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Jul 5, 2012 09:52 AM

What's a good alternative to the Magnolia Grill?

So, we heard that Magnolia Grill has closed. Our company has an office in RTP and, during our infrequent trips there (we're in California), that's where we'd always try to go for dinner. So where should our new go-to place be?


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  1. Although I have not been to either, there was a recent Chowhound post about how the two most similar restaurants to Magnolia Grill (run by former MG chef de cuisines) are Nana's in Durham and Elaine's on Franklin in Chapel Hill.

    From Elaine's website: Barker, a James Beard Foundation Best Chef in the Southeast awardee, describes Jennings as “a culinary genius” and expresses his pride that Elaine’s On Franklin is still carrying on Magnolia Grill traditions while allowing Jennings’ own personality to shine through. “I wish Elaine’s were open on Monday (when Magnolia Grill is closed) so my wife Karen and I would have a place to go out in Chapel Hill, ” says Barker.

    Of course, no one did it like Magnolia Grill, so this effort might be akin to finding a replacement for Michael Jordan or something.

    If you want something a bit different but with a very high level of execution and flavor, Panciuto in Hillsborough is one of the few Italian places in this country that reminds me of my meals in Italy at hole-in-the-wall family places. Farm-to-table, Southern-influenced Italian. It's similar to Cotogna in San Francisco, but with a Southern lens instead of a Californian one.

    1. I think Mikeh's response is spot on, and I strongly second his recommendation of Panciuto. I would add that Lantern (in Chapel Hill) is generally regarding as one of the best restaurants in the area and placed once or twice in the former Gourmet magazine's top 50 restaurants in the country, but the food is quite different than what was offered at Mag. Grill. If you want to stick in Durham and/or with a more similar style of cuisine, Four Square or Watts Grocery are possibilities.

      2 Replies
      1. re: brsmith2

        I agree Nana's is a worthy successor to Mag Grill. I prefer Lantern to Elaine's. Both are in Chapel Hill, across the street from each other. I'd also recommend Poole's Diner in Raleigh as one of the best in the area.

        1. re: Tom from Raleigh

          I like Poole's but it would be a bad place for a business dinner, but the food is good and it has an interesting vibe.

          I have not been but Mandolin in Raleigh has been getting good reviews

      2. All good suggestions so far but Elaine's and Nana's to me are the places that feel the most like MG. I'm still bummed Cypress On The Hill didn't make it, it was also similar.

        1. My vote goes to Four Square. I've enjoyed my meals there more than at Nana's. And as far as the ambiance and dining experience goes, Four Square exceeds Magnolia Grill, which was cramped and loud.

          3 Replies
          1. re: bbqme

            I forgot about them. We preferred Four Square over Mag Grill as well.

              1. re: SittingOnAMtnTop

                My vote is for Four Square. Like Tom, we preferred it over Magnolia Grill.

          2. My vote goes to Elaine's. It has a very similar atmosphere, although quieter and a bit more romantic, but still somewhat casual, and also has great food.