There’s a new bar and restaurant in the heart of Dupont Circle with fun décor and inventive craft cocktails—so naturally we need to spread the word. Magnolia Kitchen & Bar opened in the former Circa location just a month ago, and I dropped by the other night to meet girlfriends for cocktails. Here’s the rundown, Bitches.
The Movers & The Shakers
Magnolia comes to Dupont from the team behind Southern Hospitality (SoHo) in Adams Morgan and Scarlet Oak in Navy Yard. While new, small plates, chef-centric restaurants are opening every day in the District, this crowd goes against the crowd, seeking to provide laid-back, casual bar/restaurants with no fuss menus, comfort food, and heavy pours. The focus is on community and longevity—they want to be a place where you come for a casual drink in your neighborhood and can enjoy a great meal at an affordable price.
For me, SoHo and Scarlet Oak provide a place where I can see some familiar faces in a low-key scene, a refreshing contrast to the events and activities that come along with blogging. Additionally, they’re one of the only bars I know of where I can watch a sports game while getting a good glass of wine. Plus, they both have solid brunches—SoHo being a recurring favorite for a hearty Southern brunch and bottomless mimosas. (Read our review here.)
The team met at Circa, and they’ve come full circle opening their third restaurant in the original Circa on Connecticut Avenue in Dupont. They’ve given the space a refresh, adding walls of greenery, some mod light fixtures, marble countertops, and black-and-white tiles. It’s glamorous, playful, and slightly feminine, yet still a casual restaurant and sports bar. It’s basically how I would decorate a sports bar, in that aside from the televisions, it doesn’t look much like a sports bar at all.
The cocktail program is really fun, with playful names, and interesting ingredients—but nothing too weird that you don’t know what you’re getting. There’s a Jungle Love cocktail with prosecco, hibiscus syrup, and hibiscus flowers, as well as a greyhound with fresh-squeezed grapefruit. There’s also the “Cheer Up Buttercup,” a mini cocktail for those who want a shot of coffee and alcohol straight to the face. It’s made wit Bailey’s Irish Cream, Butterscotch Schnapps, and Werther’s Candy.
We went with three different craft cocktails, opting to share and sample. The Hot Honeysuckle is served in a coupe glass—looking a lot like a margarita—and crafted with pineapple and jalapeño infused vodka, fresh-squeezed lime juice. It was tart and light, and went down far too smooth.
The Petal to the Metal was served in a beautiful low ball glass on ice with a decorative flower. It’s crafted with Añejo Tequila, pineapple, lime. It was absolutely beautiful and had an interesting bite to it.
My favorite was Scarlet Buzz, made with sparkling rosé, giffard pampelmousse, and fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice. Served on ice in a large wine glass, this cocktail was effectively a rosé grapefruit spritz, my ideal cocktail. But there’s a hitch: there’s an edible flower inserted into the straw of the cocktail, which you’re instructed to eat before you sip. This edible Szechuan button sets your mouth on fire—turning it numb.
This is the perfect place to go for heavy appetizers, or a no frills meal. The appetizers are the true crowd pleasers coming from the kitchen—the deviled eggs, mozzarella sticks, and curry shrimp in particular.
We started strong with the curried deviled eggs with pesto. At first, I was skeptical of a combination of curry and pesto, but somehow it worked, and packed loads of flavor in each bite. There’s nothing bland about these eggs.
The mozzarella “sticks” came out in half moon shapes, which is different than is sounds on the menu. They were lightly breaded and greasy, just what you’re looking for at a sports bar.
The curry shrimp is a healthy, satisfying dish that I order every time I go to Scarlet Oak, as the dish is also available at the sister restaurant. It’s the perfect shareable, hearty dish for gluten-free and pescetarian folks, or anyone wanting a healthy option that’s also packed with flavor.
In sum, Magnolia is the perfect place for a fun happy hour in Dupont with your co-workers, or to start your night out. It’s also a must visit if you enjoy inventive cocktails, and a very welcome addition to the previously abysmal good options in Dupont.
Magnolia Kitchen & Bar is open weekdays at 11:30 a.m. and on the weekends at 10 a.m. (202) 758-3522