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Magnolia Grill in Durham is Closing

Date announced as May 31st. I have no other news at this time but if you've not eaten there and wanted to.. you now have your deadline.

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  1. I have my reservation already. MG will be so, so missed.

    12 Replies
    1. re: rockycat

      I've been once. The food was good but I don't remember much else other than the artwork for sale and the lady next to us who I thought was having an orgasm. I didn't think it was THAT good to be making those sounds, but better than the surrounding places. Maybe we'll head back upon having heard this news.

      Here is a blurb in N/O


      1. re: burgeoningfoodie

        She must have been having the grits souffle. :-)

        1. re: rockycat

          Just got my reservations and will be having those, and a pork chop ( I hope ) and some buttered popcorn ice crean (I really hope). I love that place.

          1. re: LBD

            Karen Barker's vanilla bean buttermilk pie was a taste that I will remember forever.

            Not to mention the spring rabbit dish I had last year - it captured the essence of spring better than any other dish I've had anywhere.

            The ceviches were always otherworldly.

            It's still the only U.S. restaurant I've experienced that had the cleverness and insight to serve txakoli by the glass.

            I know of no other restaurant to time and again pull off using such complexity of ingredients in perfect harmony, without being overbearing, without having to resort to molecular gastronomy, doing farm-to-table before it was "in", etc. That combination of execution and soul is something that was unique to the Barkers, and I'm just glad I had the opportunity to be in the right time and place to savor it. I have my reservation for one more time, in time for our anniversary dinner.

            1. re: mikeh

              This is terrible news. Outside of the comment about US restaurants serving Txakoli ( of which there are many), this is spot on. The last paragraph is a great synopsis of Magnolia Grill. Hard to believe they won't be in the culinary mix of NC.

              1. re: veganhater

                I've just been unlucky in my txakoli foraging, I suppose. Even traditional Spanish places like Curate in Asheville only serve it by the bottle, which is sort of counter to its role as an aperitif unless you're with a large group. I had read somewhere (SF Chronicle maybe) that expense had something to do with it.

                1. re: mikeh

                  Along with Vinho Verde, it does lose that little fizz after being open for a day. Maybe that reduces Txakoli's by the glass appearances. That aside, I can't believe MG is closing. I thought it was a joke until there was a blurb on the late news last night.

          2. re: rockycat

            Definitely the grits souffle!! And maybe some of the coconut cake.

            Why on earth are they closing, anyone know? They're always packed.

            1. re: LulusMom

              Have you brought Lulu yet? I've been promising my daughter for years that I would take her when she was old enough. We were going to go, just the two of us, during summer break and have apps and dessert at the bar. Instead, the reservation we made is for all 3 of us. I really feel that this is a restaurant she must experience.

              1. re: rockycat

                My husband and I were just talking about this. He's leaving for over a month very soon, so I don't think we'd be able to get a family reservation. It is a shame. She's been lucky enough to dine in some pretty amazing places around the world - I'm sorry that she's going to miss this one.

                I'm really glad your daughter is going to get to try it. How old is she now? We really have to get those girls together to talk/eat some food.

                1. re: LulusMom

                  She just turned 10, going on 28.

                  1. re: rockycat

                    Funny! Lulu was 5 going on 30, but suddenly she's 6 going on ... 6. No idea what happened.

      2. Wow. I only went once for dinner but it was awesome.

        1. To put it quite simply - in my opinion this is the biggest loss in North Carolina's culinary scene since Edna Lewis stopped cooking at Fearrington House. From start to finish as a complete meal, it is probably mine and my wife's favorite restaurant in the country. This includes any of the Michelin-starred places in NYC or San Francisco or Napa/Sonoma. Wow.

          1. Here's a blurb from the Durham Visitors Bureau. Looks like they are retiring, from the restaurant business at least. I was going to try Pancuito for our 20th anniversary dinner but it'll now be MG instead. We used to live near MG when the kids were little. Our favorite respite was to get a sitter and sneak a way to MG for coffee and some of Karen Barker's amazing desserts. MG will be greatly missed.


            5 Replies
            1. re: bbqme

              I don't think of this as a loss. To me, a loss is when a restaurant closes when it's on the way up, like when Chef and the Farmer closed due to fire (happily they'll open again soon). Mag Grill has been at the top level of the local scene for many years. MG's influence is felt throughout the community in several restaurants and at least one bakery and even in a brewery.

              The Barkers have worked hard night after night for many years and now they want to make a change. They easily could have sold their place to someone who would run the reputation into the ground. They're going out on their own terms and on top. I say congratulations and thank you!

              1. re: Tom from Raleigh

                It may not be a loss for them, but it is for me. I want to eat there again. One of a handful of triangle restaurants that always seemed to nail it. You could always taste the lengths they went to make killer food, especially if you know how to cook.

                1. re: Tom from Raleigh

                  Chef and the Farmer has opened again. Just heard yesterday.

                  1. re: Tom from Raleigh

                    Assuming they were game, a great transition would have been to turn the restaurant over to Chip and Tina of the former Bonne Soiree. I think Chip is up to the task of carrying on the Barkers' legacy and the Barkers could have played an emeritus role to ensure MG's reputation stayed intact yet still have time for family, etc. MFG would provide Chip the steady clientele that apparently was missing at Bonne Soiree.

                    1. re: bbqme

                      This would've been a fantastic idea, although I think Chip and Tina are doing regular monthly dinners at Celebrity Dairy right now and a recent article suggested that they bought out the B&B portion of the operation out there and were trying to get permitting to open up a full-time restaurant in the space (a la Inn at Little Washington) within "three or four months" of that March article. Still, it's way out in the middle of nowhere, so I wonder how they would swing a steady clientele, or whether they would need to given cost differentials. I wonder if Chip and Tina would consider rethinking things with this news or whether they are too invested in the process out at Celebrity Dairy already. If nothing else, the available space and kitchen equipment, wine stock (although Tina's collection was far more thoughtful) and some continuity of staff, of the soon-to-be-former MG location would be mighty appealing. I also think that the baseline atmosphere of the place is more approachable even if Chip and Tina keep the menu/style of cooking exactly the same as it was at Bonne Soiree.

                2. Is it just me or does 30 days notice seem pretty sudden? I would think a place that has been that revered for so long would have given folks a little more time to get a last meal in. I've heard that by the end of the day of the announcement all of May was booked up.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: LBD

                    Maybe they have arrange a trip in June to go white water rafting with Charlie Trotter.

                    1. I tried calling several times to make a reservation over a three hour period last night and the phone rang busy each time. I suspect they had taken it off the hook.

                      10 Replies
                      1. re: brentk

                        It took me about 30 tries early yesterday afternoon, and at that point I think it was legitimately ringing off the hook. Now, it's probably booked. I did notice that the person who took my reservation said she would call me to reconfirm (opposite to their usual policy of having the patron call in), so maybe they already are or will be leaving it off the hook at some point, which would make sense if they're booked solid. Apparently people stood in line yesterday to get reservations in person.

                        1. re: mikeh

                          Now the reaction of trying to get a reservation and people standing in line would be an interesting story.

                          1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                            Dang it, and I have a $100 gift certificate there I need to use! Wonder how early we would have to get there to get one of the bar tables??? Have been trying to get through all afternoon, but still busy.

                            1. re: berthagator

                              I've been trying all day, about every 15 min. and it is always busy.

                              1. re: meatn3

                                They are fully booked. The only hope is waiting in line for a bar seat. I would stop calling, as the waiting list has been closed off

                                    1. re: mikeh

                                      Wonder whether we might see these reservations sold on eBay or Craig's List?

                                      1. re: brentk

                                        I wonder how this might cut into the Farm to Fork Picnic further as those who appreciate food are now budgeting out Magnolia Grill instead.


                                        1. re: mikeh

                                          This also explains why they were not participating