Seven months ago, on expansive “Carb (as in carbohydrate) Row” in Murray Hill, Magnolia’s Pub opened. At the time, its menu centered around homemade waffles and waffle sandwiches. Since then, the menu has shifted away from waffles. It now feels all over the place — pages of options — from tacos, burgers, salads, wraps and brunch items served all day to dinner entrees like chicken parmesan and country fried steak, plus waffle donuts called wonuts.
On our early evening arrival a friendly male server and a litany of happy hour specials greeted us. We landed on the mac ‘n cheese bites ($4) and Oreo wonut bites ($4). Whereas the five piping hot two-bite mac ‘n cheese orbs were decent bar fare and filled with creamy goodness, we didn’t love Magnolia’s spin on the waffle donut hybrid. The waffle itself was too dense and extremely oily, and did not impart much flavor or sweetness. The accompanying cup of icing was overly sweet and had an odd semi-melted consistency.
Intrigued by the quesadilla tacos ($3.25, $2.50 at happy hour), we ordered one each of the basil thyme chicken and BBQ chicken. The exterior of the soft flour tortilla is pressed, giving it a quesadilla-like outside and a bit of crispiness. It wasn’t life-changing, but it was an interesting preparation. I preferred the basil thyme chicken with avocado, red onion and spinach dressed in lemon vinaigrette. The BBQ sauce on the latter was overpowering, and offputtingly sweet and thick. Our server asked if we wanted sour cream and salsa, which we obliged, but the salsa was more of a finely chopped pico de gallo derivative than true tomato salsa.
We also ordered a half-sized green pepper and onion hash brown omelet ($5) and potatoes from the all-day brunch menu. After asking for hot sauce (sriracha saved the day!) this was an OK choice, though the eggs were overcooked and slightly rubbery.
Desiring a healthy option, I landed on the beet and goat cheese salad ($6, half sized; $8.50, full): mixed field greens topped with seemingly canned, sliced beets and copious goat cheese crumbles. A tangy maple Dijon dressing was served on the side. This basic salad would easily be elevated with the addition of a crunchy element — crisp apple slices, toasted walnuts, pistachios or croutons, or an acidic component like a squeeze of fresh lemon. It was lacking in excitement, but I appreciate that Magnolia’s offers nine salads of the non-iceberg lettuce variety. Magnolia’s offers trivia night, open mic night and other events, likely a neighborhood draw. Go for these, not for the food. Order a few bar bites and enjoy the plethora of drink specials. There are also a dozen weekday lunch specials that include a side plus soda or iced tea, all for a reasonable $7.95.
Caron Streibich is an avid food-lover who will review restaurants every other week in the Dining section. Follow her dining adventures at facebook.com/caroneats and #caroneats on Instagram.