The latest addition to the now-thriving west end of downtown Spokane is a bright and chic restaurant serving French-inspired fare inside the newly opened Hotel Indigo.
Magnolia American Brasserie is now the fourth local restaurant to open with chef Steve Jensen at the helm. Most recently Jensen oversaw the openings of Craft and Gather in Spokane Valley and Osprey Restaurant and Bar downtown, in addition to working at several other kitchens in the area before that.
At Magnolia, Jensen's talents are showcased in a concise collection of casual dishes, each with his signature focus on making upscale dining approachable and familiar.
"I've really loved cooking food from all over the world, France included on that list," Jensen says. "Really what I wanted to focus on was keeping it approachable. A lot of people find [French] too fancy for everyday meals, so I wanted that classic French feel and flair and technique without it being intimidating for the average diner."
Take the mussel and frite ($16) from the starters side of the menu, for example, featuring steamed mussels with a fennel wine broth and side of French fries with scratch-made tarragon aioli.
"In any cafe in France you'll see that, just a savory and delicious dish, and you dip your fries or bread in the juice," he notes.
One of the more unique entrees Jensen says he chose for Magnolia's menu is the chicken piquant ($22), which the chef admits sounds fancy, but is actually "really simple classic French country cooking."
The resulting dish is a roasted whole chicken breast with a red wine vinegar glaze atop sliced potatoes, onions and green beans roasted in butter and garlic.
Another of Jensen's takes on a traditional meat and potatoes dish is the richly flavored roasted pork loin chop ($22) with crispy roasted Brussels sprouts, potatoes and a grape and tarragon jus.
For now, Magnolia is only offering daily dinner service from 4-10 pm. Jensen says the goal is to add breakfast once the restaurant and connected hotel — both located inside a historic building last home to the Otis Hotel — have been able to gauge demand for service, and considering that business is much slower than normal amid a global pandemic.
"It's so uncertain now, we're trying to be as flexible and quick to adapt as we can be," Jensen says. "The first two weeks have been good — there have been a couple slow days — but mostly it's been as good as I can expect for the situation the world is in right now."
Dining in is an option, and guests at the hotel can order food from Magnolia during dinner hours via room service. The restaurant's location on the corner of West First Avenue and Madison Street doesn't offer enough space for outdoor seating, but the dining room inside is spacious, allowing parties to be seated with plenty of room between tables.
Magnolia's home in Hotel Indigo is situated kitty-corner to the Fox Theater and just blocks from other downtown entertainment venues, making it a convenient stop before or after live performances when those events return.
The decor brings a contemporary aesthetic to the historic space, with a pair of ornate chandeliers in the main dining room, a dark, marbled stone bar top and rich wood finishes. Large street-facing windows allow ample daylight to pour into the neutral-hued space. Three large wall murals by acclaimed Spokane artist Daniel Lopez, all featuring sepia-toned, 1920s-inspired scenes of people socializing, were underway during Mangolia's first few weeks open.
In the restaurant's bar, led by bar manager Adam Vizzo, the focus is regional wine, beer and cider, along with a few imported French wines to complement the food choices. A concise list of craft cocktails highlight familiar classics, from an old fashioned ($10) to a French 75 ($9).
In addition to happy hour specials offered daily from 4-6 pm, Magnolia has a set lineup of weekly food specials from Jensen and team. Sunday offers a whole roasted chicken that serves two for $28, while Monday's highlight is wild mushroom risotto ($20), a dish Jensen has tweaked from some of his past menus. Thursday, there's a spicy Creole garlic shrimp ($25) and Friday is a classic bouillabaisse ($22), or seafood stew.
Tuesday features Jensen's personal favorite, however; a braised pork shank ($34).
"It's seared and braised in herbs, onions, apple juice and wine and cooked really long at a low temperature, ending up fork-tender and fall-off-the-bone," he describes. "It's glazed with housemade demi-glace and served with one of my favorite parts of the dish, the rosemary gigante beans, which are a giant lima bean. I braise those with roasted tomatoes, peppers, herbs and garlic. It's a really long, slow cooking process so it all stays whole and doesn't break down into mush, and it's completely packed with flavor." ♦
Magnolia American Brasserie • 110 S. Madison St. • Open daily 4-10 pm • hotelindigo.com/spokanewa • 862-6410