When I first heard about the MFAH Fine Art + Food Trucks program, I was extremely excited. As much as I love living in the Museum District, one of the huge drawbacks is the lack of variety when it comes to food choices. Sure, I can hop on a train and head downtown when the urge strikes, but there isn't much within a five- or ten-minute walk of my house. (Yes, I walk places, Houston! And I LOVE IT!) The mere presence of a daily food truck in the neighborhood was exciting enough, but combined with an incentive program to visit the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, it had me fairly bursting at the seams. A quick trip to MFAH is one of my favorite ways to unwind on a lunch break, or to walk off a case of writer's block.
The daily presence of the food trucks is enhanced by MFAH's incentive program. When you visit the food trucks, or Café Express inside the museum, you are granted free, same-day general admission to MFAH; simply present your card (available at the trucks, or the Café) at the MFAH ticket desk to spend an hour or two enjoying the exhibits. And to sweeten the deal even further, after ten visits you are eligible for a half-price membership to MFAH. Not too shabby.
When we talk strictly food, this program is a total win. The food trucks are present from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. (or until food runs out) seven days a week. And while I enjoy the occasional lunch at Café Express or Bodegas Taco Shop, it's fantastic to have another option. In addition, the trucks set up in the parking lot next to the Lillie and Hugh Roy Cullen Sculpture Garden, which is a beautiful spot to have lunch and relax; I frequently go there to write or read when the weather is nice. I have to imagine that museum and hospital employees are loving the new addition, too, given the lack of nearby options.
My initial hope of a quickie lunch break was only partially realized, though. During three visits to three separate trucks it took between ten and 20 minutes to receive my food after placing my order, so by the time I sat down and ate almost an hour had passed. This isn't a huge deal for me as I work from home, but for someone with a tight one-hour lunch break, a visit to MFAH will have to be record-breaking, or out of the question. That doesn't make the fact that we have access to lunch any less awesome, but it will occasionally rule out that artsy lunch break you were hoping for. One could still enjoy an after-work visit on evenings when the museum is open late, but I feel like the total "lunch-plus-art" thing is the main draw.
The other issue is that food trucks sometimes encounter technical difficulties. On the Tuesday I visited for pho from Phamily Bites, I arrived at 11:45 a.m. to find the food truck present and the generator running, but the window closed. About a half-dozen people milled around for 15 minutes, and eventually the window opened and service began. I knew the food truck was having issues because I checked the Phamily Bites Twitter account, but not everyone will think to check before they leave their office, nor does everyone use Twitter. (Seriously, not everyone does. I double-checked by sending out a Tweet about it and a lot of people didn't answer me.) I hope that the trucks prepare for this eventuality in the future by having a "Technical Difficulties" sign, or at least poking their head out and yelling, "We're almost ready!"
Ultimately I did enjoy a beautiful afternoon at MFAH, viewing the Revelation: Major Paintings by Jules Olitski exhibition. The huge canvases, spanning five decades of the artist's work, were just what I needed to clear my head of the electronic flotsam and jetsam that make up my day in front of the computer.
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So while there are tweaks to be made, and bugs to work out--not in the food, just to work out--Fine Art + Food Trucks is a terrific addition to the neighborhood.
You can find the weekly food truck schedule for Fine Art + Food Trucks online, and I encourage you to check each truck's Twitter/Facebook before heading out.