Perfect For: Casual Weeknight Dinner Date Night Dinner with the Parents First/Early in the Game Dates Small Plates
PHOTOS: Sandy Noto

Let’s get this out of the way: Yes, Marisol is in the Museum of Contemporary Art. Yes, the last time we got excited about museum food it was astronaut ice cream from the Museum of Science and Industry gift shop, and we were 10 years old. But Marisol serves such delicious and interesting dishes that its location is irrelevant. You should come here even if you’re not interested in looking at art or stocking up at the gift shop.

Marisol doesn’t have its own separate entrance. So you’ll pass art installations and a help desk on your way to the restaurant - just like a group of eighth graders on a field trip probably did a couple of hours earlier. Like the rest of the MCA, the restaurant feels sleek and modern, and there’s a big, colorful mural, plus some line drawings on the walls. But despite these reminders of where you are, Marisol still feels like its own entity.

Sandy Noto

The American food here is seasonal, with dishes and their preparations changing often. But some things are so good we hope they never leave the menu. For example, the sunflower hummus. This version succeeds where other non-chickpea hummuses we’ve tried lately - made with things like beets, peas, and avocados - have failed. It’s creamy, and blended with oregano and artichokes for a unique and complex flavor. The shrimp and octopus small plates are hits, too. Both look simple, but have components that keep them interesting: the shrimp is served with bits of apple and walnut that add texture and sweetness, and the charred octopus comes with housemade saffron potato chips we’d be happy to eat on our couches at home.

While the small plates and appetizers keep things on the lighter side, the pastas and entrees here are heavier - but not excessively so. The bucatini with bresaola, truffles, and butter is rich, and the roasted half chicken that comes with masa dumplings and pâté-topped toast isn’t exactly light. But both dishes taste balanced and delicious, and ultimately, neither of them really weighs you down. The average Midwesterner will certainly be unfazed.

The fact that Marisol is in the MCA, and in a neighborhood typically filled with tourists, might discourage you from coming here. Don’t let it. Marisol is a great restaurant in its own right - not just great by museum-restaurant standards - and absolutely worth a visit. Permission slip not required.

Food Rundown

Sunflower Hummus

Bad sunflower hummus can be grainy, but this hummus is incredibly creamy and smooth. It also comes with flax seed crackers that look like stained glass when you hold them up to the light. So, it’s art.

Sandy Noto

Ignore the fact that this dish looks a little like an octopus crime scene. The charred octopus is tender, and served with aioli and housemade saffron potato chips. We wish we could take those chips home with us.

Sandy Noto
Marisol Salad

If you’re looking for a light salad, this is it. It has apple, dill, macadamia nuts, pecorino, and (according to the menu) a dressing from the 1977 MoMA Artists’ Cookbook. So, more art.

Rockaway Sweet Red Shrimp

Walnuts and apples enhance the sweetness of the shrimp. This is a delicious and light small plate.

Sandy Noto

There are three pastas on the menu, and you need to order at least one. The bucatini with butter, bresaola, and truffle is a good choice.

Sandy Noto
Fried Quail

This quail is crispy and juicy, and it’s served with a date honey that adds sweetness. It tastes a little like a fancier version of chicken and waffles.

Sandy Noto
Roasted Half Chicken

We really like this dish. Not only is the chicken roasted perfectly, but it comes with tasty masa dumplings and chicken jus. The toast and pâté make it even better. Order this.

Sandy Noto
Miso Butterscotch Pudding

The desserts here change frequently, but are worth your time. We like the miso butterscotch pudding, which has macadamia nuts that add a nice texture, plus citrus zest to brighten it up. If you’re here during the day, make sure to get a cookie from the coffee counter. They’re awesome.

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