Magnolia Cafe: The Epitome of Austin Cookery

"Keep Austin Weird," is a phrase that adequately describes the live music capital of the world, but unusual doesn't always mean "bad."  Oftentimes, in Austin, the unusual is actually quite tasty!  You've got to appreciate people who think outside of the box, offering perspectives, and flavors that open our minds - and our mouths.  Magnolia Cafe on Austin's popular South Congress Avenue is definitely a model of the ideology, displaying a unique combination of flavors that any food adventurer can recognize, 24 hours a day.

 - Image courtesy of the Magnolia Cafe's Facebook Page -

Now, you can imagine my apprehension of visiting this place.  Not because of it's notoriously funky combinations, but because I feared the dreaded TV over-hype.  As many of you may recall, this eatery was featured on the Food Network's Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives, and my experience with restaurants featured on such shows are not as depicted on screen.  Lo and behold, this establishment did not meet the same fate as the aforementioned, it was actually delicious!

During my recent vacation to Austin, I decided to stop by for some breakfast after a dropped off my better half at the Canon Filmmakers Workshop hosted by Phillip Bloom.  I can never turn down breakfast, there's just something that makes my tummy jump for joy when I think about eggs, pancakes, syrup, coffee... I'm getting pretty distracted just thinking about breakfast!  So I drove down South Congress, just a bit passed the most concentrated area of restaurants and shops.  Parking is scarce, but luckily I went around 10am on a Wednesday.

The staff was friendly and eccentric.  The environment really portrayed Austin nicely, with funky, yet fun artwork plastered all over the walls, vivid colors, and unpretentious demeanor.  I sipped my cup of coffee while I decided what to indulge in.  The coffee isn't your uppity barista chain style, just a good, old fashioned cup of Joe.  I can appreciate that, as over-priced grande, skinny, triple macchiato - well I just can't help but roll my eyes.  Then I finally decided on a dish named "El Greco."  A tasty breakfast scramble with black olives, freshly chopped basil, fresh cut tomato, and a few crumbles of feta cheese, served with your choice of toasty breads and home fries.  The home fries were made with red potatoes, which are my favorite.  It's a nice change of pace from your typical overdone russet potatoes.  Although the scramble sounded unusual, I was pleasantly surprised by the way fresh basil compliments scrambled eggs, so much so that I had to try it again at home upon my return.  I wasn't too crazy about the feta cheese, but I'm not the biggest fan of it to begin with.  I will say that they made sure not to have a feta overkill on the dish, being very cognizant of flavor balance.  The portion was just right, just enough food for my satisfaction, and I didn't feel like lead when I walked out the door.  Definitely worth visiting again, and I was happy to know that Magnolia Cafe wasn't an over-hyped TV restaurant.

A couple of days later into our vacation, I ended up at Magnolia Cafe again, this time with my better half in tow.  We stopped in after a long day of craft beer drinking at the new Uncle Billy's location on Lake Travis.  Many restaurants were already closing up shop near our hotel, but Magnolia was still shining their "Sorry, We're Open," sign.

The Magnolia Cafe was a packed house, yet thankfully did not have a wait.  We sat down, got prompt service by a nice, long haired and tattooed fellow, and had another pleasing meal, perhaps even more pleasing than the last.  Mike ordered the gargantuan Sloppy Burger, with bacon, gooey cheese, many beef patties and all the fixins.  The towering sandwich can prove too large for even the big mouthed foodie, but delicious nonetheless.  I ordered one of their specials that they simply referred to as, the Late Night Omlette, filled with cheese, fresh pico de gallo, and creamy avocado.  Another pleasant surprise was that my omelette came with a side of pancakes of my choice.  I enthusiastically asked for the Gingerbread Pancakes.  The omelette and everything in it was amazingly fresh, which made it all the more appetizing.  The pancakes were a little dry at first, but when you add some syrup, it's really quite magical.  The syrup compliments the pancakes perfectly!  The flavor of the pancakes was wonderful, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, it really did taste like gingerbread, only in a fluffier package.  

It's amazing how important it is to have the freshest ingredients available.  It can really change the flavors of a dish.  Who knew that such simple dishes would be so amazingly flavored!  The Magnolia Cafe achieves just that, with a little of that unorthodox Austin creativity.  

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