Thursday, June 17, 2021

The Restaurant at the Norton: A nod to its cultural influence

After browsing nearly 1,000 works of American paintings, sculptures, and works on paper at the Norton Museum of Art, The Restaurant offers a flavorful combination of food and drinks that will complement your visit to this outstanding cultural institution in the Palm Beaches.

No eating permitted in Norton Museum because dining onsite is as great as the art.

After strolling the spacious campus, the newly reopened eatery inside the museum—aptly called The Restaurant—offers a clean modern look of concrete, wood, and glass anchored by a curved bar at one end and a stunning view of the grassy-landscaped sculpture gardens and the bay.

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The restaurant at the Norton is operated by the renowned Constellation Culinary Group, who dominate the museum dining scene with restaurants at Perez Art Museum in Miami, the Frost Museum, the Sarasota Art Museum, the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC, and the New York Botanical Gardens just to name a few. It offers food the way people eat now—light, modern-American fare with various nods to coastal and cultural influence.

On a recent weekday, we decided to try a few of the new options, sitting inside one of the cool padded booths. Starting with a unique delicious Honey Lavender Ice Tea, complemented by a lemon slice and sprig of actual lavender, the drink was sweet and aromatic; the lavender lending a smoky, floral taste.

The Restaurant at the Norton: A nod to its cultural influence
Honey Lavender Ice Tea

Among the starters, they have Matzah Ball Soup. Served warm in a cup with nice chunks of roasted chicken, carrots, celery, and herbed homemade broth is a very delicious comfort food dish. We tried the taste sensations in the Charcuterie Board that comes with camembert in raspberry preserves for dipping, Shafts Blue Cheese with Fig Jam, a spicy Chorizo with sliced cornichons, and prosciutto with pears. The beauty of this board lies in how you can get a different flavor in every bite, mixing up the sweet, savory, spicy, pickled, and creamy as you desire. Befitting an art museum, the boards look as good as they taste, like an edible abstract painting.

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Perusing the menu further, the Mediterranean Mezze plate, overflowing with luscious scoops of Meyer Lemon hummus, kalamata olive tapenade, and eggplant caponata is much more than food. It is exactly the reason to follow a good conversation on art.

The Restaurant at the Norton: A nod to its cultural influence
Mediterranean Mezze plate

They feature main dishes including Lobster Rolls, something I order every chance I get. This summer seafood deluxe staple didn’t disappoint, served on a warm roll with tarragon mayo and a generous portion of house-made crispy Old Bay Kettle chips. Other options include Kale & Grain Harvest Bowl, a BLT Chopped Salad, Mahi Tacos with fried avocado and lime napa cabbage slaw, and freshly baked cookies.

Along with The Restaurant’s great menu, they serve creative cocktails, wine, and champagne.

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In celebration of the museum’s 80th year, the restaurant is offering up a new Spring Dish & Cocktail pairing, including Grilled Watermelon Bahn Mi – whipped feta, pickled vegetables (jalapeno, cucumber, carrot, Daikon radish), and cilantro. For a refreshing libation, try the French ’41 cocktail. This beverage is The Restaurant’s spin on a French 75— Norton Museum opened in 1941. The cocktail is a flavorful combination of Hendricks gin, lemon, hibiscus, and champagne.

The museum itself is good to browse nearly 1,000 works of American paintings, sculptures and works on paper. From famous pieces by Southwestern abstract pioneer Georgia O’Keeffe and drip painter Jackson Pollock, there are also more contemporary works in the museum’s photography collection by some well-known names.

The exhibition Art Finds A Way pulls from Norton’s deep collection of African American art with works that challenge along with their beauty from silhouette artist Kara Walker, collage specialist Mickalene Thomas and Spacesuit creator Nick Cave. The Gift Shop sells books and jewelry and clever art-infused items.

So, after a visit to indulge in one of the best cultural institutions in Florida, The Restaurant’s sweeping views of the museum’s garden are probably enough to draw you in for a meal based on a good handful of dishes that showcase different seasonal ingredients.

The Norton Museum of Art (at 1450 S Dixie Hwy, West Palm Beach, 33401) is open Thursdays through Tuesdays—closed on Wednesdays. Online at www.norton.org

The Restaurant at the Norton: A nod to its cultural influence

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