Magnolia Pub and Brewery (1398 Haight Street) recently welcomed chef Ronnie New back into their kitchen. To mark the occasion they’ve made some noteworthy changes to an already exquisite ensemble of gourmet pub grub.
After enjoying a wide array of selections off their new menu, it’s no small feat when I declare that this was probably the best single meal I’ve had in San Francisco all year. With a dizzying dynamic of bar bites and imaginative entrees, the selection of food is now more ‘adult’ than it was before, transcending standard bar food and ascending into the realm of gastronomic innovation.
The edible exploration began with the sinfully succulent Devils on Horseback–sweet Medjool dates packed with goat cheese and wrapped in applewood smoked bacon before they’re deep-fried and served with a sweet sherry reduction sauce made with Magnolia’s own Kalifornia Kolsch. Beer doesn’t just go well with the food here, it’s actually in the food. The tasty little devils are a curious combination of texture and flavor: crunchy yet gooey, sweet yet salty, devilishly addicting.
Along with a playful assortment of snacks, like their Bacon Cracker Jacks, Magnolia also features many grown-up flavors like their chicken liver mousse and an impressive charcuterie featuring locally-sourced cheeses and meats. The pungent flavors of a smokey blue cheese or a tangy goat are the perfect compliment to any number of refreshing microbrews, crafted right on sight. There are endless possible combinations of beer and food to experiment with and I was exposed to numerous pairings that I had never imagined before. For example, my personal favorite–Proving Ground IPA–was a delightful accompaniment to oven-roasted sardines, the bitterness of the fresh hops counterbalancing the rich, salty tones of unmistakable Monterrey Bay seafood. Feel the ocean flowing in your veins, taste the salt of your tears.
As delectable as all of the bar bites proved to be, the real showstoppers were the meat dishes: Lamb Merguez served atop a bed of pancetta lentils–exquisite and overflowing with robustness. And the succulent memories of their sensational Porter-braised short ribs are enough to make me emotional; a hearty serving of the most tender, juicy beef imaginable, braised in the deep, roasted tones of their own Cole Porter–a dark beer which, not surprisingly, pairs most suitably with this extraordinary entree.
This November marks the third anniversary of the BRU/SFO Project, a celebration of Belgian brewing observed by both Magnolia and 21st Amendment. To get a little taste of it all, Magnolia offers a flight of six beers, presented in a wooden triangle reminiscent of a pool rack. They run the gamut of colors and flavors. My personal favorite was the Chocolate George Stout. Creamy and subtly sweet, it tasted like an ice cream float of mouthwatering maltiness.
Obviously brewpubs tend to concentrate primarily on their beer. As a result, the food can sometimes be an afterthought–acceptable at best. Conversely, many gastropubs are concerned with the kitchen and often overlook some of the finer, locally-significant brews available in any particular season. Positioned at the confluence of the two, however, Magnolia stands apart as one of the city’s elite destinations for foodies and beer geeks alike. When all was devoured, owner/brewmaster David McLean and his on-point staff provided us with a truly unforgettable dining experience.
Check out the new menu here.