In the 1880s, the Magnolia Saloon stood on the corner of 6th and E in Downtown San Diego. It was a place for men to spend the evening playing cards, drinking a beer and/or whiskey or two, and probably enjoying a few working ladies. Over 120 years later, the bar has been reimagined and resurrected as the Magnolia Tap and Kitchen (of course, the working girls have moved east to El Cajon Boulevard). The new restaurant led by Manager Christopher Reid (formerly of Sally’s Seafood on the Water), Head Chef Michael Edwards, and Bar Manger Aaron Cribes, have updated the classic saloon with “California Comfort, Southern Spirit.”
As you walk into Magnolia Tap and Kitchen, you are greeted by a sitting area complete with a bookshelf full of classic novels and a fireplace. The rest of the 3,600 square-foot space is split into two sections. The bar area in the front offers high tables and bar seating. The dining area in the back has plenty of table seating with leather banquettes along the walls. The two spaces are harmoniously brought together by a large metal “magnolia” tree in the center. Outside and next to the bar is the patio with plenty of room to enjoy a pre-Padres game drink and people watch.
The Beer, Spirits and Cocktails
It used to be a saloon after all! The craft beer list has my approval with most taps featuring San Diego brews and the rest filled from California breweries. As for spirits, Magnolia has a selection of whiskeys just waiting to be sipped either neat or on the rocks. Bar manager Aaron Cribes has concocted twelve cocktails including the house special “Magnolia Sundown” with vodka, St. Germain, Chambord, lemongrass and cucumber. If you want something a little less sweet, try the “Aviation” with gin, maraschino liqueur, crème yvette and lemon juice. Those looking for non-alcoholic beverages can find homemade lemonades and sodas.
Head Chef Michael Edwards’ southern inspired menu comes with a California twist. It’s easy to see the combination in the appetizer that takes regular cornbread and spices it up with habaneros and smoked peach butter. For the main course, try the pulled pork carnitas with a mustard bbq sauce and guacamole, or the braised short rib with house bbq sauce and coleslaw. Finish the meal with pecan pie topped with bourbon whipped cream.
If you like the BBQ sauce, Chef Edwards hopes to eventually bottle it for you to take home.