Phoenix Files – The Cafe at MIM

Culturally speaking, Phoenix became much richer on April 24, with the opening of MIM, the world’s first global musical museum, a 190,000 square-foot, two-story complex featuring more than 10,000 instruments and associated objects.

Perhaps the best kept secret of the barely 3-month old museum is the bright and airy café located off the main wing.

And here’s another secret: you don’t have to purchase an admission ticket to eat in the café.

All you have to do is stop at the admissions desk and ask for a pass for the café.

Café might be a misnomer, as the set up is cafeteria-style, although this isn’t your run-of-the-mill cafeteria — or typical museum café for that matter.

The café is operated by Bon Appétit Management company, and the kitchen is run by Edward Farrow, a chef with serious credentials including the River Café in New York, The Inn at Little Washington in Virginia, and Kai, Arizona’s only 5-Diamond restaurant.

While the setting seems like a cafeteria — shuffling through a food line, paying at a register at the end, and eventually, placing your tray on a conveyor belt headed for the dishwasher — the cuisine tells a different story.

The menu is driven by Bon Appetit’s “Circle of Responsibility” philosophy. Crafted — and subsequently labeled — with identifiers like “Organic,” “Vegetarian,” “Gluten Free,” Low Fat,” and “Farm to Fork.”

The Farm to Fork label means the ingredients are locally sourced, and Chef Farrow is on speed dial with local producers like Queen Creek Olive Mill, The Meat Shop, Fossil Creek Creamery, and Seacat Gardens.

The menu features a weekly soup and another that changes every two days ($2.95 cup/$3.95 bowl), just like the global special ($8.25), a personal-size pizza ($7.25), an AZ local special ($8.25), and a grill special ($8.25).

The global dish might be a braised rabbit panni, with spinach, sun-dried tomatoes and havarti, served with a bowl of Mediterranean olives. (pictured above)

There are weekly deli sandwiches and burgers — beef, turkey and veggie — and even a hot dog.

House made potato chips ($1.75) with sea salt are made fresh daily.

Theoretically, you could eat here every day and never have the same dish twice.

The grill special could be a fine piece of halibut, rubbed with a sweet chile glaze, seared to just done, and served with a tomatillo-avocado salsa, and black, forbidden rice topped with pine nuts and sunflower seeds. (pictured below)

Did I mention it was only $8.25?

The Café at MIM makes all their desserts in-house, and they change frequently, too, like a cherry chocolate cream tart, a marble cake parfait and a Sonoran lemon cake, all $4.50.

For $6, there’s a local cheese plate, with cheese, flat bread, fig and date cake, and honey.

Could this little gem be one of the best lunch spots in the Valley? Maybe. It certainly exceeds the quality vs. price ratio.

And it couldn’t be easier to get to, located just one block south of the 101 off Tatum Boulevard.

On second thought, maybe we should just keep this little secret between us.

Café at the MIM
4725 East Mayo Boulevard, Phoenix
480-478-6000
Hours: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily

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8 Comments

Filed under Restaurant Journal, Travel Eats

8 responses to “Phoenix Files – The Cafe at MIM

  1. I’ll take exception to the statement that the MIM cafe couldn’t be easier to get to. It’s an unfortunate location that values the freeway over walkability, transit, and centrality. It’s sad we’re still making that mistake in 2010.

    That issue aside, I agree that MIM is a major addition to the Phoenix Metro Area’s cultural landscape. I noticed the cafe during my MIM visit but skipped it in favor of a visit to Humble Pie at Desert Ridge. Based on your review, I’ll try eating on site next time.

    • David, you make a good point about accessibility. It couldn’t be easier to get to *if you have a car.*

      • …which I do, but I hate to see things made inaccessible to those who don’t — by necessity or choice. In any case, I should be clear that my frustration is not with the cafe, which sounds wonderful, but with the location of MIM itself. Regardless, thanks for a thoughtful review.

  2. I totally understand.

    By the way, this isn’t a review. I only went once, and while I paid for my meal, I interviewed the chef for another story, and asked him if I could take pictures and write a post. It’s more of a snap shot.

    I didn’t sample enough of the menu, or visit multiple times, anonymously, which to me is what constitutes a *review*

  3. You had me at braised rabbit panini and homemade potato chips. First on my list to go when I return to Phx. (For a panini, hmmm…)

  4. I love new finds in my ‘hood. THANK YOU for the post. It’s on my must-do list in the near future. Do you think that the menu is kid-friendly? I want to take the kids with me to the museum, but wondering if I should save the cafe & museum experience for a mom/daughter trip.

    • Dana, thanks! Yes, the menu has a few kid friendly items.. they can make a plain cheese pizza, there’s the burgers and hot dog, too. And I saw several children eating there the day I was there.

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