{Pensacola Eats + Drinks} The Magnolia

The other night, to celebrate six months of marriage, John and I went out on a date to The Magnolia in East Pensacola Heights, and we loved it! I had heard about the cute little restaurant from a few different people, and was dying to check it out. With only five or so tables and a bar, The Magnolia is intimate and fun without being oppressive. John was seriously impressed with their extensive list of craft brews, and we were both pumped about the range of southern-inspired small plates, salads, and sandwiches. 

John started with a Naked Pig, while I sipped a glass of Pinot Blanc. 

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We decided to go heavy on the apps because everything looked so yummy. The cheese plate was perfect, consisting of an aged chedd, smoked gouda, and Dutch blue drizzled in honey, with thick slices of toasted crusty bread and cocoa almonds. Divine, especially the blue + honey combo.

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The pulled-pork slider with blue cheese coleslaw looked amazing, but John gobbled it up so fast that I didn't get a chance to try it! Turns out that it is owner/chef Kiley Manning's current favorite as well, so I am sure it was fantastic. 

We also tried the bacon pimiento cheese toast--a decadent twist on the classic southern spread. 

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For mains, John went light with the beet salad, while I tried the rosemary chicken salad. Both were delicious and full of flavor. I love beet salad but am not a fan of vinegar-soaked beets. However, I was delighted to find that these beets were juicy and sweet without tasting pickled, which we both loved. The rosemary chicken was also super tasty, especially loaded onto the ritz-like crackers on the side. We ended up sharing both plates, and by the time we were done we were stuffed! I also want to mention that the service rocks--our waitress was fantastic, funny, and had awesome suggestions!

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The Magnolia is owned by the kick-ass husband and wife duo of Bill and Kiley Manning. I got a chance to meet Kiley before we left and followed up with her before writing this post so that we could get to know them a bit better!

Meet the magic behind The Magnolia:

TG: When did The Magnolia open?

KM: We opened on Halloween, 2011.  We were supposed to open on November 1, but at the last minute Bill requested we have a Halloween party to open- and the rest is history.

TG: What inspired your concept/menu?

KM: Shortly after Bill & I met, we both quit our jobs and moved to Maui to open a business together.  We ended up not liking Maui so we traveled the country for about 3 months, looking for a city to settle in.  We returned to Pensacola to literally repack our bags and keep traveling when we stumbled across the building that is now The Magnolia.  It just felt right so we made an offer and leased it.  Six weeks later we opened our doors.  Our menu is heavily influenced by the different food styles we experienced all over the country for those months right before we opened.  The Seafood Roll is inspired by our time in Boston, the Beet Salad by our time in Sonoma, Pimiento Cheese (and our Texas Oktoberfest we throw every year) by places where we ate in Texas, on and on.  

TG: Is this your first joint business venture? What is it like to be in the kitchen together?

KM: This is our first business venture together. :)  I love working with my husband! Not only because I love the guy but because I truly respect his opinion on everything and seek it often.  He has a completely different approach to every situation and yet, we share a vision on the final result and support and challenge each other every step of the process.  Even though we own a business together, we rarely get to see each other because of our separate responsibilities, but our flexible schedule allows us to take advantage of off-days together for a quick weekend getaway.  

We actually aren't ever in the kitchen together!  Bill runs the front of the house, does all of the accounting and maintenance on the building, food and alcohol ordering, office stuff.  Bill is really the backbone of the business- he does all of those million little things to keep us on track.  I work in the kitchen, manage our catering business (we do on and off-site catered events.  Most recently we catered and coordinated a wedding for 120 guests at The Barkley House for a couple who met at The Magnolia! That was a real treat!), am an event coordinator and am the Editor of Gulf Coast Bride Magazine.  He refers to me as his Hummingbird since I am always flying from one thing to the next.  :)

TG: What is your favorite thing on the menu, and which beer/wine would you pair it with?

KM: What is your favorite thing on the menu, and which beer/wine would you pair it with?  I go through phases with different menu items but right now I am loving our Pulled Pork Sandwich.  Bill rubs then smokes the pork shoulder for several hours then finishes it in the oven for up to 18 hours.  We pull and sauce the pork in house by hand.  We top it with our house-made blue cheese cole slaw. The pork is a two-day process and all of those personal touches really come together to create a symphony of flavors.  Sweet, smoky, peppery, savory... sooo good.  I love pairing it with a Truckstop Honey Brown Ale by Back 40 Beer Company.  Geez, now I want one....

How romantic are they?! I love knowing that their menu is completely inspired by their wanderlust. No wonder we loved it so much! Thanks so much Kiley for all the cool and thoughtful info. After hearing how much love goes into that pork I will definitely have to come back soon to grab a Truckstop + Slider combo...

Next time you are looking for a fun date night, or someone to cater your latest shindig, definitely give Kiley a call or head down to the Magnolia for some great drinks and eats. 

The Magnolia, 2907 E. Cervantes St., Pensacola, FL 32503, (850)-912-6196

Also, be sure to check out Gulf Coast Bride!

Happy Wednesday, friends.



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