The Museum Cafe changes management hands every few years.
There was a time it was Zal’s Museum Cafe, then it was Fresco Museum Cafe. Now, it appears to simply be called Museum Cafe, as it is owned by the Santa Barbara Museum of Art.
Currently it is managed by Emily Stuart, with Chef Brenda Simon.
I popped in there recently to see what was different on the menu compared to past cafes and immediately saw the menu was dominated by tapas. When I asked the woman at the counter if this cafe was all Spanish, she explained that the menu changed according to the exhibits at the Museum.
That is way cool.
The menu offers 9 morsels – try to go as a group of three and you can order every item. I went with one friend, and picked six.
- Roasted sweet pepper and sausage crostini
Our wine was 2006 Sangre de Toro, normally $10/glass.
We liked our wine a lot, it was smooth and slightly sweet. My friend liked the empanaditas, I liked the shrimp and the toasts with manchego and quince.
All our goodies were brought out on a shared silver platter, and we nibbled away while sipping our wine.
The 3-5 pm thing is awkward, as evidenced by the small dining crowd. Our late arrival meant we stayed past closing time (sorry!) and the waitress had to point out that we could only exit through the gift shop, as the Museum doors were now shut. On the upside, the quiet atmosphere let us get some business stuff done in peace. It won’t work for everyone.
There is a more standard menu still available for lunch, and a breakfasty menu for Saturday and Sunday brunch. This menu has an international flair to it, like Tibetan lentil soup, or green coconut curry shrimp and soba noodle salad, and there’s also the caesar salad, panini and wraps.
But go for the tapas. Considering this is supposed to be a Spanish themed town, there really are very few places that have Spanish tapas. Glad to have these on the menu, if only during the time of an exhibit in the Museum.