There’s a glorious moment that happens every single weekday. It only takes sixty seconds for it to come into effect, but the instant it does your entire attitude changes. That time I’m referring to is when you’re finally able to clock out from work. The minute where it’s too early to leave then finally time to walk out is almost like the clouds have opened to welcome you into heaven. But what do you do when you’re free? You could go home, the gym, or you could walk back into work. Don’t walk back into work. Never, ever do that. A better option then going to bed early, working on your abs, and putting in overtime, is happy hour. Should you ever need a place to indulge in delicious drinks and eats, make Magnolia House in Pasadena you go-to destination.
I’ve been to Magnolia House a time or two before and liked the food time after time. Ordering from the menu of entrées and desserts has made the restaurant a lovely getaway with mouthwatering food for me to revisit consistently. Such was the case when I was invited back to try their happy hour menu. If there happy hour menu would be anything similar to their regular menu, then I would soon find myself making excuses to leave work early.
I arrived to the restaurant with TJ and had a completely different feeling of the location during the day than during the evening. At night, the restaurant carries a seductive appeal as its surrounded by the city, while during the day as the sun begins to set it feels like an intimate eatery completely separate from the outside world. I loved the atmosphere from both times, but the transition from light to dark carried a welcoming aura.
Once TJ and I sat down we looked over the menu to decide what to order. Like any other happy hour, the menu isn’t extensive. Instead, it’s composed of a select number of some of their best and varying cocktails and plates. While we had an idea of what to eat, we straddled the fence on deciding what to drink. We both agreed that water wasn’t an option. It was in that moment that we were introduced to the bartender Brian (right), who helped us find the perfect drinks to have. “What kind of drinks do you normally like?”, “Do you have any specific flavors that you lean toward?” were just a few of the questions he asked to help determine which items we would like most. With each of our answers, I could see his mind ticking away to find the best drinks. With a smile and a nod, he had it. Behind the bar I could see him creating the happy hour drink that would be perfect for both of us individually. The first to arrive was the Marigolds at Magnolia ($12). The modest cocktail was made with vodka, lemon, honey, and a Marigold flower served on the rocks. To make the drink entice more than just your taste buds, Brian added a spritz of a rose water to enhance a subtle fragrance. This cocktail was delicate and somewhat elusive to the taste making me want more of it to discover the flavor within it. As it neared the bottom, I could gather a greater taste of it all and found it to be incredibly smooth and profound. Although I liked this one, I wanted to try a few others before claiming a favorite.
TJ on the other hand went with a strong drink: the Mestizo ($14). It was made with premium El Silenco agave Mezcal, Shui Jing Fang’s Wellbay, peppermint amaro, and Cappelletti. This drink was another instance where I just couldn’t take the intensity and bitterness of the drink. Regardless of how smooth it is, I can only handle heavy liquor such as mescal or tequila in small doses and this was no small dose. From TJ’s response, it seems to be the perfect drink for the person who loves a something stiff. Although I didn’t go deeper into it past a single sip, I can say that the Mestizo is a beautifully presented glass of a full character blend.
In between the first round of cocktails our food arrived. The first was the Drunken Nachos ($7). A small cast iron serving bowl was filled past the brim with nachos. Topped with beer cheese, ground beef, diced tomatoes, guacamole, and more the dish was plenty to feed two people. In this dish, I liked the crunchiness of the chips and the way you could stack each chip with enough food to make it (eventually) feel like a full meal. Although you could treat it like an entree and skip ordering anything else, don’t because you’ll regret it.
The next dish to arrive to the table was the Yellowtail Poke Tostada ($9). On a bright white rectangular plate sat three petite tostadas displaying local yellowtail, pickled red onions, yuzu vinaigrette, and a micro shiso. The same crunchiness that was found in the chips of the Drunken Nachos made a second appearance on the tostadas. The crispy chip alongside the softest yellowtail was almost irresistible. I really loved how the two opposing textures complimented each other so nicely. The only disappointing part was that I had to share it with TJ. I would have loved to have it all to myself.
The last entrée we tried from the happy hour menu, was the best of all. It was the Market Flatbread ($8). A beautiful board showcased a crispy pizza covered with goat cheese, apricots, watercress, almonds, and honey. This pizza was so pretty that I was somewhat hesitant to break into it. Don’t worry, I did. Looking at it, I loved the colors of the pizza. The bright orange from the apricots, the deep green from the watercress, and the pure white from the goat cheese across the browns from the bread. It was almost like a work of art. A bit of an exaggeration, but after tasting it, it truly felt like it was just that. Until you have the flatbread in front of you, pipe down.
To end the dinner we didn’t get dessert, instead we got more cocktails. I ordered the Summer in Lima ($13). This drink was absolutely stunning! A tall glass held a combination of La Caravedo Peruvian Brandy, lemon, Balsamic Bianco, ginger, Thai basil, and coconut with a highball. The alcohol tasted almost non-existent which meant it was easy to inhale but would creep up on me later in the night. Thanks to the light and refreshing taste of the coconut, lemon, and ginger this cocktail was sweet and completely satisfying!
With the last sip of my cocktail, I then took a few of TJ’s. He went with the Smoke, Oil, Salt ($13). It only took a few seconds for me to realize that out of all the sweet, strong, and pretty drinks, this one was my favorite. It was actually unexpected because nothing in the ingredients appealed to me whatsoever. It was made of SelvaRey Rum, lemon, thyme, olive oil, chickpea, and smoked sea salt. It seemed as if it would be briny, but it was the opposite. The olive oil gave it a silky and smooth feel, the smoked sea salt added depth, the lemon provided a gentle amount of citrus, and the rum gave it a nice kick. It was incredibly delicious and hard to resist ordering a second. It was from this drink that I wondered: “Maybe all dinners should end with more cocktails.”
I really enjoyed trying the happy hour menu at Magnolia House. The food was lovely, but it was the cocktails that really made the entire evening worthwhile. While I originally went to the restaurant for the food and I enjoyed them, the drinks were the reason I stayed long after I put my fork down. I suggest you make Magnolia House your next happy hour destination the minute you clock out of work. As well, should you need a reason to use your vacation time, this place is a good excuse.
Don’t worry, I won’t tell.
Address: 492 South Lake Avenue, Pasadena, CA 91101
Phone: (626) 584-1126
Happy Hour (Monday to Friday) – 4:00pm to 6:30pm
Regular Hours: Monday to Wednesday – 4:00pm to 12:00am, Thursday to Friday – 4:00pm to 2:00am, Saturday – 10:00am to 2:00am, and Sunday – 10:00am to 10:00pm.
Social: Website, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
- Friendly staff
- Food tastes delicious
- No set parking