The New IMA Cafe

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I’m sort of obsessed with the Indianapolis Museum of Art.  I don’t know a thing about art, but their collection looks good to me and it’s totally free (except parking, which is free with membership) and it’s a great place to study, relax, or take great walks on beauuuutiful days.  But it’s hard to deny that the real reason I love the IMA is their cafeteria.  I use that word loosely-the old cafe, called Nourish, served 3 soups rotated weekly, delicious flatbread pizzas, an assortment of sandwiches and pastas and salads and BEER, WINE, and LIQUOR.  They also had espresso and Green Mountain Coffee, which I love.

Sadly, the IMA has changed the hands responsible for their foodservice in the past month.  The cafeteria is now open limited hours, with “To Go” type boxed sandwiches and sodas available whenever the museum is open. I don’t know what the politics were behind this move-I can understand that financially, it’s probably not great to staff a full kitchen on off hours.  But it’s a huge disappointment to me.  However,  I was assured the new cafe food would be even better than before when I last visited, so today I came during “hot food” hours with high expectations.

  • I ordered the IMA Signature Soup:  “Creamy tomato served with a toasted basil and cheese crouton” and was not disappointed.  

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The soup was $6 for a generous bowl and came beautifully presented. The soup was creamy without being overly fatty-feeling and had a very pleasant nutty texture that food friend Deborah commented on also without any prompting. The soup itself was of the creamy, garlicky variety without much basil and I loved it.  The “crouton,” however was completely baffling.  While it was nice to get something to dip in the soup, this was certainly not a crouton.  This was a piece of grilled cheese.  Literally two triangles of bread, very mildly toasted with some swiss cheese and a leaf of basil between them.  The idea was nice, but the execution was anything but:  folks, we are talking about WHITE. BUNNY. BREAD. here.  The basil inside was a literal leaf of basil, which seems luxurious but can’t be effectively cleaved with a human tooth, resulting in one bite with a whole leaf of wilted basil and the rest of the bites with none.  The “crouton” left A LOT to be desired.  I was expecting a small toasted round of baguette and while I got more than I expected, I certainly didn’t get better.

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Foodie friend Phil ordered Brie, Turkey, and Cranberry Sandwich.  Bacon, ham, turkey, Swiss cheese, lettuce, tomato, and red onion layered on sourdough bread with dijon aioli.  The sandwich was $10 with a $2 upcharge for sweet potato waffle fries.  He liked the sandwich, although there was no lettuce, tomato or onion to be found between it’s layers.  (In fact, I think those would have detracted from the sandwich.)  Something of a Brie connisseuer, Phil was underimpresed with the quality of the cheese but very pleased with the overall taste of the sandwich.  Except.  THAT DAMNED BREAD!!  This sandwich was on that stupid wonderbread white bread the “crouton” was on!  The bread was toasted, which at best made it limp and grease-soaked.  He thought the bread was a detriment, I think it’s kind of inexcusable.

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  • In my opinion, French Fries have no excuse NOT to be delicious-it’s only news if they are bad, and these were not.  They were very tasty.

Perhaps my expectations were just too high.  I will certainly come back to the IMA Cafe, but I will be steering clear of any sandwich on “sourdough” bread and sticking to the cafe’s other options. I’ll also be skipping their sort of pricey fountain beverages.  Also note that the cafe still serves coffee, although I’m not sure it’s Green Mountain, which may mean no Hazelnut.  I also spotted a Sunlight Cream Ale, one type of wine, and a few scattered other varieties of alcohol.  Perhaps they are still expanding, I will keep you posted.  Another feature I appreciated was their tasty-looking cheesecake (That’s right, I passed on cheesecake!) which was offered half price with the purchase of a meal, making it a very affordable $2.50 a slice.

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The other best part about IMA is the beautiful setting, and that, at least, never disappoints.

http://Nourish Café at IMA on Urbanspoon

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2 thoughts on “The New IMA Cafe

  1. Nice review! Been avoiding the cafe for price reasons mainly (minus coffee…definitely have been a patron of that). Secret IMA hack: there are three lots with free parking. One behind the “library” that’s never open, one by another brick building (not sure what it’s called), and one by the greenhouse.

    • Thanks! And Whaaat? How did I not know about that?? I am a member (I live REALLY close so it was well worth it for the discount) but I will definitely sneak that advice to my friends :-)

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