In addition to revamping its perennially challenged Miracle Mile campus, LACMA is taking its food program very seriously these days and keeping up with the Joneses of the museum world. Those days of exclusively offering sandwiches chilled on ice and served cafeteria lines are well in the past. Very casual options are still available, but new on the scene is Ray’s & Stark Bar, designed by star-chitect and maestro of museum rehabs the world over, Renzo Piano. While the chic room — I could go on and on about the ingenious table design with the integrated cutlery drawers — and Executive Chef Kris Morningstar’s seasonal Mediterranean cooking at Ray’s is definitely fancy date or girls/boys Night Out material (and highly recommended!), the outdoor lounge area at Stark Bar lounge SEEMS perfect for kids who want to take a load off after cruising through the galleries, or the more restless ones who still need to get their kicks running through the Urban Light maze. And it kind of is. The fact that the previously underused, lifeless courtyard finally feels like an activated space should be applauded.
If you can do so responsibly, try one of mixologist Michel Dozois’s first-rate cocktails. I love the Bijou, with gin, yellow chartreuse, sweet vermouth, orange bitters, cherry and lemon peel. But when it comes to practical food options at Stark Bar outdoors, we’re talking slim pickings. Fior di latte flatbread ($9-13) seemed like the most basic, safe option, but the chili-infused oil made it prohibitively spicy for the little one (and us big ones, too). My bad; I didn’t read the menu carefully enough, and I apologize for all those soiled napkins we used to absorb some of the oil. Broccolini pizza with olives and creamy ricotta over a lovely charred crust was a better and perhaps more nutritious option.
Based on Stark’s Bar Bites menu, it appears LACMA and Patina Group wants that to be the designated adults only area of the museum. Unless your kids are stoked with a meal of olives, exotic cheeses, a few flatbreads and bone marrow. But with the welcoming couches and lounge-y feel, not to mention those pricey Jacobsen egg chairs that are OH so fun to spin around in, it’s a tease. (Some Knoll and Herman Miller sales reps got lucky with this commission, unless the big haul of mid-century classic pieces were all donated.) Sophisticated and well-behaved kids might appreciate a special lunch seated at one of Ray’s outdoor tables. But in terms of this restaurant/bar duo overall, if LACMA wants to set the fancy furniture and cocktails aside for adults, then do so. In the meantime, we’ll just trade off watching the kids play in appropriate areas while someone gets to have a cocktail. Or we can wait until Pentimento reopens as whatever it’ll be next, stick to the cafeteria, or cross the street and take advantage of the Miracle Mile’s food truck row.
5905 Wilshire Blvd., Miracle Mile
Hours: Monday – Tuesday & Thursday – Friday, noon – 10 p.m.; Saturday Sunday 11:30 a.m. – 10 p.m.