Gastropub & Brewery
1398 Haight St.
Cross: Masonic Ave.
San Francisco, CA 94117
19, 2008 | SAN FRANCISCO Oh
lord, did I just take a hit of acid? Did someone sprinkle
some Acapulco Gold in my salad? Are you sure those were
just morels? I’m feeling funny. Why am I giggling?
Actually, there’s a very good reason: I’m just
cruising through ~MAGNOLIA GASTROPUB & BREWERY’S~ new
website and getting lost in the illustrations. Delicious
quirkiness. Dude, pass the pipe!
has been a staple in the Haight for years, an oasis for
the thirsty, the hungry, and yes, the baked. The place
has quite the dappled history, including its days as “The
Drugstore Café” (hence the Prescription
Pale on the beer list) and then the period of 1967–1969,
when it was owned by Magnolia Thunderp*ssy. (I can’t
write out her name or this week’s newsletter will
end up in everyone’s spam trap!) She was a local
burlesque performer who is the namesake for the restaurant,
and the inspiration for the Dead’s track Sugar
Ms. Magnolia TP owned the joint, she was known for her
dessert delivery business, running until late at night
(“the munchie hours?”). What’s it gonna
be, a Pineapple P*ssy, or the Montana Banana? For reals.
Shame she’s no longer with us. I was lobbying owner
Dave MacLean to bring her desserts back. Or at least a
variation of them, because I’m not sure how an exact
rendition of half a pineapple filled with strawberry ice
cream and covered with whipped cream, chocolate shavings,
and a cherry fits in with the new Magnolia mojo. Ahem.
restaurant just celebrated its ten-year anniversary,
and is now sporting a spiffy new look, style, menu, the
whole shebang. I know some folks have been throwing granola
at the changes, but personally, I am digging the update;
there are plenty of grungy spots to hang out at on Haight
Street—not all of them have to look like a co-op.
Perhaps the most noise was over the famed hippie mural
getting painted over, but it’s not like McLean didn’t
care—would someone painstakingly photograph it, and
eventually offer it as a downloadable panorama if they
didn’t care? Exactly. After ten years, he was just
ready for something fresh.
space already had great bone structure (it was a pharmacy
that dates back to 1903), but now it has a bit of a vintage
East Coast vibe, with tall-backed and tufted booths ideal
for small groups or a tête-a-tête, large mirrors
with details of the menu (take a close look—no, you’re
not trippin’), subway tiling (especially in the bathrooms),
a weathered-meets-gold leaf paint scheme, and there’s
now a communal table made of Douglas Fir wood from the
original Levi Strauss building in the Mission.
Brandon Jew (Zuni, Quince, Pizzetta 211) has put together
a menu of gastropub fare that is a celebration of SLO
(sustainable, local, organic) and let’s add
an H in there for house-made. It’s the new Slow Food:
SLOH food. And it definitely has some modern flair and
creativity—classic Brit pub fare this is not.
start with the munchies part of the menu (yes, that’s
what it says). It’ll be leaving us soon,
but the refreshing wedges of watermelon with saba
and Maldon salt ($5) would be ideal as a mid-course/intermezzo.
Say, post-boudin. Or after scarfing the fried boar headcheese
($5) served with peppery watercress. (I know not everyone
would scarf this dish, but kudos to Magnolia for having
it on the menu—it disappeared off our table in a
flash. Wow, nice trails.) We also got a taste of a scrumptious
Scotch egg, not sure if it made it onto the menu yet, but
it should be on there.
charcuterie selection is beer-friendly, and I like how
share-friendly a lot of the dishes are, from the oh-so-lightly
battered Monterey squid ($8) with squid ink aioli, or the
lacquered duck wings ($7). But I’d like a wet towel
after eating the wings; the Nopa-style dishtowels-as-napkins
aren’t quite enough to do the job after those sticky
little buggers. Speaking of the dishtowels, one night I
had quite the dingy-looking one—it needed to be retired
and signed up for an AARP magazine subscription, stat.
There’s are three tasty salads to choose from, including
the summer melon salad ($11) styled with balls of fried
goat cheese, plus figs, arugula, and speck—it was
a spot-on play of flavors, textures, and temperatures.
Salad, don’t leave us! But alas, fall is on its way…
one of the city’s best deals for din din
is the house-made sausage with two sides, for $12. The
sausage selection changes a fair amount, but a favorite
was the grass-fed buffalo, a chewy but flavorful sausage
with deep seasoning that comes sliced up in a warm cazuela-like
dish. Built for beer. The boudin, however, put me into a food coma, with its heavy breading.
to choose from include the perfect horseradish potatoes,
with just the right amount of whip and kick, or house-cut
fries (they’re good—order them crispy), or
sauerkraut—but I wanted the sauerkraut to have a
little spin, like so many other dishes do on the menu.
There are also seasonal vegetable sides, and speaking of
non-meat items, there’s a vegetarian sausage version
on the menu, cool.
would a gastropub be without fish and chips ($15)? Uh,
not a gastropub. The fish depends on what’s the
daily catch, but one constant is the flaky and light batter
made with mead, and the pickled sea beans were a nice touch.
I just wanted the malt vinegar in a shaker, and not the
petite ramekin in came in—it’s hard to dispense
properly on the fries.
on one night, the Prather Ranch burger ($13) was so not
on its game: it was overdone, and the bun was soggy.
Even the killer mustard and pickle couldn’t
elevate it. But then I have a friend who swears by the
burger, so what can I say? Ah, the vicissitudes of restaurants.
To that point, I have experienced some missteps here and
there on Magnolia’s menu during my two visits, like
underdone beans or salty snapper, but they mostly felt
like new menu kinks.
also needs to get worked out a bit—one time a puck-like
toffee pudding came with under-ripe nectarine, and the
slice of the porter chocolate cake, while decadently delicious,
was a bit precious for $7. The cubes of goat cheesecake
($7) were a tangy finish, with figs and honey, total hearts,
but the topping of almond brittle was difficult to break
into bites. Again, these are small tweaks that I am sure
will get adjusted in time, especially considering the dessert
history of the joint!
about that brewery part in the name. The beers here are
unique, crafted with love and obsession, and a pleasure
to taste and try. I appreciate the brewski education you
can get (do you know what ABVs and BUs are?), and that
you can compare cask-conditioned ales against beers
on draught (do a taste test with the Blue Bell Bitter!).
(You can read more about McLean and his passion for English
ales in his wino
piece here.) The names are clever (care for a Cole
Porter?), many referencing Grateful Dead songs, so the
list is like a built-in drinking game. There are also some
wines to choose from, or house-made sodas and complimentary
filtered fizzy water for the teetotalers. Plus Blue Bottle
Coffee anyone can perk up with.
ladies, if you want to hang with or perhaps pick up some
beer-drinking lads, this is your spot—the chaps
here are more the “thinking man’s beer dudes,” and
not like the rapscallions you’ll find at Murio’s
down the street. In fact, if you need a place to meet up
with a fella on a date, say, date number one or two, this
spot is on the money: it’s not too expensive, the
food is approachable, the interior has pleasant atmo, and
while it’s a bit noisy, there’s enough going
on that it doesn’t feel like an awkward quiet DATE.
And there’s BEER, so you and the fella stay relaxed.
And I also can’t help but think the historical p*ssy
power of Magnolia bodes well.
NOTE: there is a popular brunch served all weekend, and
the famous friend chicken is on Thursdays from 5pm until
they run out.