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.