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Tired: Dinner and a movie.
Wired: Brunch and a museum. And, not to be all two birds with one stone here, but have you heard of the Oklahoma City Museum of Art? Because they happen to have a pretty fabulous restaurant called the Museum Cafe (no, it’s not super inventive, but what do you care?).
It’s actually a great spot for both tired and wired activities, as the museum also shows independent films and the restaurant serves dinner, so don’t feel any pressure to not be tired. I’m a single dad with two kids and two jobs. I am always tired.
But I woke up early on a Sunday, despite my agonies, and met my cute little girlfriend for a quick ride on the OKC Streetcar to the museum. If we weren’t the first people in there, we were awfully close, and the entire morning felt kind of magical. You know that feeling when you’re worn slick and all you want is to keep sleeping, but you’re awake and the sun is shining on you and someone is pouring you coffee? That feeling that, whatever else is wrong in the world, you’ve got this one perfect moment?
That was my brunch at the Museum Cafe. That was my whole day and it was glorious.
[turns chair around like a youth pastor]
Can I rap with you for a minute, kids? I know things are hard out there. I know it’s so much easier to be angry and depressed and cynical, to lash out instead of embracing something or someone. And, hey, this is just a food blog, so what do I know? But I promise you, no matter how rough it is right now, no matter how difficult it is to get out of bed on any given day, there are moments of happiness hiding out there and you will come across them and breathe them in and it feels like you’re alive again, in a way you haven’t been for a while.
For me, that meant a hot cup of coffee in a sunny dining room and a menu of delights brought to us by A Good Egg Dining Group, which took over the restaurant in March.
It’s not like the Museum Cafe was bad before (far from it), but Good Egg knows how to make things better. The service was vintage Cheevers, with attentive waiters swooping in with refills and checking on orders every step of the way. It would have felt stifling if it wasn’t so friendly.
It’s always been a beautiful room, but the new management seems to have drilled in the importance of small touches. Everything was clean and tidy and just so. And, yeah, you can’t eat polished window sills or geometrically pleasing table settings, but dining out is never just about the food. So if you can make the food great, why not make the rest of the experience just as good?
And the food is great, starting with the Giant Morning Bun ($6).
I am an adherent to the “pancakes for the table” style of brunching. I am and always will be a savory boy, which means my opportunities to enjoy pancakes, waffles, etc., are predicated upon my fellow diners “trading” bites with me. But “pancakes for the table” means everyone gets a few bites. It’s a fairly low-cost way to feel like a big shot.
Well, at just $6, I think the Giant Morning Bun might be my new go-to move. It’s like an enormous cinnamon roll, covered in sticky toffee and pecans, topped with a decadent swirl of perfumed chantilly cream. We could have just eaten this, honestly, and been fine. It’s enormous and it’s so good that I had to push it away to keep myself from finishing it while the rest of the food was served. I’d recommend it for a group of four or more.
I know, in my heart, that French onion soup ($5 cup, $7 bowl) is not particularly brunchy. It’s a dinner appetizer or a maybe a light lunch item, but it is not, by and large, considered a breakfast-time item.
AND YET! When the spirit moves me, aka every time I see it on a menu, I get it. (Well, almost every time. Some places suck and I don’t get it there anymore.)
I’m not going to say Museum Cafe’s French onion soup was the best I’ve ever had, but it was pretty tasty. Mmmmmaybe could use some darker, more caramelized onions, sure, but that actually made it more brunchy, in my opinion.
French onion soup, especially with gruyere cheese and sourdough bread, can be an absolute flavor bomb, decimating every other taste on the table. Because this was a bit lighter, my palate was still ready to roll on the rest of the menu.
And that was important to me, as a man who also has trouble resisting a crab cake benedict ($18). Honestly, the brunch menu (available Saturdays and Sundays) at the Museum Cafe is full of impossible choices.
Crab cake benny vs. croque madame? I know people joke about avocado toast, but the description (toasted sourdough, beefsteak tomato, sunny side egg) had me drooling. And who can turn down steak and eggs? Vegans, that’s who. But I’m not one of them, so the struggle, as they say, was real.
I ended up with the crab cake benedict because I am a firm believer in taking the server’s opinions seriously. He said the crab cake was where it’s at and, by gum, he was right.
The bernaise sauce was rich and creamy, made all the more so by puncturing those perfect poached eggs and adding the runny yolks into the mix. The crab cakes were, uh, crabby. Like, they were made of crab meat, which is kind of the main thing I look for in crab cakes.
Much as I love the standard eggs benedict, there’s something really lovely about watching egg yolk and bernaise sauce trickle into all the nooks and crannies of a light and airy crab cake, soaking into it to ensure that every bite you take is going to be bursting with luxurious richness. I might ask for the english muffin to be toasted a little harder next time, but one bite of this pretty much guarantees there will be a next time.
Jess was not as taken with the cured salmon everything bagel ($11). The problem wasn’t taste, mind you, but construction.
No matter how cool a dish looks, if you can’t get it in your mouth to eat it, it’s a failure. I’m not about to say this was a failure, but I do think it deserves some work to get it into fighting shape.
The salmon itself was [chef’s kiss] absolutely lovely. Salty and salmon-y and just the right level of firmness. The whipped cream cheese was a bit too heavy, both in weight and application, because it kind of dominated the rest of the ingredients. The cucumber, radish, and arugula were fine, but they needed better layering.
As a sandwich, it was too thick. But the bagel needed to be toasted if the intent was to eat it open faced. All the elements are there and, with a bit of tweaking, it could be an absolute monster.
Another bonus of riding the streetcar: no guilt on those tasty brunch beverages. I got a bloody mary ($8) because I am a creature of habit and I love bloody marys. This was a good one, with a nice head of salad, and a spicy kick.
The lady ordered Mona Lisa’s Smile ($9) because she’s a St. Germain girl at heart. It was fruity and perfumy and the pop of cranberry and lime juices gave it a lovely tartness.
I wouldn’t say we were tipsy, but it’s nice not to have to worry about it one way or the other. After brunch, we decamped the museum and hopped on a streetcar headed to Scissortail Park for a post-gluttony walk.
#EMBARKEats is brought to you by EMBARK. If you'd also like to be brought to you by EMBARK, it's easy! Just catch a bus, hop on a streetcar, or rent a Spokies bike.