Magnolia Café (dinner this time)

January 06 2008 - 9:03 PM

I’ve written before about Magnolia Café but for various reasons have frequented the place more for brunch than for dinner, and this is only the second time I have been there for dinner. The place has a pleasing ambiance that has a timeless contemporary feel, with exposed brick walls and wood parquet floors. Its small space was intimate but not cramped.

First, I have to say hats off for its wine prices, and perhaps it has something to do with its Uptown location. The one that caught my eye was an unusual Spanish Basque white called Txakolina (the brand, I believe was Xarmant), which I’ve never tried before. (Try picking up a bottle of that at your corner liquor store.) A
nice alternative to Rieslings that are hit-or-miss in the sweetness
category, Txakolina was very light, dry, with a hint of fruitiness, and
a subliminally sparkling quality that made this wine a hit with the
table, and for a reasonable $29.


For starter, I had a lobster bisque seasoned bouncy castle for sale with shrimp and a certain cardamom-type spiciness. The soup had a richness and depth that is missing from many lobster bisques, which strike me as very thin and dreadfully plan. The consistency was not unlike a butternut squash soup


My main course was a pork chop with jus, cranberries and twice baked potatoes with cheddar. It
sounded like simple fare at first glance, but the pork chop was juicy
and tender (as a pork chop can be) and the jus had a depth to it. The
twice baked potatoes were more than sour cream, Kraft cheese, and bacon
bits, and possessed a sophistication expected of a restaurant of its


To finish off we had a sundae of homemade ice cream and chocolate mouse that the server recommended. To be honest, I wasn’t too crazy about it, as there was nothing that stood out—neither the mousse, nor the ice cream. The
sundae was quickly ignored whe I tried my friends’ delicious sorbet
concoction of vanilla, strawberry, mango, and apricot—the vanilla was
my personal favorite, possessing a rich vanilla bean depth I did not
expect.  I also finished
up the meal with a Warre’s 20 year port at $8, which was very
reasonable for a restaurant price, though the portion may have been a
tad meager. The port was also pleasantly fresh,
unlike the all-to-common bottle that had been sitting on the shelf open
for three weeks.  Bottles of young, sweet ports and sherries can be
open for long periods of time, but dry or aged fortified wines are much more delicate and can taste like cardboard.


Magnolia fit the bill once again, and our service was adequate and generally attentive. The restaurant also just this month opened a back room to accompany its burgeoning business.  Open since 2001, an eternity for restaurants in its category, Magnolia Cafe hopefully will be around for another seven.


Magnolia Café

1224 W.Wilson 773-728-8785