The walk took all of 45 seconds.
Over the course of the next year, Magnolia would come to be a staple of my outings: half priced pint Tuesdays and fried chicken Thursdays were just some of my weekly pop-ins. Then one Sunday, close friends of mine came over from Berkeley for brunch. Running late, the couple had foiled any chance of our getting in line early anywhere, turning our walk-in status into a minimum hour and a half wait. So, I decided to walk around the corner on the off-chance that Magnolia served brunch.
And there was no wait.
Our experience was stellar: phenomenal food, fantastic service, and wonderful beer pairings.
My go-to beer here has always been the Proving Ground IPA – hop heavy and super bright – but General Manager Matt Costa steered me toward the New Speedway Bitter (Branthill). As it turns out, Magnolia has cultivated a relationship with Branhill Farm, from whom they purchase the malted barley that goes into this crisp, light, refreshing ESB. Sourcing ingredients from a specific farm, in much the same way that a winemaker would source specific grapes for a blend, is not something you typically see in the craft beer process, but is just one of the aspects that makes Magnolia unique.
We each started out with a glass of the New Speedway and a line of fried donuts nested on a bed of crème anglaise – one of chef Ronnie New's nods to his Louisiana roots. What looked like a stomach bomb and breakfast in and of itself turned out to be anything but. These pillows of happiness were impossibly airy with nearly hollow insides as traditional beignets should have. .
Hollow until we spooned in the intensely vanilla pastry cream.
My buddy placed his order for the BBQ Belly and Grits, which came with two poached eggs and crispy fried shallots. Once punctured, the yolks oozed out and added another layer of creaminess to the bowl. The sweet and tangy barbecue sauce was a salty counterbalance to the buttery grits, the tender pork belly was perfectly cooked, and both its crispy skin along with the fried shallots added a perfect crunch.
Under normal circumstances, I prefer a flaky, layered, delicate biscuit. However, that version would have absolutely collapsed under the heavier grains and shmear, so I was thrilled that a sturdier version stood up to it's surroundings and acted as a perfect sandwich anchor and subsequent scoop for last few bites.
There's a seamless fluidity to the turns at Magnolia. At any point from open to close, you can walk in and eat elevated pub food, drink consistently killer beers, convene with friends, make new ones at the communal table, or sit at the bar and chat up the amiable staff and neighborhood regulars. Few places can offer all of that while still maintaining an extraordinary level of quality time and time again.
Oh, and not to mention they're doing all of this while simultaneously building out their new brewhouse and restaurant in the Dogpatch
Magnolia is everything a neighborhood bar should be and so much more: even if you don't live in the neighborhood.