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.
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.
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.