By Chris Waddington, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune
Ralph Brennan's Café NOMA at the New Orleans Museum of Art has been recognized as one of the 12 Best American Museum Restaurants by Travel + Leisure magazine. Restaurants from across the country were honored for their food and unique ambiance. Café NOMA was the only Gulf South establishment to make the list.
Destination restaurants such as Café NOMA are a trend at museums, Travel + Leisure noted.
"Far from relying on travelers as a captive audience for business or sticking to packaged fast foods, [museum] restaurants … hold their own with the city's trendiest tables — and inspire both travelers and locals to make advance reservations," the magazine said.
Café NOMA landed in some pretty distinguished company. Among the dozen restaurants on the magazine's list are spaces designed by world-renowned architects such as Renzo Piano (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) and Herzog & de Meuron (Walker Art Center, Minneapolis).
Museum restaurants have attracted top culinary talent, too. At the Art Institute of Chicago, for example, chef Tony Mantuano directs the dining program. In 2012, Travel +Leisure ranked Mantuano's flagship eatery, Spiaggia, among the country's best Italian restaurants.
Café NOMA showcases the culinary ideas of chef Chris Montero. The light-flooded dining room, with sweeping views of City Park, was restyled by designer Brian Bockman. The restaurant often has hosted special gatherings – from cooking lessons to events that celebrated the career of Creole food legend Leah Chase. On Friday (April 5), Café NOMA will celebrate Edible Book Day with a cake tasting and a contest open to home bakers and professionals.