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Piano Terra
Piano Terra salad with marinated olives and housemade pomegranate lemonade. Photo by Jennifer McDonald.

Starting today, art seekers--and light-lunch seekers--have a new reason to visit the Art Institute.

Chef Tony Mantuano of Spiaggia and Terzo Piano fame has opened a new concept perfectly suited to the museum?s leafy North Garden: a salad and espresso bar called Piano Terra.

The garden is accessible to the public, and salads are made with lettuces and other seasonal vegetables sourced from local farmers. Pick your protein, cheese and dressing, and watch your creation get tossed then and there (salads are $10). The ingredients are a notch above most pick-and-mix spots; think Nichols Farm spinach, crispy lamb bacon and Anson Mills farro cooked in vegetable stock with herbs. (There?s also a veggie sandwich on housemade focaccia, if you?re craving carbs.)

To make an afternoon of it, head to Regenstein Hall for the just-opened "Roy Lichtenstein: A Retrospective" (otherwise known as the hottest exhibit in town) or make your way to the Modern Wing?s Bluhm Family Terrace to check out the new installation by artist Katharina Fritsch.

Arrive hungry, leave full of inspiration.

Art Institute of Chicago, 111 S. Michigan Ave.; 312-443-3600 or

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