Sacramento, CA 95814
In the six years that Magpie Cafe has been open, its reputation for great food and a casual vibe has only increased. So let this serve more as an update to its offerings.
In July, Magpie flew its cramped coop on R Street and opened a new location on the corner of 16th and P. The current space is not only larger, but more open, with lots of windows and a high ceiling.
Some of the design elements of the old cafe remain, notably the bright yellow column in front of the cashier, on which the daily menu is posted on butcher paper. New elements include a large full bar and a more spacious patio with rustic wood seating for waiting customers.
Fortunately, many of the stand-out menu items are still available. The California farmstead cheese plate ($16) has always been outstanding. You get five California cheeses paired with fantastic dried figs, fresh seasonal fruit (lately figs and nectarines) and plenty of crisp toasts.
The lemon chicken salad ($10.75), consistently top-notch with moist grilled chicken and tender greens, comes with a lively lemon vinaigrette and two long baguette toasts. It always satisfies.
Recently, this paper named the new Magpie Burger ($15) one of the best in town. It was a beauty, with Niman beef, a housemade brioche bun and pickles, and a perfectly ripe heirloom tomato among the toppings. Ever the iconoclast, owner Ed Roehr has since taken it off the menu in favor of a banh mi sandwich as the “beef offering.” It’s a shame, but so goes Magpie.
Owners Roehr and Janel Inouye have never worried much about what everyone else is doing; they do what they like best and their customers generally benefit. Take the chocolate and avocado mousse ($6.50) as an example. The not-so-secret ingredient is avocado used in place of cream. A simple sprinkle of cinnamon and sea salt garnishes the mousse and makes a revelatory experience out of dessert.
The new full bar means fun cocktails, and Magpie answers the call. The Sacramento Summer ($5) mixes the house honey lemonade with pilsner and mint for a refreshing tipple. The Elderflower Spritz ($7) is a much sweeter drink, combining elderflower liqueur, champagne and club soda.
More space for brunch diners is great news for Midtown. The biscuits and gravy breakfast ($13) is a massive bowl of two split biscuits and eggs smothered with cream gravy. We added the house sausage and enjoyed its heady sage seasoning. While the gravy was slightly dull by itself, it balanced the spicy sausage nicely.
We also tasted a summer Benedict ($14.50) which had a beautiful presentation with basil and tomatoes. It’s no longer available, as the kitchen transitions to fall and puts more seasonal dishes on the menu.
As with any restaurant that follows the local seasons, dishes come and go at Magpie, which is frustrating if you fall in love with something, but keeps you interested when new ideas appear.
Another notable change is the decision to offer a line on charge slips for a kitchen tip. Some people found this confounding at first, but explanatory cards now advise you to tip 15 to 18 percent for servers and 3 to 5 percent for the kitchen. This is Magpie’s answer to the constant issue of the imbalance between server and kitchen pay. Tips help to give cooks a fair wage without raising menu prices.
Magpie keeps you guessing, but not on quality. You won’t find better cooking in town, so visit often and enjoy the surprises.