June 11, 2016

Magnolias: Food Is Art

Magnolia waffle

Petite Chicken and Waffles with peach horseradish maple syrup. Photo by Nicolette Ivy.

Where preparation, hard work, and great food meet

 By Lysa Allman-Baldwin

 Magnolia’s Southern Cuisine started out on Cherry and 29th Streets, moving last November to 99th and Holmes. The move was more than to a bigger location.

“In the old space we had six employees, a tiny little kitchen, and the customers could

Magnolia plate of chicken

Chef Shanita McAfee Bryant with her signature dish Buttermilk Fried Chicken with Bourbon and brown sugar whipped sweet potatoes and collard greens. Photo by Ingrid Keizer

smell the smoke from our cooking in the dining room,” said Chef/Owner Shanita McAfee Bryant. “And if someone didn’t show up to work, I could manage things on my own. Having this much larger dining room, a full bar, room for performances, a private event space, and 20 employees, my success is dependent on other people, because I just can’t do everything.”

 

What has stayed the same is Magnolia’s Southern-inspired comfort food with a Midwestern twist – items like Oxtail Stroganoff, red wine braised oxtails served with pappardelle pasta mushrooms, and crème fraiche; Blackened Shrimp Salad with feta cheese, mixed greens, roasted corn, grit croutons, and red wine vinaigrette; and their trademark Buttermilk Fried Chicken. Prepared to order, like all of their dishes, it is served with Bourbon and brown sugar whipped sweet potatoes and collard greens.

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Nashville Chicken Wings with celery and ranch blue cheese dipping sauce.  Photo by Ingrid Keizer

The Flavors of the South

Unlike many places where the food comes out in 10 minutes, everything here is made to order.

“The extra care and attention to details really comes out in the flavors,” McAfee Bryant said. “I think it’s really important, so you know the quality of what you’re getting. I’ve heard of some places that pre-fry, then re-fry, their chicken when it’s ordered. We don’t do that here. It’s a complete ‘to order’ situation, so if you order the fried chicken you have to be patient.”

magnolia burger

‘Nolia Burger with smoked gouda pimento cheese, crispy onions and pecan wood smoked bacon. Served with house chips and sweetened peach iced tea. Photo by Nicolette Ivy.

Another customer favorite is the Red Velvet Waffles, topped with a cream cheese “Evangeline” sauce and fresh fruit, as well as the Shrimp & Grits. Here, the grits are baked into a cake; the shrimp sautéed in a white wine cream sauce with fresh Thai basil.

The center cut “Kitchen Sink” Pork Chop comes with creamy potatoes, bacon and onion green beans, and maple bourbon apples. Other favs include the Smoked Gouda Mac & Cheese, Low Country Navy Beans, Pot Roast Braised Short Ribs, and The Blue Plate Special–meatloaf, creamy potatoes, and roasted brussel sprouts.

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Pickled Beet Salad. Photo by Ingrid Keizer

Vegetarian options encompass the Pickled Beet Salad, Apple Walnut Salad; Magnolia’s Chips & Dip, a bacon horseradish dip with house sweet potato chips; and the Creole, Traditional, and Smoked Salmon Deviled Eggs.

Magnolia nutter butter

Nutter Butter French Toast.  Photo by Nicolette Ivy

McAfee Bryant’s favorite is the Nutter Butter French Toast. “We make it on Farm to Market challah bread, soaked in a peanut wash and topped with Nutter Butter then grilled. I love it!”

Food as art

On Tuesdays, Magnolia’s is only open from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. for Taco Tuesdays, offering a unique twist on traditional taco fare.

For the purists, there’s the hard shell, beef or chicken varieties. Or tantalize your taste buds with the Soft-Shell Smoked Brisket or Smoked Chicken Tacos; the Fried Catfish or Shrimp Tacos, served with pickled peach and jalapeño salsa; the Smoked Brisket Quesadillas made with Buffalo Trace Bourbon and peach barbecue sauce, melted pimento cheese, and pickled onions; or the Pork Pulled Pork Empanadas with grilled pineapple salsa and queso fresco.

Magnolia’s diners can enjoy a wealth of artistry along with their meal. Every quarter they feature different local artists, Thursday night is Jazz Night with Kansas City’s own Lonnie McFadden, and on Fridays, it’s the soulful sounds of vocalist Paula Sanders, who grew up with McAfee Bryant. Starting June 4th, there will be a new house band with the stylings of Amber Underwood.

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Lonnie McFadden entertains on Thursday evenings. Photo by Ingrid Keizer

A real “Family and Friends” affair

Magnolia’s is a real “Family and Friends” affair. McAfee Bryant is the Chef/Owner. Her father, Mark, is a jack-of-all-trades (he and Lonnie McFadden were high school classmates); son Aston and stepson Mark Bryant, III, both age 19, wait tables; and daughter Brianna, 16, does the baking.

Although only 35 years old, McAfee Bryant has accomplished a lot, including as winner of the Food Network’s “Cutthroat Kitchen” in September 2014, and an appearance on “BBQ Blitz” last year. Media articles and radio interviews are frequent too. Together, it seems she’s really lucky.

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Chef and owner Shanita McAfee Bryant. Photo by Ingrid Keizer

 

“A lot of people say I’m lucky, but people need to know there’s no such thing,” McAfee Bryant said. “I love that saying that talks about luck as where preparation and hard work meet. I’m a working chef in the kitchen, and still do the bulk of the lifting. I work really hard for all that we have here.”

Maybe that family work ethic is what drives her youngest child, two-year-old daughter Monty? McAfee Bryant laughed, “She likes to greet the customers, drop off their checks, and pick up the money!”

Where preparation, hard work (family and friends), and great food meet – indeed!

Magnolia’s Southern Kitchen is located at 9916 Holmes Rd. They are open Tuesday evenings from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. only for Taco Tuesdays, Wednesdays through Saturdays 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sundays for Brunch from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. 816.521.6801, www.Magnoliaskc.com.

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