Review of Magnolia’s Grill
October 30, 2006 § 3 Comments
Much ink has been spilt over this small spot in Lunenburg, and most of what’s been written is true— it’s a funky, friendly little place. The line-up can be intimiadting at first, but most of the people ahead of you are perfectly happy to chat while you wait, and if it’s not too busy, a server will offer a drink while you wait.
The dining room itself is cozy and green, novelty salt and pepper shakers everywhere, one wall plastered with foreign currency— tourism is Lunenburg’s lifeblood, after all— and another covered with photographs of local and national history. There’s just one table, surrounded by six booths, and there’s not a bad seat in the
According to some lore (really just an article about the restaurant I read while we were waiting), when the two women who started Magnolia’s were trying to develop the menu, they made a list of things they just couldn’t leave off… but the list was five pages long. So they decided to have a rotating menu serving a mixture of classic Nova Scotia (Fishcakes, Scallops) and Cajun cool (Creole peanut soup, key lime pie).
Our server is friendly, if not chatty, and she brings our drinks much faster than we’d expect in a room so full. Daily Specials are listed on a chalkboard at the front of the restaurant, and there’s a small winelist at the table. I start with the Creole Peanut Soup, and my companion has the French Onion Soup, which technically isn’t a starter, but he’s on a lifelong quest to find the Ultimate French Onion Soup. And this one, he pronounces, is pretty darn close. The broth is rich with sherry, and the cheese crown is blistered and stretchy. My soup is a great success, too. Its flavor is just as deep as the French Onion, and it’s not overpoweringly peanuty, with a kick of heat at the end.
Our mains are Fishcakes with Fried Eggs and Peppers— today’s special– and Alma’s Tunisian Vegetable Stew. The fishcakes are, as promised, spectacular. Lots of haddock and potato, smoky-crisp outside, a soothing blend of creamy and flaky inside. They’re served with a rhubarb chutney which is just a bit too sweet, but the eggs are a nice accompaniment and the peppers and onions delicious.
The vegetable stew isn’t quite as good. It’s a mix of peppers, onions, chickpeas and tomatoes served on brown rice and finished with feta and almonds. There’s nothing really wrong with it, but the vegetables would benefit from a little more time caramelizing in the pan, and the almonds have been cooked a couple minutes beyond golden brown. Still, the rice is nice and chewy, and the serving is generous.
Magnolia’s desserts are legendary. They’re listed on a chalkboard, alongside the specials, and there’s always Key Lime Pie, for which they’re famous, along with other worthy offerings, like Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie and Hummingbird Cake. We share a Key Lime Pie, and it is brilliant. Tart, creamy and fragrant, and it tastes fresh. Key Limes are only in season for a few weeks at the beginning of summer, opposite the season for most North American citrus. It’s nice to know that someone is using them to great effect.
Magnolia’s isn’t a fancy place, although you can certainly get terrific food. It’s loud and friendly, and absolutely packed all summer long. It’s more a neighborhood place where you’d be proud to bring your out-of-town friends.