198 N. 21st St.
Purcellville, VA 20132
CUISINE Modern American, Southern
PRICE $$$ ($21-$30)
HOURS Open for lunch, Monday through Saturday, dinner daily, late-night dining, Friday and Saturday, brunch Sunday.
NVM AWARDS Best Restaurant 2006
Best Restaurant 2012
NEARBY METRO None
SPECIAL FEATURESAccepts Credit Cards
By Warren Rojas
To wood-fire or not?
That was the quandary Magnolia’s execs wrestled with when they solicited approval of their plan to feed both their central grill and pizza oven arboreal fuel.
It turned out to be a split decision.
“Due to county codes we were unable to use both the pizza oven and the grill as solid fuel cooking appliances. We opted for the wood grill,” the collective powers-that-be shared—with partner Kevin Malone asserting “and we don’t regret it.”
(Note to LoCo paper pushers: Methinks they ultimately won that pizza battle, what with the success of Fire Works Pizza in Leesburg.)
If Magnolia’s customers are at all upset of being robbed of the pleasure of wood-flavored pies, they’re not letting on one bit.
The rustic-looking restaurant continues to draw all manner of meal seekers, from the appearance-be-damned dad who didn’t think twice about planting his toddler alongside him at the bar (it counts as bonding time) to clusters of silver haired-retirees (clandestinely jockeying for Foursquare mayorship, no doubt) to the hard-charging business exec who popped in specifically for a favorite dessert (don’t think the sweets devotee even glanced at the menu).
Those who do fancy tickling their taste buds with a hint of dead tree are rewarded with various options—“We find there are very few dishes that judicious use of a hot, hickory fire cannot improve,” management states, estimating that at any given time, up to a third of their menu is dedicated to grill items—covering the gamut of alimentary options (land, air and sea).
Although the grill welcomes all manner of animal matter, it’s powered by two basic fuel sources: seasoned hickory (those would be the neatly stacked logs dividing the main dining room and the bar area) and Cowboy-brand lump, hardwood charcoal (the good stuff).
As anyone who’s dabbled in home barbecuing/smoking can attest, pure charcoal delivers high heat with minimal fuss while the hickory passed along plenty of smoky/woodsy aromas to the object of the grilling.
The Magnolia’s team, quite naturally, sang the praises of their top tier beef (“the hickory smoke and the hot sear … makes a[n] absolutely perfect steak”) and seafood specials (“fish takes to wood grilling remarkably well and adds a special, complex flavor element to the dish”).
But it was the simpler grilled fare that struck a chord during my visits.
Twin slabs of homemade meatloaf, struck from a mouthwatering blend of ground Angus beef, pork and rosemary, encapsulate all that’s right with wood grilling—their blackened faces a testament to the fury of jumping flames and searing grates, while bites of their unscorched rears deliver ample juice and spice.
Flank steak clings to its well-marinated core but otherwise embraces its fiery destiny, developing an alluring char around its still succulent edges and absorbing plenty of nostril-filling, palate-teasing smoke.
Burgers bask in the attention as well, particularly when aided by hickory-based barbecue sauce, smoked bacon and seriously crunchy pickles (smokehouse) or sparsely seasoned, showered in goat cheese and layered with sublimely sweet peppers (lamb burger).(August 2006)
By Warren Rojas
F 7.8 A 6.6 S 7.8
If it seems counterintuitive to drive west for a taste of Southern hospitality, chances are you've never enjoyed a spell at Magnolias.
The family-friendly restaurant resides within a reconditioned grain mill, scattering diners amongst a sea of tanned hardwood and immobile gears that impart a historical feel to each meal. Staff keep a watchful eye without ever rushing you, and excel at little extras-like repackaging leftovers for multiple guests or delivering steamed napkins with a plate of barbecue.
Grilled meats, gourmet pizzas and a stellar beer list dominate the menu, although daily seafood specials are worth a listen. A generous plate of lobster layered atop a puffy corn cake shines. A seafood skewer brings jumbo shrimp and scallops impaled on fresh rosemary, all resting on creamy lobster risotto. Bourbon spare ribs are slathered in a surprisingly spicy barbecue glaze and come draped over mustard-riffic potato salad (like a gourmet picnic plate). A Mediterranean surf and turf pairs jumbo scallops wrapped in steel head trout with rosemary pork chops, and bathes everything in an orange crème fraîche.