Curated Cuisine at the Contemporary Arts Center

"The new lobby is wrapped by vibrant pieces from artist collaborative Assume Vivid Astro Focus, and is illuminated by light installations by Erwin Redl and Matt Kotlarczyk’s cloudlike chandeliers."
“The new lobby is wrapped by vibrant pieces from artist collaborative Assume Vivid Astro Focus, and is illuminated by light installations by Erwin Redl and Matt Kotlarczyk.”

Photograph by Jeremy Kramer

You know the tide in town is shifting when the new place to see and be seen is the café of a museum. Artfully pierced students, pin-striped politicians, and dapper downtown business owners all rubbed elbows at the Collective CAC lunch counter on a recent Thursday. Collective Espresso owners Dave Hart and Dustin Miller have dominated the artisanally roasted coffeeshop zeitgeist since opening in OTR in 2012. A Northside location followed in 2014, and the two inked a deal with the CAC to add a café as part of the Kaplan Hall Lobby renovation. Expect the same culinary ethos that put Collective on the map with coffee: Top quality products prepared with laser-focused detail. Take the caramelized onion tart with Gruyère, sunchoke chips, and arugula. Each flavor sings on its own but still harmonizes perfectly. Sandwiches (flank steak with red peppers and blue cheese; halloumi, beet, and avocado) are served on Sixteen Bricks bread with vinaigrette-dashed field greens on the side. Diner devotees will appreciate their breakfasts—served all day—including a classic two eggs, Avril-Bleh & Sons bacon, and toast; carnivore and herbivore iterations of biscuits and gravy; and quiche du jour. Sausage lovers won’t want to miss the sausage and jam (peach) on a biscuit. It’s $5 for one, but there’s no harm in ordering two. After all, breakfast is the most important meal of the day, even when it’s consumed at noon.

Collective CAC, 44 E. Sixth St., downtown, (513) 345-8400, contemporaryartscenter.org. Breakfast and lunch seven days.

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