The Magpie has been on my list of restaurants to try for a long time. It was not at all what I expected, but I really enjoyed it. For some reason--maybe it's the name--I expected Magpie to be a restaurant with sophisticated Southern food, but it did not turn out to be.
I would put Magpie in the same category as Heritage: It is a small restaurant with old decor and an older crowd. The atmosphere is very old-fashioned, and you feel as if you are in a time warp when you walk in. It is downtown on the other side of Broad Street from Virginia Commonwealth University near Sugar Shack. The cuisine at Magpie is more sophisticated than most restaurants. They have choices such as venison and sweetbreads, which can be hard to find elsewhere.
We decided we wanted to eat at Magpie last-minute on a Saturday night, and they were nice enough to find some time for us. We began dinner with a flight of beers that our waitress helped us choose, most of which were brewed locally. Then, after we ordered, the chef sent out a tasting for us. Tastings are bite-sized samples of some things the chef cooked up that are not on the menu. He sent us small bites of a buttermilk cheddar biscuit with apple compote and goat cheese on top. That's when we knew it was going to be a great meal.
The menu consisted of small, medium and large plates and we decided to order a few of each to share. We started with the special soup of the day: a mushroom miso bisque. It was creamy and had thick slices of mushrooms, which made it feel fresh and hearty. Then, we had their sausage special, which was a pork sausage with fennel and dates. It came with a pistachio pesto that had the texture of a light butter and complemented the sweetness of the sausage perfectly. We also ordered a unique rockfish dip that had the consistency of whitefish salad and was unique.
For our main course, we ordered braised rabbit with parsnip puree and brussel sprouts. Contrary to popular belief, rabbit is not gamey, and it can be very tender. The dish was cooked perfectly, and we still had some room left for dessert. We ordered the apple-spice cake with peanut brittle. I normally do not like peanut brittle, but this one was very thin and did not overwhelm the cake at all. The cake was very moist and tasty, but I wish they had served it warm ... and maybe with some ice cream, too.
The Magpie was absolutely delicious and had a cozy, old-fashioned feel. I would definitely recommend taking your parents here for a unique dining experience, but I do not think it is an ideal place for the average college student.
The chicken panini special at Dhall was a great mix of sweet and savory: sourdough bread, grilled chicken, apples and Dijon mustard. Mmmmm...