Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Los Angeles Area >
Mar 29, 2011 02:47 PM

*You* eat the Uncrustables, Wolfgang Puck, or some thoughts on the substandard dining options at LA's cultural institutions

Small kids + big city = enjoyment of the city's many museums and cultural attractions

We'd do it more often but lunch becomes a hassle because of late opening times and mid-day naps. It works best if I get a good lunch packed but sometimes we wing it and try and buy lunch there. This is always a horrible experience because the food is SO BAD.

Kidspace with a "Nestle Cafe"

(I know, I know that alone should have warned me off) The menu online from Wolfgang Puck looked basic but credible. It is HORRIBLE. Shriveled and desiccated Sysco burgers, pathetic little Uncrustables stacked up in the window, horrid quality milk and juice, depressing, anemic, and just gross quesadilla. Seriously, I know this isn't the business that put the swill in Swill Hut but it is almost worst.

I LIKE peanut butter and jelly. How hard is to make a decent pb&J? No, god forbid a very famous chef's catering actually will MAKE A SANDWICH. No, we get a frozen processed puck. Now I for one try to avoid violent metaphors when writing. My first thought was that I would like to bat him about the face with that frozen monstrosity but, no, that isn't right. I just want him to EAT ONE.

Peterson with Johnny Rockets

I hadn't been to a Johnny Rockets in ten years and hopefully it will be at least another ten years before I go back. They make a godawful burger.

La Brea Tar Pits & Page

Nothing really in walking distance on the weekends unless someone has suggestions?

Natural History Museum

Their full service cafe has been closed for almost a year but they've had a small cafe with packaged food downstairs for awhile. Much better than the alternatives, perfectly fine pre-packed sandwiches in solid kid-friendly combos like ham + cheese. They usually have a hot soup that the kids will like after we reduce the salt content with some water. Some decent quality snack food. Conventional milk.

But a note of caution: you might want to enjoy this place unless like you enjoy spectacles with clueless parents and sugar sensitive children. Why parents think as 3 year old should drink 16 oz of Nesquik (56 grams of sugar) before their lunch arrives. The children go nuts, the parents go nuts, and everyone leaves in tears. I witness this once or twice every time we go. Always with the Nesquik. I am now fascinated by the power of Nesquik.

Zimmer Children’s Museum

No food. Vending machine with particularly unhealthy snacks. Might be particularly unhealthy kosher snacks if anyone cares.


The best of the bunch. They have snacks, fruit, cookies, kosher hot dogs, and some pre-packed kosher meals outside of a café. The café food is decent although it can be slow. For a place that attracts a lot of children and families, it really isn’t set up for them. I don’t mean kids menus or anything but it would be nice if they had enough high chairs, room for strollers, or lidded cups.

Patina Group services a number of other instituions but after Swill Hut, I swore off all related venues forever.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Food at LA museums runs the gamut from mediocre to poor. Kidspace is the worst (which is too bad because this could be an opportunity to get kids to think outside the burger box). But The Getty does have a nice cafeteria and a good restaurant. It feels more like you're in a European museum in that regard.

    1. About an 8 minute walk from the La Brea Tar Pits (might be a bit more with toddlers?) is Yuko Kitchen on Wilshire and Dunsmuir, my favorite casual eating spot on the Miracle Mile. Good rice bowls, salads, "Japanese burrito" rolls, cupcakes, smoothies, tea drinks, etc.

      Yuko Kitchen
      5484 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90036

      1. There's a Counter right across the street from the Page Museum--the blandly seasoned burgers are not the greatest but not terrible either, and there's always that Apple Pie milkshake. India's Tandoori is further up the street, not too bad, and Luna Park is not too far away, also open for weekend lunch. Or it's a quick drive to the Farmers Market

        I am certainly aware of the historical basis of your antipathy for Patina Group, but I do have to admit that PayOrPlay Jr. has, for all of his 9 years, loved going to Pentimento for a cheese plate and fancy non-alcoholic drink as part of a weekend museum visit. It's closed right now, we haven't tried the replacement Ray's/Stark Bar yet.

        It is absolutely true that L.A. museums currently offer nothing like the excellent dining opportunities at places like the Met in NYC, the National Gallery and the Museum of the American Indian in DC (although most of the other Smithsonians have only McDonald's. so we're ahead of them, anyway!), or the Moss Room at the California Academy of Sciences. The restaurant at the Bowers in Santa Ana is not bad, although we almost always decide to skip it and head over to Little Saigon (insert plug for Xanh Bistro here) instead.

        Luna Park
        672 S. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90036

        Patina Group
        291 W Cerritos Ave, Anaheim, CA 92805

        1. I took my niece to the Living Desert last week (in Palm Desert) and, experienced the same scenario. I knew I was in trouble going early and staying through the lunch window (11:30A-3P). I only brought cuties and some c.c. cookies. She said to me: "Auntie, I want a real lunch!"....So, we ended up in the Meerkat cafe...The 6 yr old chose the PB&J. It was SO bad she refused to eat it. Us two adults shared a sub-par salad. TTL bill: 16$ for 1 PB&J kids lunch and 1 chicken salad!! OMG!! I asked for my $$ back on the PB&J. We ate the salad. I received a partial refund of 4.50$ because she drank the juice and ate the chips and animal cookies. I learned that no matter what, even it's premade from Trader Joes, bring lunch on such outings! Suggestions: make something the day before! Even for Disneyland, I prepack meals!

          1. Generally speaking, food at museums all over the world is substandard because many museums were build at a time when they were not expected to have even a café on the premises, let alone bathrooms.
            Add to it that for conservation reasons you need to get the food and drinks as away from the collections/exhibitions as possible, and you get super small/non professional kitchens squeezed in what amounts to non-essential space for the museum, with food brought in from some subcontractor's commissary. In LA usually it's Patina.
            So, yes, they serve horrible previously frozen stuff that is assembly-lined on the premises because they can't do much more. And it's overpriced because the contractors pay a concession to the museum.
            The Getty having been built more recently than the others, it does have better food, and it better be that way because once you're on that hill there aren't that many other options!

            If you're near LACMA/the Page I'd think you'd better go eat at the Farmers Market if you have children, rather than the horrid LACMA cafeteria. For MOCA at Grand avenue I'd say take Angel Flight's down the hill and have pupusas at the Grand Central Market, if it's the Geffen there are many options in Little Tokyo.

            This being said, I've been going to museums and working at museums all over the world for over 3 decades and I don't think I've ever been at one that had memorably good food offerings. I think whatever the museum you're better off eating somewhere else before your visit.

            Grand Central Market
            317 S Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90013

            3 Replies
            1. re: bad nono

              Well, I have to respectfully disagree, bad nono. Unless I've been leading a charmed life, I can't think of one bad meal I've had at museums in the USA or Canada. When I'm in Europe, I don't usually dine in the museums. Nor in Washington, DC. I have found so many places to eat nearby, that we opt for that. In fact, the way I lured my family into museums in the US, was by bribing them with an offer of a great lunch!

              1. re: bad nono

                > you get super small/non professional kitchens
                > squeezed in what amounts to non-essential space

                The sad thing is that you can still do a lot with _no_kitchen_at_all_ on the premises. Pret A Manger in the UK is a good example:


                I'd rather eat at a Pret than nearly any museum cafeteria in LA. NB: I've only been to Pret locations in Britain; I've never tried the US or HK locations. These could be worse than the UK ones.

                1. re: bad nono

                  I have to disagree. The Restaurant Grand Louvre has a Michelin star and is an excellent stop for lunch. Even the gruesome little caffè in the forgotten butt end basement of the Doge's Palace in Venice had food that was decent.