People throw around the word recession like it’s a cow in a tornado, but Magnolia Gastropub & Brewery on Monday evening isn’t exactly two girls one pink slip. It’s possible that some people have curtailed their dining expenditures, but the scene at Magnolia proves that a recession is what happens when your neighbor loses his job, and a depression is what happens when you lose yours, and some people are still working.

While it does not offer a happy hour except on Tuesdays ($3 beers all day), Magnolia is a place you could take $20 and be pretty happy or take $60 and be euphoric, or take $5 and be washing dishes.??

The clientele have a vaguely northern European look and a vaguely northern European tendency to be intimately involved in their conversations. They seem like the kind of legitimate adults who hold steady jobs at green organizations and are generally not hung-over on Monday mornings, i.e. there was not a bruised and moody hipster in the place.

Many of these people appeared to know one another, and doffed their newsboy caps approvingly at passersby. The idea of restaurant as private clubhouse is intriguing if ultimately plagued by the normal inbred problems associated with exclusive communities: good for them; bad for not them, or the other way around.

The fanciful black menu included many things that I really wanted, notably cheese stuffed dates wrapped in bacon, cheese grits, and lentil soup. I went for the grits ($5) while my companion ordered the duck wings ($7) and soon we were feeling very much like Ichabod Crane attending that late autumn party at the Van Tassel’s. In other words we felt Dutch, awestruck, and doomed, and would have been glad to fold ourselves into that fluffy mound of grits like tired travelers on a somewhat deflated air mattress.

For a moment I became strangely depressed, like everything was going to be okay, or not okay, and that it didn’t matter either way, but I now attribute this to the fact that I was yearning to sit in one of the padded leather booths, which is no one’s fault but my own, as everyone always wishes they were sitting in a booth. It’s the true measure of a woman how fast she can get over booth lust, and be happy to spend an evening pretending to be in Portland without actually having to be there.

Photo: Jennifer Yin, see her gorgeous Magnolia photosets here, here, and here.

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