Café Magnolia has been a fixture in the Mechanicsburg community since 2003, so when I heard that it was going to be operating under new management in February, I decided to pay a visit.
I came to the conclusion that little has changed. Perhaps the owner is under the opinion that if it’s not broke, why fix it?
For those who are unfamiliar with the BYOB located on 4700 Gettysburg Road in Lower Allen Township, Café Magnolia operates in a converted farmhouse that dates to 1901 and features four eating areas, not including a deck that is quite popular in warmer weather.
When we arrived at noon last Saturday, a friendly employee greeted us at the door and seated us in the bright, cheery front room (thanks to minimal window treatments) where Parisian scenes festoon pale, blue, shiplap walls. I noticed that business was brisk — nearly all the seating areas were filling up as we arrived. The other street-facing room beyond the stairs appears to be popular for groups celebrating special occasions, and Saturday was no different as we watched small parties of two or three arrive bearing gifts.
Our waitress appeared to have little trouble keeping on top of the 10 or so tables in the front room where we were seated. Within a few minutes, we were given a rundown of the day’s soups: broccoli cheese, Manhattan clam chowder and Italian wedding, which my dining partner promptly ordered ($4).
As I reviewed the rest of the items on the menu, it seemed to me that little has changed there, too. A small selection of appetizers includes items like hummus with pita, coconut shrimp and bruschetta with avocado. Wraps are still plentiful, with a selection of nine, containing ingredients like chicken, tuna, turkey and salmon.
Six burgers are also available, with two offerings for vegetarians: a “shroom” burger with sautéed mushrooms, melted Swiss and smoked bacon; and a new offering called the “Impossible burger,” billed as a “plant-based burger for those who love meat.”
Customers have a choice of seven sandwiches ranging from gyros to tuna melts, to an interesting sounding combination of avocado and grilled cheese, and my choice: cranberry and almond chicken salad ($10).
Those who are in the mood for something a little more substantial can order from among lunch entrees like lasagna, blackened chicken mac and cheese, or the fish and chips that my companion ordered ($13).
I noticed that the menu was devoid of paninis, so perhaps they were pared from the menu since my last visit. I did, however, recognize the full roster of salads, 10 to be exact, including the extremely popular one with a unique appellation. Named “Jess’s Favorite Salad in the Whole World,” it contains coconut-crusted chicken that is flash fried and finished on the grill, with fresh, mixed greens, coconut shavings, almonds and strawberries.
Our lunch selections didn’t take long to hit the table, around 10 minutes or so. My partner received his cup of Italian wedding soup first and said he enjoyed the soup overall, but felt like it was missing a bit of Parmesan cheese. He especially enjoyed the big flavor of the diminutive meatballs.
For being deep fried, his small, mahi-mahi fish portions were surprisingly light, flaky and tender, and the side of fries were hot and nicely seasoned with pepper and salt. He enjoyed his side of coleslaw so much that he was left wanting more.
I, too, was happy with my selection and have nothing but good things to say about my piled-high chicken salad sandwich. The pulled chicken, mixed with mayonnaise and a hint of Dijon mustard, toasted almonds and dried cranberries, was just the right consistency, with much more chicken than mayo. It was topped with two slices of Provolone, lettuce and slices of impressively red ripe tomatoes, especially for this time of year.
The grilled ciabatta bread tasted just-made fresh and was a great match for the sandwich, which was so delicious that I considered trying to eat it all in one sitting, but thought better of it and packed up half to enjoy later.
I’m sure there are many people who are likely relieved to hear that the changes at Café Magnolia appear to be few and far between. If you’ve yet to visit and would like to know what the fuss is all about, you can visit Café Magnolia for lunch or dinner, from Monday through Saturday. To learn more, visit their website at www.cafe-magnolia.com.
Next Up: Parivaar in Hampden Township