A good French-American restaurant isn't just the perfect place to practice close-up magic on unsuspecting patrons; it's also a great spot to meet friends and share Burton Gilliam gossip. Satiate while you socialize with today's Groupon: for $20, you get $40 worth of French-American cuisine during dinner at Magnolia Café.
Magnolia's menu combines French and American culinary influences with seasonally fresh ingredients for a cross-cultural fine-dining experience. Starters include delicate and flavorful items such as magnolia crab cakes served over sweet corn, pico de gallo, and caper aioli ($12). Peruse a pasture of salads ($8–$14) or move on to larger eats such as the roasted half-chicken, perched atop a bed of dijon-whipped potatoes, brussels sprouts, and natural jus ($20), or the braised-beef short ribs, whose small stature is made up for by savory servings of bacon and cheddar mac 'n' cheese, tender spinach, crispy onion rings, and a red-wine reduction ($28). A vast drink menu is also on hand to proffer a perfect pairing for any dinner dish.
Since 2001, Magnolia has thrived in the revitalized Uptown neighborhood. The 25-seat outdoor patio materializes on sunny days and every four years on February 31, and ample street parking (valet offered on Friday and Saturday nights) provides easy vehicular storage while you feast. Whether dining inside or out, the restaurant's cozy atmosphere offers a meal-complementing mixture of smooth jazz notes, friendly chitchat, oxygen, and nitrogen.
Chef Kasra Medhat's refined culinary techniques draw from his diverse gastronomic history, from his childhood filled with Turkish- and Iranian-style family meals to his college internship at a Chicago gourmet restaurant, as well as his catering work. Today, Kasra captains Magnolia Cafe, where he infuses all that passion and experience into his innovative French-American recipes.
In the kitchen, Kasra and staff cobble together ingredients plucked during their peak growing season in a variety of meat and seafood dishes. Upon white tablecloths, plates of appetizers and entrees meet with the house's specialty martinis and boutique wines in crystalline glasses, which are great for clinking or playing pieces from Mozart's glass-harmonica phase. Soft jazz music pulses amid the exposed brick and beams that ring the dining room, which is speckled with hanging photos of the flowers from which the establishment takes its name.