Magnolia Grill in Durham - recommended dishes?
I will be going to MG for the first time this weekend. I was wondering if you could recommend anything in their menu that you found particularly good. Thanks many for the kind advice. I will post again commenting upon my experience.
The menu at Magnolia Grill changes daily, so I cannot recommend specific dishes. The chef uses fresh, mostly local ingredients so you cannot go wrong with anything. I have been to Magnolia Grill about 8 times and have never had a bad experience. My main advice is to save room for the dessert. They are OUTSTANDING!
I don't know about daily (weekly?) but Jenn's right, it changes often. Ditto the dessert. If Karen is offering some sort of crisp with homemade ice cream, you can't go wrong with it.
I thing to note, they tend to cook things quite rare. If you don't care for things to be too rare, go for stewed items like osso bucco.
I went to Magnolia Grill last night for dinner---first timer. I had read extreme reviews of the place on this board so I wasn't quite sure what to expect. It was possibly the best meal I've had in the Triangle. First of all,the bread was AWESOME. I believe it was fococcia that was crispy on the outside w/a slight oniony flavor, but soft and delicate on the inside. Divine. I had the grits souffle w/foie gras and wild mushrooms. This was a piece of heaven. I was a bit weary at first since I had never had foie gras before and wasn't sure if I should experience it for the first time w/this dish. The waiter said that it was a very thin layer on top of the dish and was a good way to experience it for the first time. He was right. I all but licked the plate. He also said that the grits dish is the only signature dish (or maybe just appetizer?) that they have on a regular basis. I HIGHLY recommend it. I then moved onto the ribeye w/a potato gratin and string beans sauteed w/bacon. The ribeye was perfectly cooked and was so good---smoky, juicy, flavorful, not lacking at all for anything. The potato gratin was quite delicious as well. The only thing that fell short at Mag Grill was the dessert. My friend and I shared a chocolate bread pudding w/a creme anglaise. It was an ample serving but was barely good and definitely not great. It seemed like they used leftover brownies or something of that sort. It was too dense and seemed overcooked. I would not recommend it at all.
Verdict? Absolutely delicious meal sans the lackluster dessert. Warrants a designation as a top culinary destination in the US? Absolutely!
I've only been to the Magnolia Grill twice, but twice I had the pan seared foie gras, and it was DELICIOUS. I recall I had some sort of fish, which was very good. The first time I had dessert it was a bleu cheese cheesecake, which was kind of odd and not particularly delicious -- the second time it was a crisp with ice cream, and it was brilliant.
Karen Barker is a goddess. Plain and simple. Now that I've made my prejudices clear...There's always at least one "savory" dessert on the menu, generally something that might take the place of a cheese course. I believe that's done because Ken Barker doesn't particularly like sweets. It's one of those husband/wife things.
I absolutely LOVE Magnolia Grill. It's always been a wonderful experience. My biggest suggestion is to ask the waiter for a recommendation -- the fish dishes are almost always the highest-praised, and have always been wonderful. Generally, if you see something that looks kind of odd or interesting, it's a good choice. However, the less interesting, more conventional things are also quite good.
I think the desserts are phenomenal, but I and the GF have a rule with them: we try to order the two freakiest-sounding things on the dessert menu (nothing is that freaky, it's not WD-50, thankfully). I find these sort of things -- cornmeal cheddar crepes with maple syrup, grapefruit tarts, things like that -- to be the best. The chocolate desserts and more 'typical' things are all good, but how much better is a Magnolia Grill chocolate dessert going to be than one from another great restaurant? If you're going to Mag Grill, with its fancy desserts, get something that you can't find elsewhere.
It's a great experience being there -- enjoy yourself!