As I was speeding west on Sunset, I noticed another valet stand popped up. Its right next door to Fabiolous Café, about half a block east of Vine. This is very close to the Arclight, and would be a convenient stopover on the way to the theater.
So I parked on Ivar and walked over to the restaurant, called Magnolia.
They have a lot of space, but only use a fraction of it for seating. There are large open areas in the front bar and alongside the middle seating area. The furniture in these areas, if any, is mostly comfy chairs and coffee tables. I guess they are expecting this to be a bar-scene restaurant. There is a very nice quiet back patio, though, with about 6-8 tables. In total, including the front seating area, the middle seating area and the back patio, there are about 30 tables. In the front section, the tables are very close together. Think 6 apart. Thankfully this was their first or second day open, so I didnt have to sit shoulder-to-shoulder with the people at the next table.
The vibe is not pretentious at all. The owners/key people are wearing jeans or baggy pants with polo shirts or casual button-ups. The waiters and busboys are wearing uniforms. The attitude is outstanding. They are very accommodating and really go out of their way to please you. More on that later.
The servers are still getting up to speed on how things work. First of all, there are too many servers, as they are not too busy yet. So they ask if you want water about every 5 minutes. And I was asked by 4 different people if they could bring me something to drink. Of course, I prefer too much service to too little service, but I assume this will iron itself out over time.
The menu consists of appetizers, salads, sandwiches and entrees. The appetizers look good and include hummus with pita and a brie dish. They range from $6 to $12. The salads are also interesting, including Caesar, beet, cobb and several others. They range from $7 to $14. I wasnt in the mood for a sandwich, so I didnt pay much attention to that area, but there are about ten different sandwiches on the menu. Finally, the entrees range from rigatoni with Bolognese sauce to salmon to pork chops to a New York strip. They range from $13 to $30.
First faux pas: after ordering, it took nearly 20 minutes to get the salad. As I wasnt in a particular hurry, it didnt really bother me other than the thought that if the lunch took more than an hour, I might get a parking ticket.
Now on to the food. The beet salad was outstanding. The beets were yellow and red, cut thin and arranged in a circular fashion around the outside of the plate. In the middle was a handful of mixed greens (including arugula, which totally brought the other flavors together), along with spears of cold asparagus. On top was a large ball of goat cheese, and then it was lightly dressed with a honey vinaigrette. The ingredients were ultra fresh, and the size was perfect for a pre-entrée appetizer. It was $7.
Second faux pas: probably related to the first faux pas, I had only finished about a quarter of my salad when the main course arrived. Obviously the lady who brought it (not the waitress) must have been an owner because she immediately recognized that I was not done yet and asked whether I ordered them to arrive at the same time. I said no, but it was no big deal. Just leave the dish, and Ill eat it after I finish the salad. After much apologizing, she immediately sent over a glass of cabernet on the house with another round of apologies. Very classy recovery.
The main course was rigatoni with Bolognese sauce. On top, there was some shaved parmesan that had just begun to melt by the time I got to the dish. The pasta was cooked perfectly. Not too soft, but not crunchy, either. The real star here, though, was the sauce. It was obviously cooked for a long time, as it was rich and I could sense the cream in the meat. But what really made it was the freshness. As it was right next door, I couldnt help but compare it to Fabiolous. Remembering my last meal there, I just kept thinking how lifeless the food was in comparison to Magnolia.
Overall, despite the minor mis-fires, I was impressed. Even more so as they just opened this week. But it was already half-full at lunch time, with probably half of the guests being friends and family. My guess is that they will become very popular very quickly.
So I would recommend them; but go soon, before the crowds make it a different experience altogether.