I want to say right at the start that I love eating in museums; it is always an adventure because the presentations run a culinary gamut.
Museum eateries are generally a sought-after location for local restaurateurs, caterers, chefs, and food service specialists because they have a dedicated clientele. People visiting a museum rarely take a food or coffee break elsewhere. It is a welcome opportunity to have a location that is guaranteed a certain amount of action.
Some museums solicit providers they think will add attraction to their venue as a destination. So, across this country and others, museums offer everything from a snack bar to a dining experience that holds its own with any restaurant in town. So, you never know.
What a pleasure then to sample the fare at Baltimore’s Reginald F. Lewis Café. The chef, Brett Owens, set out a tasting plate of the day’s offerings, straight from the service counter that all the visitors were served from.
Chef Owens has been at the Café since it opened five years ago with the inauguration of the museum, (whose full name is Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture.)
For eight years he has worked with Jim Britton, owner/head chef of Class Act Catering which owns and operates the museum café. Chef Owens is a graduate of the Baltimore International College and his education shows. Let me tell you about my favorites.
The Reginald F. Lewis Crab Cake is choice: large pieces of crab in a very loose, melt-in-your mouth format, with lemon and a tangy horseradish sauce on the side. The George Russell Grilled Salmon on mixed greens was very flavorful and the contrasting flavors of the fish on the salad are terrific. The green beans and the collard greens are both fine sides, but I must say that the ‘mac and cheese’ is outstanding.
Chef Owens says Jimmy’s Famous Catfish and the Eubie Blake Lake Trout are the dishes that sell out very quickly. There is, of course a traditional Caesar salad, to which you can add almost anything. The only dish that didn’t work for me was the fried chicken – I prefer mine more moist and with a lighter coating.
If you are undecided about a beverage, the signature raspberry iced tea is delicious. I had mine sweet. And why not.
The café is a great destination on its own and a pleasant spot to meet for coffee and dessert before or after viewing the exhibitions. And yes, there is a kids’ menu that includes a fresh fruit cup and delicious made-from-scratch cakes. Milk or juice and cookies are always good to refuel young engines for more museum exploration.
Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture
830 East Pratt Street, Baltimore MD 21202
Wednesday –Saturday 10 am to 5 pm – Sunday noon to 5 pm
The Café is open Wednesday – Sunday 11 am to 4 pm
Parking for museum visitors is located across the street at the Dodge PMI Garage at 815 E. Pratt St.
$6 validated parking is available so don’t forget your ticket when you leave your car.
- Francine Halvorsen can be reached at [email protected]