As you walk through the open corridors of The Musical Instrument Museum (MIM), you are greeted with guitars, pianos and other instruments collected from around the world. At the end of the walk, the museum is home to another quiet gem — the recently reopened Café Allegro. The café opened its doors on November 1 under the new direction of Executive Chef James Moran. Moran’s updated menu incorporates his desire to include global dishes, including butter chicken, beef empanadas, and tuna tartare.
Café Allegro is currently open seven days a week, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., inside of the MIM at 4725 East Mayo Boulevard. During the pandemic, the café remained closed. This allowed the museum an opportunity to bring in Moran to chart a new direction for the eatery. His revamped menu incorporates various specials and will change weekly.
“At the MIM, there are instruments from all around the world, and we are trying to introduce global cuisine in the menu,” says Moran, who wants his menu to reflects what is happening outside of the museum, such as international events like the Olympics or cultural holidays around the globe.
During Café Allegro’s preview night, the chef featured a beef empanada, made Argentinian style, with a hard-boiled egg, olive and chimichurri aioli.
“This is global and local, and we are trying to keep everything under those parameters,” says Moran.
Moran says he is committed to sourcing ingredients that are fresh and come from local vendors. That might be because of his affinity for the state of Arizona. Although he originally spent time in New York, in 2002, he visited Phoenix and the experience stuck.
“All my experiences in Phoenix were positive,” says Moran. He returned to New York and then later moved to Japan in 2015, where he learned how to make traditional Japanese cuisine. He worked at the Tokyo American Club and is eager to marry his global experiences with his desire to source locally.
“The global menu matches what we do in the exhibitions,” he says.
As patrons peruse the various musical instruments separated by continents and regions, the experience might take at least three to four hours. Heading to the café space, guests will find there is plenty of room to spread out and talk about the numerous instruments. The décor is minimalistic, but the glass windows overlook the courtyard, which offers a nice view while enjoying the cuisine.
It is a quiet area, and that isn’t unnatural in a museum dining space. Patrons may enjoy matching their music experience with a global food experience — which for locals and tourists alike is an unexpected good surprise in the middle of the desert. Guests need not worry about food allergies or restrictions, since the menu offers gluten-free, vegan and vegetarian items.
Moran says, “He plans six weeks of menus at one time, but will continue to tweak specific items week to week.” One staple is the daily soup. Each day there is a different soup on the menu — everything from a pumpkin apple cider bisque to a split pea with ham and a crab corn chowder. In terms of other items on the menu, there is a local and global option offered, as well as specials for the week.
For the week of November 15, the chef served chicken mole, roasted vegetable lasagna and spinach gorgonzola spinach quiche. These options change every week. Standard items include vegetables from the grill, burgers, and sides like Southwest pasta salad, fries, and Brussel sprouts.
Moran is ultimately excited about the opportunity to shape Café Allegro with his vision and love for cooking.
“I’ve grown up with cooking all my life. My mom would make French food at home. In my teens, it was a no-brainer that I’d enter the culinary field,” says Moran.
4725 East Mayo Boulevard
Lunch offered daily starting at 11 a.m.