When MoMA PS1 approached personal chef Mina Stone about opening a cafe in the contemporary art museum, she weighed her options. Pregnant with her first son, Apollo, she leaned toward declining. But as an artist — a food artist — constantly seeking environments to grow in, she ultimately accepted.
Run with her partner and visual artist, Alex Eagleton, Stone’s all-day cafe, Mina’s, opened just before the start of the new decade. Located inside the museum, Eagleton revamped the new digs and swapped out communal tables with Corian-clad two-stops. A half-Greek Jew, Stone’s small but quaint Mediterranean menu draws on both her heritages.
“It’s kind of interesting because I don’t think who I am is only Greek food, it’s just kind of easier to have a label to describe it,” Stone said in an interview with Time Out. “But I feel like the food is more of a document journal of a time of life.”
As a personal chef for artists, Stone is the perfect choice for the museum’s new cafe. Before landing her current job, she was the studio chef for artist Urs Fischer and churned out swanky dinners for his contemporary artist peers like Matthew Barney and Elizabeth Peyton. In her book, Mina Stone: Cooking for Artists, Stone shares her Greek-inspired, family-style recipes that she’s cooked for her community of artists.
Let’s take a look at the menu, shall we?
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Peinirli is a Greek cheese-and-egg bread. In Greece, it's widely considered late night party food—there’s even a neighborhood that specializes in them called Drosia outside of Athens. @minastone first had a similar dish in Moscow, then found through research that some version is present from Russia all the way down to Israel (via @grubstreet and @charissa_fay)
Breakfast never stops at Mina’s. Sourdough toast with a variety of sides — tahini, honey and cinnamon, or something more savory like muhammara (a Syrian red pepper and walnut spread that’s traditional in Israeli breakfasts), arugula, and a soft boiled egg — are served all day, as is “salty sweet granola” with coconut milk and berries, and peinirli, a Greek cheese boat similar to Georgia’s khatchapuri.
Though she points to her Greek roots as inspiration for the majority of her dishes, it’s difficult to ignore Stone’s Jewish heritage when you see tahini-walnut babka on the menu.
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Mina developed the tahini walnut babka with chef de cuisine Natasha Price. Putting the tahini walnut mixture in a babka dough is like Mina’s two cultures coming together, because her dad is Jewish from Cleveland and her mom is Greek. On the weekends, we’re toasting it up and putting Greek yogurt and fruit compote on it.
“Putting the tahini-walnut mixture in a babka dough is like my two cultures coming together,” Stone acknowledged in an interview with Bon Appetit. “On the weekends, we’re toasting it up into French toast, putting Greek yogurt and fruit compote on it.” YUM!
Lunch staples include a yellow lentil soup, kale salad, a roast beef with horseradish creme fraiché and arugula sandwich, and a whipped feta, carrot, toasted cumin seed, and cilantro sandwich.
The current daily special is infused with a delightful mix of bold Mediterranean flavors: braised chicken with cinnamon, clove, and tahini, with jasmine rice and steamed greens. Get your forks ready! But save room for dessert — the Greek orange phyllo cake and olive-oil cake look divine.
As one of the only museums to house a restaurant run by artists, Stone and her husband are really elevating the MoMA PS1 experience.
“Museums are already such a cool platform, the food should be as good as what’s happening in the museum,” Stone told Time Out. “I think it’s a game changer.”
Mina’s is open from Thursday to Monday, 12-6 p.m. Admission to the museum isn’t required to dine in!