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May 1, 2007 02:27 PM

Magnolia's Grill, Lunenburg

Heading back to the city today we found ourselves passing Lunenburg when we realized we had missed lunch. We headed into the town intending to visit Terry Vassallo's new place but found we had missed the lunch session and it was closed. Fortunately we stumbled onto Magnolia's Grill which I had never visited before, but had filed in the back of my head as a good place based on references here.

Even though we arrived at almost 3:00PM, there were still a few customers inside the small space. If someone built an interior like Magnolia's new today, you would accuse it of being contrived and cutesy -- but Magnolia's comes across as authentic, looking like a cafe that could have been there since the 1930s. Rough sawn lumber on the walls, built-in-place booths, lots of kitsch everywhere -- but they pull it off because it seems completely legit. Photos of the area along with autographed pics of celebs who have dined there (Tom Selleck, Kathy Bates, Jennifer Jason Leigh) line the walls. A long list of specials is written on a blackboard, with menus provided that have lots of other choces -- and all of them sounded fantastic.

Our server is fast, efficient, friendly, and makes you feel at home right away. She advises us of a few things that aren't available today, and offers helpful comment on our choices. We each start with a cup of scallop chowder -- and oh, my, it is wonderous. A thin, flavorful, milky broth (the style I prefer), absolutely loaded with pieces of scallop, potato, and served with warm, delicious baguette pieces baked on site -- the bread itself would have made the meal, but combined with the sublime chowder it is superb. Can the mains get any better than this?

Maybe not better, but certainly almost as good. I order the fishcakes and salad (Caesar), while my companion orders the Tennessee BBQ pulled pork sandwich. The fishcakes are wonderful, made with haddock, and are perfectly made with a delicate and not overpowering fish flavor. The Caesar has a nice garlicky dressing and what appear to be homemade croutons, only marred by parmesan that appeared to come out of a can. The pulled pork earns raves, served on what looked like a homemade roll.

We sadly had no room for dessert, but the choices looked fabulous. We enjoyed our experience so much that we wished we could have hung around town for a few hours and gone back for dinner.

I have to find a reason to spend a day in Lunenburg this year, for a return lunch engagement at Magnolia's and dinner at Trattoria Della Nonna.

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  1. Their hummingbird cake is TO DIE FOR. YUM.

    1. Nice report Greg B,
      Magnolia was a place I actually already had penciled in for my 8/10 "invasion" so thanks for that. Inquiring minds would like to know, what's "Terry Vassallo's place"? Would that be Trattoria Della Nonna?


      3 Replies
      1. re: Harp00n

        Yes, Terry is the chef/owner at Trattoria Della Nonna. Still haven't been there.

        1. re: Greg B

          It probably has been all of, or pretty close to, 6 or 7 years since our last visit but your description Greg B sounds very much like the spot my wife and I had lunch at as recommended by friends in Halifax.

          In addition to the Hummingbird cake mentioned by Heyteacher aren't they also known for their Key Lime pie?

          1. re: Bob Mac

            Key lime pie seemed to be their dessert specialty.

      2. I am always so thrilled to see activity on this Board (I live in fear it is going to get deleted!).

        May I add to the edible attractions of the area? Not only is Trattoria della Nonna very good,(esp. their soups, bread, interesting appetizers) but Lunenburg is the home of Fleur de Sel. We have had a chance to eat at both a few times now and literally NEVER had a bad meal.

        I will add Magnolia to the list of places still to discover based on your recco (truly, up unitl now, it looked so cutesy and "twee", I thought it might be a little "tearoomy" for my hubby and me and was saving it for a girls out day)

        May I also add the wonderful quirky coffe-lunch-bookstore in Mahone Bay called The Biscuit Eater?

        8 Replies
        1. re: LJS

          Well here some more activity for you, I'm still trying to get someone's impressions of The Kilted Frenchman! :-))

          1. re: Harp00n

            The name of the place alone is enough to keep me away.... ;-)

            1. re: Greg B

              C'mon Greg,
              If you can prowl dive-bars in Boston, post Red Sox games, you can handle this. Besides, with that handle I don't think we need wonder on that age-old question: boxes, brieifs or???


            2. re: Harp00n

              Oh, I am so glad you brought that up! My husband and I peered in the windows of The Kilted Frenchman when we were on our way to The Ovens NP area last time we were there. It was closed, but by squinting I could read a very good review for the place posted on the wall-I think it was The National Post. I was intrigued.

              So many restauants, so little time...sigh!

              1. re: LJS

                If you check the website, they're only open from 5-9 pm Wed-Sun during the summer.

                1. re: Harp00n

                  I kind of like the name - makes you wonder. :)

            3. re: LJS

              The Biscuit-Eater is a great little place to go, though the menu is a bit limited. The don't serve anything hot, but the sandwiches (three or four that change often), are usually very good. They're more adventurous than anywhere else in Mahone Bay, and cheaper than anything comparable in Lunenburg.

              The wild boar sandwich is particularly good, as well as the Caprese-type sandwich, but the curried egg salad was weak, I thought. Every baked good we've had there has been delicious— and we've tried quite a few; cakes, muffins, scones, strawberry shortcake— and their muffins are actually muffin-sized (something I truly appreciate).

              The Biscuit-Eater is also a used-book shop, and they host local music, poetry and prose readings year round: once weekly in summer, twice monthly in winter.

              1. re: Smartlikestreetcar

                Oh,, too! I am a huge fan of The Biscuit Eater...I think Dawn and Aldin, the owners, have a very interesting approach to food, local, simple and with some very sophisticated touches. I push this neat little place every chance I get.

            4. Just Tweeted by Chef Michael Smith "chefMICHAELsmth
              Lunenberg> just got thrown out of Magnolias for respectfully trying to accommodate severe allergies at our table, told kitchen too busy! "

              4 Replies
              1. re: Mama_B

                Perhaps Chef Michael Smith thinks he's entitled to demand extra work on the kitchen crew, as didn't he once have a few shows on TV or something? Severe food allergy? Shouldn't they have phoned in a request for a special menu before just showing up and "politely requesting" them to accommodate the severe allergist? That's kind of bold, if you ask me.

                1. re: silvernickel

                  I beg to differ. It is seldom more work to accommodate dietary needs than it is to prepare something off them menu. Unless the food is prepared in advance. Unless this was a crazy demand-or so unmanageable that it couldn't be done- I think a person should be able to make requests for allergies. (and I have worked in the food service industry for more than 20 years, in both high and not so high end establishments)

                  1. re: troutpoint

                    I completely agree. As someone with 15 years of professional kitchen experience I can honestly say I've had more than a few odd requests. Any kitchen worth their salt should be able to accommodate any food allergies...unless of course everything on the menu is pre-made. Sure it may take a bit of time to prepare, but there is no reason that the customer should be asked to leave.

                    1. re: boynamedsous

                      I guess your right. Thinking about it, perhaps the restaurant could have accommodated the guest. It seems weird to me that a restaurant would kick Chef Michael Smith out. Doesn't make sense!! Why do you think that happened?