By Brianna Chu
Magnolia House has been inviting Pasadenans into its homey, chic space since 2014. The interior embraces the hundred-year-old Craftsman house from which the space has been built, creating a modern yet cozy atmosphere. The front of the house is a large garage-door window that opens out to let the summer breeze flow through. I was utterly charmed as soon as I walked in.
It started as a cocktail lounge and restaurant, only opening during the daytime on the weekends for a full-service brunch. As time went on, a lingering thought for both the staff and owners was how lovely the space was during the day and what a shame they weren’t currently sharing it with the neighborhood during the day. Six months ago, they decided to start moving towards more extended daytime hours. Now, its doors are open from 7:30 in the morning all the way into the evening…and even back into the mornings on Fridays and Saturdays with the 2 am weekend closing times!
The main challenges to extending opening hours were logistical. It’s not the biggest space in the world – their galley kitchen is fairly small – and the staff had to re-work when and how they set up in the morning so that there would be enough room for customers to reach the counter to order unobstructed by morning deliveries. Possibly the most impressive accomplishment was “hiding” their espresso machine, which was cleverly and ingeniously installed beneath their back counter. So now, coffee is on tap and their counter – and access to the back wall – remains nice and clear.
The house brew is supplied by North Carolina-based independent roaster, Counter Culture. Manager Katherine Richardson describes the blend of Ethiopian and Colombian coffee currently on tap as having bright citrusy notes with a chocolatey finish.
May immediately gravitated towards the Mag Mocha, a signature mocha with a smoky chocolate sauce, perfect for someone with a sweet tooth. While it’s probably the most decadent coffee item, it was eminently drinkable and the unique chocolate notes make the drink something special. The warm and chocolaty espresso was at the forefront of each sip of my iced dirty chai, with the Magnolia House’s own chai blend a warm and subtle note that lingered on the palate. (Yes, I forgot to take a photo, mistakes were made.) You can also grab some pastries from Mr. Holmes Bakehouse while you order up front, or grab a bite to eat from the new daytime menu.
Chef Abdel-Monem and Creative Director Evan Coulter recommend their ham sandwich, a classic staple made thoughtfully with La Brea bakery baguettes, jambon de Paris, Gruyere cheeses, cultured Vermont Creamery butter, and a gentle and subtle layer of dijon mustard for a result that struck me as very European. It’s an unfussy, comforting symphony of which the Magnolia House chefs are rightfully proud; Chef Abdel-Monem notes that it’s hard to hide mistakes in a simple dish.
The French toast truly stood out to me as an indulgent and perfectly balanced sweet morning treat. The brioche bread had a silky, custard-like consistency with a gentle sweetness that melted in the mouth, with blueberry compote providing some tartness and texture to the bite. Topped with Chantilly cream, the French toast was a delightful, luxurious creation.
There are also vegan menu items, like the popular overnight oats, which is prepared with almond milk, and plant milk substitutions for coffees and teas are readily available.
More daytime offerings – both food and coffee-wise – could be on the way, too. Some ideas are already abuzz: new food items, for instance, and getting a single origin drip coffee to accompany their current blend. What is clear is the joyful enthusiasm and sincere care and attention to detail that everyone has put into the new expansion for Magnolia House; and I can’t wait to see what’s next. Whether you want to hang out with friends, grab some lunch, or get a drink with your co-workers after hours, Magnolia House has its doors open for you! Just make sure to park either at the nearby lot behind Ross, or across the street at TJ Maxx – they don’t have on-site parking (trust me, I found out the hard way…).
492 S. Lake Ave.
Pasadena, CA 91101
Monday – Thursday | 7:30 am – 12:00 am
Friday | 7:30 am – 2:00 am
Saturday | 9:00 am – 2:00 am
Sunday | 9:00 am – 10:00 pm