Listen, dearest reader, I’m a simple man. I like meat and potatoes and burritos. I like my cheese grilled and I want bacon on most things. I could get used to the beef tartare at M. Wells, the restaurant inside MoMA PS1 that opened Thursday afternoon. It makes my uncomplicated palate sing and it’s served as a sandwich on a roll with mayonnaise (another thing I pretty much unconditionally love) and lettuce (about which I really have nothing to say). The whole menu follows this mix of fancy and casual, so it’s like gourmet comfort food.
The restaurant is tucked inside the museum, just to the right of the entrance off the courtyard. It’s set up like a classroom—as New York magazine has pointed out, this is appropriate to a building that was formerly a school—and there are long school tables that all face forward. They have small shelves underneath that hold writing and coloring pads. Inside each shelf, there’s some crayons and a manual pencil sharpener. There’s also those hard metal chairs with dark blue seats and racks connected to the lower legs for books and binders, the type of seating that seems to adorn every classroom in every town in America. The menu, naturally, is written on a chalkboard:
Clam Chowder $8
Rabbit Terrine $12
Fresnee Lardons $8
Cod Brandade $8
Egg on a Roll w/ Sausage $10
Beef Tartare $10
Vegetable Banh Mi $10
The big news about M. Wells is that there’s supposed to be horse meat on the menu, but my waitress told me they didn’t have it yet. Honestly, I can’t imagine racing over there when they do start serving horse meat. Anyway, there was a My Little Pony game perched up on a windowsill that felt horribly ominous in light of this news. Run, little ponies! Run for your lives!
Opening day wasn’t packed, though I could imagine the place being impossible to navigate on a Saturday afternoon. This afternoon the museum was overtaken by people setting up for the NY Art Book Fair, so there were a lot of folks with badges eating solo, including the stern-looking German lady next to me who asked the waitress dramatically, “What is clam chowder?” Probably spurred on by the existential levity of the question, I ordered the chowder and the tartare.
I’m no food critic, so I’m going to have to slip into cliche here and describe the chowder as “succulent.” I’ve never used that word before in a piece of writing. I like it. It’s a good word to describe chowder, generally. This particular batch had a fire kick from a healthy portion of black pepper that was just the right amount and didn’t overpower any other flavors.
At one point, the restaurant had Kraftwerk on the box, which was apt—the band performed at MoMA not too long ago—if not entirely original. “The Robots,” however, is just stellar chewing music. Who knew?
As for the tartare, all I’ll say is this: I wish all of my future sandwiches to have finely chopped raw meat on them.
Actually, when I put it that way, that’s not really what I want at all, but it was a damn fine sandwich. What’s another good cliche? Delectable? Yes, it was delectable. Not too lavish or anything.
M. Wells Dinette is open Thursday, Friday, Monday 12–6 PM; Saturday, Sunday 10 AM–6 PM; Closed Tuesday and Wednesday. Museum admission is not required for entry.