Magnolia Diner offers down-home experience

Magnolia Diner offers down-home experience
Chicken-fried steak with mashed potatoes and northern beans

On the corner of Port Neches Avenue and FM 366 is a quaint café known for an elaborate menu and a down-home atmosphere.

Magnolia Diner is the a local jewel opened nearly two years ago by veteran Mid-County cook Christos Lemonis, or “Mr. Chris” to those who know him.

Lemonis owned and operated the Nederland Lunch Counter on Boston Avenue in the ’90s, and later opened Primo’s Italian Restorante. But now patrons can enjoy all of Lemonis’ concoctions again at Magnolia Diner.

The menu changes daily, with chicken-fried steak, fried or grilled fish, and side orders of rice, mashed potatoes and mixed veggies being constant options. The diner opens at 6 a.m. and serves a breakfast special of two eggs, bacon or sausage, grits or hash browns, and biscuit or toast (wheat or white) until 10 a.m. Monday-Friday. The steam table is open from 10:30 a.m. – 2 p.m. and customers select their entrees, sides and drinks before sitting at a table of their choice. The waitresses are friendly and knowledgeable, and will help you out with whatever you need.

The Menu

It’s hard to make the claim that Magnolia Diner serves just one type of food. While it’s easy to say they serve “country cooking,” the restaurant offers so much more than meals your momma fixed. The entrees are complex but completely customizable.

Mon-Friday: Chicken-fried steak, fried or grilled fish with rice, mashed potatoes and mixed veggies

Monday Specials: Meat loaf or mushroom chicken with zucchini and potatoes, corn, northern beans or greens

Tuesday Specials: Smothered steak or pork roast with mac & cheese, black-eyed peas or greens 

Wednesday Specials: Liver and onions, Salisbury steak or beef tips with pinto beans, roasted potatoes, cabbage or spinach

Thursday Specials: Turkey and dressing, with yams (every other Thursday), stuffed bell peppers, bacon cheesesteak with black-eyed peas, cream corn or greens.

Friday Specials: Jumbo fried shrimp, fried fish and shrimp combo, mushroom steak or stuffed grilled fish with fried okra, lima beans, oven potatoes or greens.

Each entrée comes with a choice of two sides and either a fluffy roll or crumbly cornbread. Drinks and desserts, like pies, and cakes are also up for grabs.

The menu is subject to change and may include gumbo every now and then, or any other dish Mr. Chris wants to showcase.

What we ate

We chose to sample the breakfast meal, the chicken-fried steak, the fried fish, and the Monday meatloaf to get the full experience.

Breakfast Special

We LOVE breakfast food and could eat it for every meal. Luckily, Magnolia Diner serves it all day, even on Saturdays! The two-egg combination came with three long strips of bacon, two pieces of toast, and a serving of creamy grits. We had one egg scrambled and one fried over-easy. The bacon was delightfully crispy, and the grits had a perfect consistency.

Chicken Fried Steak

We liked the pairing of mashed potatoes and northern beans. The potatoes were light and fluffy and the steak, while crunchy on the outside, was still juicy and flavorful on the inside. The savory beans were great, too.

Fried fish

Two filets of fried catfish, with zucchini potatoes and a serving of corn. The fish was tender and went great with the corn. We had never had the zucchini and potatoes mixture before, but weren’t surprised that we enjoyed the savory flavor. Everything was tasty! Don’t forget the soft roll.

Meatloaf

A hearty slice of meatloaf and a side of taters and brown gravy with greens. You can’t go wrong with this down-home staple. The meatloaf is smothered in gravy, not ketchup – which was a real plus. The size of the slice was impressive, as well. You will not walk away hungry from this place!

•••

While it maybe a drive from Beaumont, those from the Mid-County area adore this location in Port Neches. The regulars seem to follow Lemonis, and we can see why. The innovative spins he puts on seemingly traditional dishes are both unique and delicious, and we can’t wait to see what he puts on the steam table next.

We want to know where you like to go! E-mail suggestions for the next week’s adventure to weeklydish [at] theexaminer [dot] com.

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