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Museum Mile Fest Makes Fifth Ave. a Giant Block Party

By Amy Zimmer | June 13, 2011 3:27pm | Updated on June 14, 2011 6:43am

By Amy Zimmer

DNAinfo News Editor

MANHATTAN — It's billed as New York's biggest block party.

The 33rd Annual Museum Mile Festival will turn the sidewalks of Fifth Avenue from 82nd to 105 streets into a giant visual feast as nine of the city's museums not only open their doors for free on Tuesday from 6 to 9 p.m., but also bring music and art outside their doors.

There will also be food for an actual feast along the route that attracts 50,000 visitors each year, according to the event's website.

To accommodate hungry festivalgoers, El Café at El Museo del Barrio, on Fifth Avenue and East 104th Street — which was overstuffed last year for the restaurant's debut at Museum Mile — is offering a special menu to get people fed more quickly.

The café is cooking up a "battle of the empanadas," with different regions' versions of the stuffed pastry, the café's manager Mary Villamizar said.

"We had more than 470 people last year," Villamizar said. "Unfortunately, a lot of people couldn't get in because there was a long line."

Argentina's empanada Mendocina with beef and onions will rival Bolivia's Saltenas with chicken, peas and carrots. Brazil is represented with roasted shrimp and hearts of palm and Puerto Rican empanadas have spinach and picadillo. Ecuador's have green plantains, Monterey jack cheese and mango chutney.

Thirsty museum-goers can wash down the empanadas with margaritas, the spicy Mexican beer cocktail called Michelada and pineapple-tinis, Villamizar said.

"We'll have a stage with a DJ in the courtyard and bands playing salsa," Villamizar said. "It's going to be very nice seeing all of the just seeing all the people coming through enjoying themselves."

El Museo will also open its courtyard to the Museum for African Art for Capoeira and West African dance performances.

The Museum for African Art, which is new to the festival, is slated to open its new building on Fifth Avenue and 110th Street in September.

Café Sabarsky at the Neue Galerie — where Museum Mile festivities kick off on Fifth Avenue and East 86th Street at 5:45 p.m. — is handling the crowds by closing during the festival, the upscale Vienese restaurant's Victoria Langer said.

Instead the café will be offering visitors a complimentary linzer cookie and iced tea made in the traditional Austrian style: "In Vienna, we only drink iced tea with a mint leaf," Langer said.

At the Goethe-Institut, between East 82nd and East 83rd streets, the German cultural will host a fun food tasting of German sweets, like chocolate and gummy bears.

"We'll have things that people have seen but might not realized it's German," said Goethe's Jon Leavitt. "Gummy bears area as German as apple pie is American."

Even though the institute's Fifth Avenue building is closed for renovations and will remain closed for "a couple of years," it will still have a presence on the street in front of its Upper East Side building.

The center — which, in the meantime, opened gallery spaces on the Lower East Side, East Village and in SoHo — is also going to have trivia and face painting during the festival.

Other activities include music by jazz/soul group People’s Champs at the Guggenheim, live model drawing class for children in front of the National Academy Museum and School (which is also closed for renovation) and a drawing lesson inspired by illustrator/author Maira Kalman's books at the Jewish Museum.

The 33rd annual Museum Mile Festival is on Tuesday along Fifth Avenue from East 82nd to East 105th street from 6 to 9 p.m.