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Museum cafe a unique Grand Forks treat

Unlike other spots for lunch around Greater Grand Forks, the small café in North Dakota Museum of Art is set away, quiet ... and excellent.

Sandwiches include a Museum Club with a trio of turkey, ham and roast beef. Then there's brown sugar bacon, lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise on toasted bread. There's a salmon BLT and a Soppressata and Fig sandwich.

They are served with kettle chips.

There are salads created by the chef, Heather Schneider, who recently returned to the Museum after a maternity leave.

Entrees on her menu include beef stroganoff and a brown rice bowl. Then, for dessert, there is a smooth, soft crème brulee ($5).

Lunch at the Museum is a pleasant experience I enjoyed with UND's first lady, Debbie Kennedy (DK) and Donna Faison (DF). When there is time, lunch at the Museum offers a chance to visit the displays and gift shop. Metered parking only is available.

Among its offerings, the café has salads such as the Mediterranean on a bed of brown rice and a Caesar salad that can be enhanced with the addition of chicken or smoked salmon. And I was pleased along with DK and DF with the crème brulee.

The café offers a small, quiet setting with a signature roast of coffee as well as black, green or chai tea. The café is an easy half dozen steps down from the main entrée.

Schneider, a 2000 graduate of Red River High School, found her way into the restaurant business while attending college and living in southern California. She started by waiting tables while her husband, Andy Schneider, was playing semi professional hockey.

With her love for cooking, she picked up skills as they traveled around. She gathered experience in a little French place in Toronto. Then it was on to Germany, where she learned from a Thai chef. And she gathered up more knowledge as she tasted and studied her way around Europe.

With a love for creating fine food, she gained experience. But she says her learning of fine cooking started at home here in Grand Forks. She credits her mother, Susan Mickelson, as being a great cook and an inspiration.

After returning with her family to Grand Forks, Chef Heather found her way into the kitchen of Amazing Grains on DeMers Avenue in downtown Grand Forks. There she distinguished her style with soups made of the best and usually home grown ingredients.

It's going on three years since North Dakota Museum of Art director, Laurel Reuter, reached out to her. It was a chance, Schneider says, to create an appealing, unique menu.

"We think we have something different," she says. "We try to be creative."

Chef Schneider takes on small gatherings in the guest room at the Museum. She depends on the help of Greg Jones, former chef, who was ready to cut back on his time.

Before long, several booths with Norwegian rosemaling, or folk art, will be installed in the small, lower-level café. They are booths that most recently were part of the Sanders restaurant that closed last year in downtown Grand Forks. There will be new flooring and a newly designed hospitality section at the entry.

North Dakota Museum of Art Café

261 Centennial Drive, UND

Reservations: (701) 777-4668

Hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., with lunch served between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., Monday through Friday

Chef: Heather Schneider

Sous chef: Greg Jones

Report card: Food is elegant, inexpensive. Service is Grade A in small lower level café.

Conference room available to serve groups of six to 10.