Southern Kitchen & Bar: Magnolia Tavern opens near Hockinson

After months of anticipation and delay, Magnolia Tavern opened Nov. 6 near Hockinson. The Southern kitchen and bar at 8611 N.E. Ward Road was originally slated to begin business in June 2020.

Due to a staff shortage, temporary hours are 3 p.m. to 1 a.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and 3 p.m. to midnight Sundays. M1 Concepts, which owns and manages the restaurant and bar, hopes to increase the restaurant’s hours to cover lunch and weekend brunch soon.

When the doors were finally unlatched on a Saturday afternoon, a line formed down the unassuming strip mall that houses Papa Murphy’s, H&R Block, and Luxury Hair and Nails. Residents of the surrounding housing developments have been anxiously waiting for the day they could dine at Magnolia Tavern.

Despite the almost a year-and-a-half of delays, CEO Matt Schiffman remains optimistic of success. “The community has been very supportive,” said Schiffman. “We’ve gotten a lot of messages of encouragement. I’ve never been in charge of something so anticipated.”

Schiffman, a native of Philadelphia who has worked in hospitality in Miami Beach and Portland, wouldn’t have picked this location for his restaurant. In early 2020, a representative from Gramor Development, which owns the strip mall and the housing development behind it, approached Schiffman with the idea of a family-friendly restaurant.

Schiffman had his own ideas. He believed that opening a swanky bar with no kids menus or sippy cups, where adults could engage in grown-up conversation while enjoying premium cocktails, would have appeal. He’s had success in other parts of the county. Schiffman took over Double Barrel Taphouse in Hazel Dell five years ago and turned it into a profitable neighborhood bar.

This time he wanted to add a little bit of big city glitz to a neighborhood spot on the east edge of town. His positive relationship with Gramor Development helped Magnolia Tavern make it through the pandemic. “They’ve been good to us,” said Schiffman. “They were very agreeable with all the construction.”

Schiffman has a hunch that Southern food will do well in Clark County. He grew up traveling to North Carolina on fishing trips with his dad, and worked in the Miami Beach club scene. During his time in the South, Schiffman developed an appreciation for food from the Carolinas and New Orleans.

His vice president of operations, Christopher Roberts, shares an affection for Southern fare. Roberts’ grandmother hails from Mississippi. The idea of opening a Southern restaurant with Schiffman drew him away from his plan of pursuing a career in education.

Magnolia Tavern’s food menu includes classics such as deviled eggs, shrimp and grits, and gumbo, as well as fried chicken soaked in buttermilk and dusted in a house seasoning. The fried chicken comes with a choice of two sides which include traditions like macaroni and cheese and collard greens as well as Brussels sprouts and curly fries. Schiffman sources Anson Mills organic, heirloom grits produced in South Carolina and favored by celebrity chefs like Charlie Trotter and Thomas Keller.

M1 Concepts hired Bad Birdy, a global cocktail creative based in Los Angeles, to set up Magnolia Tavern’s bar program. The sprawling cocktail menu contains several takes on the classic old fashioned as well as premium twists on the Manhattan, the mint julep, and the Sazerac. Magnolia Tavern’s own creations include The Back Porch, with peach tea-infused bourbon, Amaro Angeleno, lemon, peach tea syrup and mint.

Schiffman devised the T-shaped dining room, which divides the bar and restaurant (where minors are welcome until 8 p.m.) based on the layout of a restaurant in New York. He worked with EM Architects of Portland to design the space, which formerly housed a veterinary office. Schiffman searched for images on the internet that expressed his vision and carefully chose fixtures and furnishings.

“I’ll take a lot of credit. I spent a lot of time thinking about how I wanted this to look,” he said.

After an extra month and a half of delays Magnolia Tavern lost three cooks. As a result, hours of operation have been temporarily reduced to late afternoon and evenings six days a week. Schiffman hopes to fully staff the kitchen soon so he can expand to lunch and weekend brunch.

After the restaurant finds its bearings, Schiffman and Roberts plan to scout spots in Schiffman’s hometown of Philadelphia to open other dining establishments for M1 Concepts. Their next Clark County venture will most likely be an Italian restaurant. Schiffman’s family immigrated from Italy and Italian cuisine has a special place in his heart.

After spending most of his life in the hospitality business, Schiffman believes that the most important thing a restaurateur can do is tireless work to create a unique experience for their customers.

“At the end of the day, the drive and desire comes from when someone takes a sip or eats something and they smile,” he said.

Article Source: The Columbian