Lunch art

Ben Ipema makes a sandwich at Café Musée.

Ben Ipema makes a sandwich at Café Musée.

Photo by AMY BECK

Café Musée at the Nevada Museum of Art is open Wednesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

I confess to a distaste for some parts of downtown Reno, but I actually love our little art museum. At the Nevada Museum of Art you don’t get the feeling of guilt that sometimes accompanies visiting a place like the vast Met in New York where you know you’ll never see it all. Here, you can comfortably see the current rotation of the permanent collection and the special exhibits in an afternoon, feel suitably cultured, and still be home in time for cocktail hour.

But the complete and proper museum experience includes viewing and dining, so one recent weekend, I secured the twins with my husband and went solo to NMA to enjoy the exhibits and catch up on my New Yorker magazines. After perusing the exhibitions—some of Ansel Adams’ photography is there until August 14, but the main event through May 22 is Leo Villareal’s Animating Light, an interesting collection of light sculptures—I stopped into NMA’s Café Musée to read and try the local museum fare.

There are actually three overlapping menus: the daily, weekend, and Jazz Brunch special. Each menu delineates exactly five items, not counting the soup of the day (quiche, breakfast panini, waffles, salad, sandwich—all in the $9-$12 range). The tuna sandwich special ($9.50) seemed appealing. With its promises of “Sicilian” albacore blended with a panoply of elegant ingredients including capers and lemon aioli, it sounded like it might be a Rembrandt—perfected technique in choice media—set to bread. In my frank estimation, it was more like a Rockwell—charmingly American if lacking in depth—but at least it wasn’t a ghastly, tortured, heinously overpriced culinary Modigliani.

I enjoyed myself while eating in the clean, low-key atmosphere. There are a handful of tables in the café itself and many more in the atrium of the museum. The walls are basically windows, and the well-lit tables are clean if Spartan. Three women dined nearby, on break from an afternoon art class.

I ordered at the counter, and my server was great. She was kind and funny without being over the top, and she recommended a good white wine for the afternoon (also $9.50). In this regard, my one disappointment might speak worse of me than Café Musée. I understand that in polite society a wine glass at lunch is only supposed to be about half full, but, well, I would rather have had the full dose, especially considering the price, over civility.

In the end, I paid museum prices and got typical museum quality: slightly pricey not-badness. But I metaphorically slapped myself and thought, “It’s a museum, for godsake!” We should be happy to even have one in an economy where art programs are being cut everywhere, so paying a couple of extra bucks for a decent tuna sandwich is a small sacrifice we can make to support the arts, right?