Cafe food in most museums I’ve visited over the years consists primarily of packaged food like chips and crackers, soda, and MSG-laden, microwaved entrees if hot food is served at all.
The one notable exception is the Louvre which does offer an amazing array of Parisian made foods along with my all-time favorite, French crepes.
So, you can imagine my delight and surprise when I discovered Real Food featured front and center at the Tampa Bay History Center where I spent the day on a field trip for my children’s school recently.
The cafe at the Tampa Bay History Center is a mini version of the hugely famous Columbia Restaurant at East Broadway and 22nd Street in Ybor City.
Ybor City is the historical Spanish neighborhood just north of downtown Tampa that is home to many shops and restaurants along with at least one remaining cigar factory.
The Columbia is the gem of all Spanish restaurants in Tampa and this little cafe at the Tampa Bay History Center does its namesake justice with the excellent food offered on the menu for museum visitors to enjoy while overlooking the beautiful Harbor Island just to the South.
The recipe for Spanish Bean Soup on the cafe placemats immediately caught my eye as everything about it was traditional from soaking the beans overnight to using beef and ham bones to make the soup broth. Even lard is used to fry the onion and bacon.
I thought I would share this recipe with you as it is simple and fast to make and one of the most delicious blends of meats, beans, and broth you will ever try.
If you will be visiting the Tampa Bay area during Spring Break this year, be sure to visit either the Columbia Restaurant or the Tampa Bay History Center for a taste of authentic Spanish cuisine.
And, for those of you who already live in the area, what are you waiting for? Go and check this place out! If you are in a hurry, it doesn’t seem that you even need to gain entrance to the museum itself to sit down and enjoy a quick lunch at the museum cafe, which is very near the entrance.
Here’s one of the excellent recipes on the menu using meat stock as the soup base!
Traditional Spanish Bean Soup Recipe
Traditional recipe for Spanish bean soup that nourishes with properly prepared legumes, vegetables, and a meat stock base blended with chopped chorizo.
Soak chickpeas overnight with a TBL of sea salt in sufficient water to cover the beans. When ready to cook, drain the salt water from the beans and put beans, beef bone, and ham bone in a large pot with 2 quarts of water. Cook for 45 minutes on low heat.
While the beans are cooking, fry the bacon and onion in lard until onion is caramelized. Place the bacon, onion, potatoes, and saffron into the pot with the simmering beans and bones.
When the potatoes are cooked, remove the pot of soup from the heat and add chorizo cut into think slices.
Add sea salt to taste and serve with an optional dollop of homemade creme fraiche.
We visited the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington DC last year, and the cafe is amazing! The cafe features indigenous food from the Western Hemisphere and reflects the food and cooking techniques from each region. There are cooking stations for each region and the ingredients change with each season. I had cedar plank roasted salmon, a wild rice salad, and some other salad with fiddlehead ferns. Quite a difference from most of the other Wash DC museums that serve mostly McDonalds. Here is a link to the cafe menus: http://www.mitsitamcafe.com/content/menus.asp. They sell a cookbook too!
Girl With Curl
This sounds great. I hope I can visit this museum!
So cool to find real food anywhere! It amazes me that people think that healthy food comes out of boxes. Heaven forbid that you actually cook something or eat a vegetable or fruit or even worse some good fat!
Our Modern Art Museum in Fort Worth, TX has wonderful food!
The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) in Portland Oregon has pretty decent food in their cafe as well. It is run by Bon Appetit http://www.bamco.com/ and the food is fresh, sustainable and humanly treated and sustainable. I was so surprised because i would never eat there before. At sometime they made a switch! Must be a new trend for Museums! And for real food, it was affordable. Do you ever notice with real food you can eat less and still be satisfied? I don’t think it costs more to eat healthy at all! Our local New Seasons Market dining area is the same. Too bad it’s only in Oregon!
The food all over Portland is good, at least what we had. We had lunch not at this one, but the art museum, pubs and a fabulous Jewish Deli. Another cool thing in Portland, Happy Hour is not what we thought. The drinks are still full price, but all the food was half price or more, and all very real and good. We made that our dinner, just kept ordering. Loved my American/Jewish breakfast plate: two eggs over easy, thinly sliced pastrami, potato latkes and rye toast. What a great breakfast!
That recipe sounds wonderful Sarah! Our small museum in Santa Barbara, the art one, has a wonderful cafe with lots of real food. We usually have a pretty good wholesome meal when we visit these art museums. I recall one in Portland Oregon with very good real food and the one in Palm Springs too. Hmmm, must be something going on here. 😉
It does make sense that creative, right brained folks from the art world would lead the trend back to real food and eschew the fake stuff. Great to know this is happening all over.
When we travel, we are usually hitting museums, and have found the food very good. Now I will be looking to see just how real the food all is. I do know one thing, it beats the heck outta Applebee’s or Burger King! 😉
True .. just because it looks real doesn’t mean it is. You have to look at the recipe and ask the chef typically to get the real story.
thats awesome! there is nothing like that around here… everyone around here is supporting Chick Fil Barf… I know its going to make so many people around here sick. Oh for something like your place in this area!
Most people don’t even know what good food tastes like anymore. Sad.
Sarah, that is so true. And so sad.
Yummy! I love Spanish food. I’ll have to try this.
St. Petersburg’s Museum of Fine Art has an awesome cafe (MFA Cafe) with delicious real food too 🙂
Becky Gutcher Hyatt via Facebook
i second this recommendation – i ate there last summer.. MMMMMMMMMMM
Susan C. Wheeler via Facebook
I shall have to remember that. My family lives near Tampa and I grew up near there and visit at least once a year. Thanks for sharing.