July 2007 -- Magnolias, Charleston, SC (dt)
6.03 - 7.5, 6.75, 6.5, 6.5, 6, 5.5, 5, 4.5
Palmettos, the French Quarter, the Swamp Fox, the Ravenel Bridge, and the Atlantic Ocean? South Carolina? Yes, DP8 found itself at Magnolias on East Bay Street in Charleston! ...
Entry into Magnolias exposes a noisy dining room on the right, raised bar area straight ahead, exuding the warmth of wall-high whiteness, toned by the darkness of the cross-ribbed ceiling. Paintings of magnolias, four of semi-abstract, modernistic style and one of an O’Keeffe, rustic combo style, anchored the white wall while strands of willowy magnolia black metal graced the support beams. We were seated, however, in the rear area, a smaller, cozier section, with two tables spliced together with Ken and Don at the ends. A dividing partition discreetly separated us from the kitchen, with a modicum of traffic behind Ken, usually not too obtrusive.
After a fifteen minute wait for a table, filled by observing the dining room goings-on, sizing up the menu, and sipping an order from the bar, Katherine seated us and would prove a capable waiter during the evening. Drinks included a bottle of Russian River pinot noir, and glasses of pinot grigio, white zin, and a diet soda, an order that was tempered by the earlier bar order. Two baskets of sourdough bread, complemented by cream cheese butter, promptly appeared and heartily vanished.
Appetizers included two Caesar salads (Ken & Kriss), blue crab bisque (Deb K), arugula salad, with blue cheese a whole pear (Chay & Judy), fried green tomatoes (Don), and a chilled carrot and ginger soup (Tim). All were judged good to excellent; chunks of crab in the bisque, delectable proscuitto on the breaded tomatoes stood out while the salad might have been over-represented.
Magnolias emphasizes its Low Country cuisine, while promoting an uptown theme. The menu range was adequate but we had experienced fuller menus elsewhere this week locally. Eventually, we ordered pork chops and mushroom gravy, with collard greens with whisky buttered apple chunks (Kriss: good; Ken: good); filet of beef with a potato cake and Madeira sauce (Tim: one of the best); black grouper (Judy: very fresh and good ; Deb K: very good, excellent sauce); mahi-mahi (Chay: so-so); shellfish on grits (Deb T: excellent with the shrimp, lobster, and scallops); buttermilk fried chicken (Don: sounded good but ordinary biscuits, not enough gravy, OK chicken).
Desserts soon beckoned. Tim enjoyed a Frangelica, while Chay ordered a black Sambuca (enjoyed by a few other spooners). The dessert people ordered a cream cheese fudge brownie with a dollop of white chocolate ice cream (Ken & Don: moist, fudgy and good); vanilla raspberry crème brulee (Deb T: excellent); Key Lime pie (Judy: good but small portion); and pecan pie (Kriss: not to her liking).
Katherine’s service was efficient and available throughout. Water glasses were filled frequently, napkins redone, plates removed, and attention paid to any request. Ken’s suggestion that the coffee was old was, at first, somewhat dismissed, but replaced with a fresh brew, much more to Ken’s liking. Also to his liking, Ken’s refills were constant.
The bill came to $120 per couple, a balance of higher priced entrees than we are accustomed to and, on the less expensive side, one less bottle of wine. Considering we had salads/appetizers and desserts, the tab seemed reasonable. The one minor complaint about food presentation was the piling of foods together, more than some like. And, perhaps, after an initial slightly awed feeling upon entering Magnolias, the sum of several excellent parts did not quite add up.
... off we departed into the humid, still too warm evening of Charleston, took a spin around The Battery and up the length of Meeting Road, and crossed the Ravenel Bridge to 3800 Cameron (about 35 minutes away).