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The Dining Room at The Met: A Distinguished History

Lisa Vrod and Katie Didrichsen
January 10, 2018

The Dining Room at The Met
The Dining Room—once open only to Members, Patrons, major contributors, and senior staff—is today open to all visitors to the Museum

«For many years, trustees, staff, and Members of The Met have been privy to a carefully kept secret: a serene dining room on the fourth floor of the Henry R. Kravis Wing with treetop views of Central Park. Originally opened in 1991, The Dining Room at The Met, as it is called today, was originally designed to serve patrons and major contributors to the Museum, as well as senior staff members. Handsomely appointed with custom furniture and woodwork, the space was conceived as a comfortable, informal, and quiet respite in the Museum.»

Today, The Dining Room at The Met, like the Museum itself, serves all visitors with passion and creativity. The restaurant is a proud member of NYC & Company and will participate in its Winter Restaurant Week from January 22 through February 9, 2018, showcasing this very special piece of Museum history for all who visit The Met.

The storied restaurant has a low-key character, but do not let that fool you—it was crafted by some of the most noteworthy designers and architects of the time. Philip George, the eminent designer known for his work in posh New York restaurants such as Le Bernardin, Mondrian, and the Hudson River Club, created the interior, while Roche and Dinkeloo Associates, the firm famous for their 1970 master plan for the Museum, managed the architecture.

The Met's restaurant for members and staff in 1941
Fifty years before the Dining Room first opened, Members and staff ate in this cafeteria, pictured here on November 1, 1941

Given the impressive design pedigree of The Dining Room at The Met, many guests are intrigued by the exclusion of art from the space. Interestingly, this was intentional, so as to not compete with the Museum collection on view elsewhere—and, of course, to avoid detracting from the spectacular views of Central Park that are the focal point. The intention was for it to be a place of reprieve for staff and guests during an otherwise busy day. So the entryway and dining space were designed with leather wrapped panels and upholstered walls to absorb and deflect sound for a relaxing atmosphere.

Not to be forgotten, the original menu was the product of Baum & Whiteman, a restaurant consultancy best known for creating more three-star restaurants in the United States than anyone else. Their most famous restaurants include Windows on the World in the World Trade Center, and in 1987, they reimagined the menu of the famed Rainbow Room at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, which reopened that year. Longstanding menu favorites that grew out of the firm's collaboration with the Museum, including the gruyere soufflé and jumbo lump crab cakes, may still be enjoyed in The Dining Room at The Met today.

The character of the space has remained interesting and appropriate over the nearly 30 years since it opened, despite a transformation in 2011. That June, after 20 years of serving primarily staff and high-level Members, the Trustees Dining Room (as it was then called) became known as the Members Dining Room, and dining there quickly became a must-do activity on every visit for Members and their families.

The Met's restaurant in 1918
A former restaurant at The Met pictured in 1918

Weekend dinners, held on Friday and Saturday evenings, became especially popular for celebrated tasting menus inspired by exhibitions and The Met collection. Diners delighted in menus featuring the favorite foods of Andy Warhol or Henri Matisse and medieval feasts inspired by the herb garden of The Met Cloisters—all of which could be paired with hand-selected wine flights from the Museum's extensive cellar.

Given the enthusiastic reception, the restaurant was once again transformed in June 2017 to become—simply—The Dining Room. Now open to all guests of the Museum, The Dining Room continues to delight with weekend brunches, much-beloved dinner tasting menus on Friday and Saturday evenings, and additional events just for Members and Patrons, which have included special dinners with culinary collaborators such as Murray's Cheese, the world-leading spirits expert and author Heather Greene, the champagne house Billecart-Salmon, and farmer Rick Bishop of Mountain Sweet Berry Farm.

We hope you will take the opportunity to visit The Dining Room at The Met, perhaps for the first time, during Restaurant Week and see for yourself why Forbes magazine calls it a "treasure among thousands."

Lisa Vrod

Lisa Vrod is the marketing director for restaurant services at The Met.

Katie Didrichsen

Katie Didrichsen is a manager for restaurant services at The Met.