MC perfect 'tweener stop' for beach trip
By Alison, GLOB guest Correspondent
EDITOR'S NOTE: Alison returns from GLOB's dusty archives ready to report on her favorite breakfast/brunch/lunchstop in Palatka, Florida.
I'm sure people will think it cannot be done in Palatka, but there is an awesome restaurant on St. Johns Avenue downtown, a block or two south of Hwy 19.
VisitFlorida.com speaks highly of Palatka: "Nestled within a bend of the St. Johns River ... Palatka is a historic Northeast Florida city that proudly showcases its past. You can experience Old Florida charm in Palatka while you celebrate Florida's heritage at the Florida Azalea Festival, St. Johns River Catfish Festival, Blue Crab Festival or Bostwick Blueberry Festival." It continues: "Also camping, canoeing, kayaking the area's eight blueway trails, playing golf, touring historic homes and churches built in the 1800s, hiking or bicycling, and visiting birding sites listed in the Great Florida Birding Trail. Also, don't miss the Palatka Mural Tour, featuring more than 30 artistic renderings that depict the historical, cultural and natural riches of Palatka and Putnam County."
I live on the St. Johns River a few miles north of Palataka, and what I like about this old Florida town is the small town friendliness, a great Publix, plus quick access to St. Augustine.
Magnolia Café is open for breakfast and lunch Monday through Saturday 7 am - 3 pm and Sunday 8 am - 2 pm. It has been open over a year, and I have never had a bad meal there. The service can be a little sketchy, but the staff are beginning to know us there and take good care of us.
A large open room, which is decorated with some local paintings and such, can get very noisy due to bad acoustics. The kitchen is open to view from the dining room. Everything looks clean and in place. This place fills up very quickly at peak breakfast and lunch times, but even later in the day guests are still arriving. Many of the lunch guests are business professionals from downtown Plataka.
The Magnolia Café kitchen is very fast, albeit with a few minor mix ups here and there. Having worked in the restuarant business, I understand how these things happen with the growing business this lunch stop experiences.
I am sold on the Pressed Chicken Datil Sandwich, image at top of this feature, with caramelized onions, or any eating experience. What I like about this sandwich is it has plenty of Datil pepper sauce and cheese. The PCDA is served hot, and this lunch is always on the mark.
Although the PCDS is my go to sandwich almost every visit, there is also a great BLT. It is available with egg salad added to it, which makes for an interesting sandwich adventure.
The MC also has a fabulous Fiesta Burger that certainly deserves your lunch time consideration. This burger, which features a grass-fed beef patty, cheddar cheese, and house salsa of black bean, corn and cilantro, is served between grilled soft-shell tortillas!
Lunch time sides items include potato salad, pasta salad, or chips. There is no deep fryer in the house for French fries and such but I don't miss them. The Magnolia Café potato salad, with a little salt, always works fine with my pressed sammie. FOLLOW THIS LINK for a complete Magnolia cafe lunch menu.
Iced tea is freshly made, not the cloudy, day-old brew you will find served in so many places.
Magnolia Café Breakfast menu offers a Magnolia Café BLT with egg, several omelet choices, pancakes, and French toast.
Now let's talk about grits. In my opinion Magnolia Café serves the best grits I have ever had in my life. They have a very coarse texture and are served in a large bowl. I must have them every time I visit this lunch stop gem of a cafe.
The restaurants that charge $2.99 for a mini bowl of grits really burn me. Peach Valley and Flying Biscuit do you hear this? It is a .25 cent item.
I usually finish up my breakfast with one pancake. Real butter, of course. And, OK, Log Cabin syrup. Not the real maple syrup but who serves that anymore anyways?
All right, I admit I sometimes bring my own maple syrup. Really.
This place is a must stop for Gainesvillians for breakfast or lunch, in between the adventure trips to and from the beach.