is tossed with sprouts, Swiss chard, snow peas, scallions, noodles and orange segments, garnished with cashews and sesame seeds, and coated with a zesty Oriental-style dressing. Less enticing is the dainty black bean-roasted corn salad ($5.95), which would benefit from a little more heft.
Sandwiches are first-rate. The portabella mushroom model ($7.95) is artistically prepared, seasoned with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and lined with a bit of hummus, onion, cucumber and cheese. The seared tuna sandwich ($8.25) is marvelous, tuna grilled medium rare, teamed with Muenster cheese, onion, tomato and a fried won ton, all served on a sesame-seed roll coated with wasabi-ginger mayo. Eddie's signature meat-loaf sandwich ($7.95) is another winner, a coarse-ground slab of beef topped with mashed potatoes and a rich mushroom gravy, heaped atop grilled marble rye.
Two things I usually don't do before 6 p.m. are drink alcohol and eat sweets. But Eddie's desserts are good enough to make me abandon my principles. The volcano brownie ($3) is fantastic, light chocolate cake enfolding a molten chocolate interior. The chocolate fudge cake ($2.75) and margarita cheesecake ($2.75) are also worth feeling guilty over. One more bonus: Excellent coffee to help wash down everything.
But changes are coming. The restaurant recently abandoned its cafeteria-style operation. Now there's sit-down service. The manager told me they're also going to be upscaling the menu. Translation: Get out your wallet.
Eddie's Art Museum Cafe in the Phoenix Art Museum (admission is free) at 1625 North Central. Cafe hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday through Wednesday; 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday and Friday.
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