A Short Farewell to MFAH’s Café Express

by Brandon Zech July 31, 2015
cafe express mfah

Photo via MFAH

Great news for those of us in Houston who love going to the MFAH but hate the dining options: the museum plans to open their new MFACafé this fall in the Audrey Jones Beck Building. According to their press release, the café will feature “the homemade fare of Italian-born co-creators Paolo Fronza and Matteo Alessandri” and “will combine the concepts of a museum café and the coffee bars of Italy, offering guests an array of light, Northern Italian-inspired food.”

In layman’s terms, the menu includes salads, pastas, soups, panini, and also offers breakfast options. The café is to be decorated with works from the MFAH’s collection that “reflect Italian art and culture.” Additionally, there will be communal tables available and the café will offer Wi-Fi and power outlets to guests.

Get your last dose of Café Express before it closes tomorrow, August 1st.

Via MFAH: “Beginning on Tuesday, August 4, the Museum will set up a temporary pop-up café in the lobby of the Beck Building, after Cafe Express hosts its last day of service on Saturday, August 1. Service, which continues until the opening of MFACafe, will be available from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday.


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Rainey Knudson July 31, 2015 - 22:10

Fingers crossed.

Robert Boyd August 1, 2015 - 11:51

Questions. Will it be more expensive than Cafe Express? If so, is there a place within walking distance where poor people can eat?

Brandon Zech August 1, 2015 - 11:55

Robert – I am really curious about this too. The pop-up café menu seems comparable to Café Express, but it is somewhat unclear if these prices will transfer to the new cafe as well.

Robert Boyd August 2, 2015 - 06:45

Pierre Bourdieu would surely have something to say about this. On one hand, putting a fine-dining restaurant in a museum can be seen as an acknowledgement by the museum of the class of visitors it has. People who prefer high culture also prefer fine dining so why not give them both? And it may signal to the class of visitors it wants that this is a good place for someone of that class to be. (See also Herbert Gans and Taste Cultures.)

Rainey Knudson August 2, 2015 - 13:00

I’ve been to many museum cafes, both in major cities and smaller ones, where you could enjoy something affordable that still had a little snap as a food item. Cafe Sabarzky at the Neue Galerie is the gold standard for this — prices there are on par with Cafe Express, and the food is in another league entirely.

Rainey Knudson August 2, 2015 - 17:31

Put another way: I’d be happy to eat at the MFAH if it didn’t feel like the food court at a mall in Des Moines.

joel Sampson August 1, 2015 - 19:30

I always ate there when I was in Houston visiting the MFA. I will miss it.

RA Caut August 3, 2015 - 11:41

Rainey, It’s hard to figure out
the thinking of the museum staffers at times. My daughter interned at a national museum and often times ate at their cafe. It was American fare and fresh – everything made from scratch . Was reasonably priced to match the above average menu. The chef took pride in creating something above food court fare.

Later, when new head staff took over, they instituted cost cutting measures to save money. Got rid of the “chef” and
got someone who introduced a cheaper fare.

What they did not realize was that some daily visitors came for the nice food in a nice atmosphere at a nice museum and now they lost those visitors. The old café broke even or made money, the new one is cheaper but loses money.


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