Oklahoma Contemporary is an art destination for all, and its Café Contemporary menu invites them in with a delicious, accessible, and creative menu.
By Nathan Gunter | Photography by Charlie Newenschwander
Good food, like good art, expands the horizons of those who encounter it. And like the best art, great food manages to do so in a way that's beautiful and engaging and leaves the beholder excited for more.
The minds behind Oklahoma Contemporary in Oklahoma City know this. From the Rand Elliott-designed building on the northern end of Automobile Alley to the world-spanning exhibits contained within, the entire space wraps visitors in beauty and luxury before taking them through exhibits that challenge assumptions and elevate souls. The museum's creators, then, might be forgiven for arting up the food in their café as well—visitors might well have expected to see dishes that came off more like works of gouache or tempera than, say, lunch. Instead, true to the museum's vision, Café Contemporary, located in the building's first floor lobby, is a gathering place for all.
"We wanted to create an active, living lobby space where people could come together," says Oklahoma Contemporary's general manager Michael Myers. "You can come here and work on your laptop or just hang out. lt's more of a comer-shop place where people know your name."
And while the food is hardly pretentious, it's highly creative. The usual coffee-shop goodies are delicious, satisfying, and undeniably unique. Bacon cheddar chive scones, plum tarts, and sweet potato kimchi fries greet the morning alongside staples like cinnamon rolls and muffins. For lunch, the cafe serves salads, soups, and sandwiches unlike those anywhere else in town. Try the Very Gouda Grilled Cheese for a winter warm-up or the ever-popular Picnic Sandwich with roasted chicken, roasted tomatoes, arugula, goat cheese, and Peruvian pepper jam on rosemary and garlic focaccia.
Just be sure to save room for a cookie. Café manager Kristen Trotter came to Oklahoma Contemporary from her own business as a cookie maker. With names like Fox's Forage and The Shire—not to mention old-fashioned chocolate chip cookies in regular and gluten-free varieties—there's much sweetness to behold. But it's the Campfire Cookie, with toasted marshmallow, graham cracker, and chocolate that really draws in the sweet-toothed. Each is perfectly paired with a cup of Leap Coffee Roasters coffee, and the staff are always riffing on whatever's going on in the upstairs galleries. During the ArtNow: The Soul Is a Wanderer exhibit up through January 15, visitors can get The Wanderer, a coffee concoction with sage, rosemary, and almond.
"When you're surrounded by constant creativity, it inspires the menu a lot," says Trotter. "There's just so much to draw from."