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A dish of buckwheat noodles topped with a variety of vegetables.
Buckwheat noodles with sesame collard green, enoki mushroom carrot slaw, beech mushroom, yuzu kohlrabi pickle, almond butter miso mayo, and furikake.

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Culinary Arts Take Center Stage at the Mingei Museum

The Urban Kitchen Group opens Artifact in Balboa Park

With food legends like Chez Panisse founder Alice Waters opening a restaurant inside LA’s Hammer Museum, art museums are becoming increasingly known as dining destinations. At Balboa Park, the jewel of San Diego, the Mingei International Museum has unveiled Artifact, a sleek new restaurant centerpiece that’s part of a $55 million renovation by local architect Jennifer Luce (Extraordinary Desserts, George’s California Modern). It’s conceived and operated by Urban Kitchen Group (Cucina Urbana, Cucina Enoteca), which also running the Mingei’s more casual Craft Cafe as well as serving as the on-site caterer.

The restaurant and cafe shares the ground floor with museum’s gift shop and select pieces from its art collection, which have informed the menu from chef-partner Tim Kolanko and chef de cuisine Jeff Armstrong, who found the recipe for sabaayad, a Somali flatbread, in a cookbook sold in the shop and paired it with lamb kibbeh seasoned with cumin and allspice. With their ever-evolving dishes continuing to be inspired by ingredients, spices, and botanicals from a mix of global cuisines, the chefs tell Eater that a ticketed dinner series, launching in January, will feature menus that will be directly influenced by the regions highlighted in the museum’s international exhibitions.

Artifact Restaurant at Mingei
A sleek wooden bar with a piece of fabric art hanging on the wall behind it.

Urban Kitchen Group founder Tracy Borkum says this Mingei residency is part of a new division of their business that has the company branching out into more partnerships, from being a featured food vendor at The Rady Shell at Jacobs Park to upcoming projects that include an all-day restaurant that will anchor a life science campus in the Torrey Pines area.

A tray with six different snacks include hummus, chicken satay and ceviche.
Snack tray with cashew lime hummus, chicken sausage satay, ahi ceviche, and berbere spiced crispy potato and cauliflower.
A plate of dumplings and roasted shishito peppers.
Rock shrimp gyoza with charred shishito and yuzu dashi.
A bowl of beef osso bucco with noodles and greens.
Beef osso bucco and egg noodle.
Roasted pork shoulder with fresh bean sprouts, pickled vegetables, and herbs served with rice.
Citrus dried chili-glazed pork shoulder.
A creamy cocktail garnished with flowers.
A casual cafe counter serving coffee and pastries.
Closeup of various pastries like cinnamon rolls and muffins on a cafe counter.

Artifact, 1439 El Prado, Balboa Park, lunch 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday with partial bar service until 5 p.m.

Artifact Lunch Menu

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