Dining With Da Vinci

. April 2, 2018.
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The Short Course

Kid-friendly: Yes
To avoid wait: Anytime
Noise level: Moderate
Bathroom amenities: Changing stations in all museum restrooms
High chairs: Yes
Got milk? Yes as well as juice
Kids’ menu? Yes
Allergy Info: Let them know ahead of time so food can be prepared separately. Gluten-free bread is available upon request.

Museum dazzles all the senses— including taste!

Let’s play 20 questions. OK, maybe that is too many, let’s reduce it to six. When was the last time you were at our fabulous Toledo Museum of Art? Did you know admission is free? Did you know the museum is open until 9pm on Thursdays and Fridays? Have you and your children ever taken part in The Family Center activities for kids ages 1-10?  Have you been to the incredible Egyptian exhibit on display until May 6? And did you know you could grab a great meal at The Museum Café?

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Change up the scenery

Hey Toledo! It’s always a great time to head to our Toledo Museum of Art— a wonderful Toledo gem. There’s so much to delight the senses, including your taste buds. But more on that in a just a bit.

The Museum is open until 9pm on Thursdays and Fridays, making it much more accessible. Due to my family’s multiple mismatched schedules, heading to the museum on a Friday after school was the only way we were able to view the exhibit together.  Many times they offer special evening events as well.

“The Mummies: from Egypt to Toledo,” on exhibit until May 6, is fascinating. Brought to Toledo in 1906 by museum founders Edward and Florence Libbey, the mummies have not been on display since early 2012. The exhibit is free for members and only $5 for children and $10 for adult non-members.

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An unexpected culinary surprise

Whether you are at the Museum taking in an exhibit or sharing quality time with your little ones in the Family Center, if you find yourself hungry, the Museum offers a full-service restaurant with excellent food. I don’t mean to sound surprised, but honestly I expected, maybe, a snack bar, until a friend of mine asked if I’d ever eaten there and suggested that I check it out.

Executive Chef Joe Felix, who has been with The Museum Café for over 11 years, has overseen its transformation from one-time snack bar to upscale, fast casual service, made possible by a kitchen renovation two years ago. Their menu, much larger than I anticipated, offered sandwiches, soups, entree salads and a variety of dishes with handmade gnocchi. 

“I do try to keep the menu seasonal,” said Felix. “We have a chef’s garden and a perennial garden.” The large chef’s garden, adjacent to the museum, has 28 raised beds!

There are two dining areas: one with white tablecloths and another, with windows for walls that make you feel like you are almost dining al fresco, where the tables are covered in white paper, with colored pencils supplied for drawing. You’re at the art museum, so let your little Picassos have fun!

The kids’ menu offered gnocchi and cheese, half Italian bread pizzas, three cheese grilled cheese, jumbo hot dogs and mini cheeseburgers. Prices ranged from $5.75 to $8 and drinks are extra; not the cheapest kids’ menu in town, but some portions could be shared by two.  And, for dessert, you’ll be tempted to enjoy a delectable cupcake from Eston’s Bakery, among other treats for your sweet tooth.

My youngest had to wrestle with the stadium pretzel burger with nacho cheese, mushroom and stadium mustard, but he made it disappear. My daughter opted for the grilled Portobello sandwich with mascarpone cheese, balsamic cabbage slaw, tomato and garden- herb mayo on a 12-grain wheat roll. Oh so good. Since gnocchi was an in-house specialty I savored the chicken Alfredo gnocchi that included asparagus and tomatoes. The menu, a far cry from the chicken tenders and grilled cheese I was expecting, frankly, was a delightful surprise!

Bottom Line

The Museum Café at the Toledo Museum of Art might be a surprise for many. You’ll find a little hallway leading to all things flavorful located near the back entrance across from the information counter. Most days the café is open until an hour before closing and a kids’ menu has ample selections. And your budding artists will love coloring on the table cover without being scolded!

Karen Zickes, a mom of three active children and freelance writer, resides in Holland, Ohio. She can be reached in c/o editor@toledoparent.com.