Ally
 ( http://www.magpiecaterers.com )

1409 R Street, Ste 102, Sacramento, CA 95811. (916) 452-7594

Magpie is one of those places that I really, really want to like but it just seems to fall short in one important area for me…the food. Several friends have raved about Magpie’s offerings since it’s inception and I’ve gone back repeatedly with high hopes. For lunch, I’ve tried their black rice salad and their beet salad…both salads were a flop. The black rice was hard and undercooked; whereas, the beet tasted like someone had doused it with vinegar. On my next visit, I went with the smoked trout sandwich served on an open-faced baguette…one word summed that up—“meh.” It was disappointingly average—flavorless, a bit watery and the tomatoes were missing; I could have been eating a tuna sandwich from Subway as far as I could tell. Then I went back three different times for happy hour with friends. The happy hour pour, a crisp Uvaggio Vermentino, was just $4 a glass and quite delicious; however, the happy hour “bites” selection was paltry (only three choices). The cured meat sampler with olives, red peppers and crostini ($4) that my dining companion ordered was pretty unexciting and the mussels in saffron broth was a scant portion (I think we got a total of 5 mussels and about 4 large sprigs of thyme) and to top it off the broth was quite bland ($4). Yet I was so determined to like Magpie that I even went back for dinner…yes, at times I can be a glutton for punishment. Per the waiter’s recommendation, I ordered the bean soup ($4.25/cup) and the Steelhead trout with potato, bacon, and golden beet hash ($17.50). The hash was perfectly cooked and flavored but the soup was extremely oily and the trout was forgettable (damn you, Magpie trout…you foiled me again!). Though my trout and soup fell short, I would like to note that my dining companion was quite enamored with her creamy polenta and after taking a bite I could see why. It was as smooth as Johnny Depp.

Now that I’ve covered the bad and the ugly, let me focus on the good. When I first started visiting Magpie when it opened, the service was aloof and many of the service staff seemed unfamiliar with the dishes; however, I have to say the last few times I was there the service was perfect. Both floor staff and counter staff were welcoming, eager to make suggestions and friendly overall. On one occasion I was offered a Lactaid pill (from her personal stash) by the cashier when I bemoaned the fact that there was cream in the mussel broth. On another occasion, when Mr. S. and I ducked in there to buy a box of their cookies, the girls at the counter threw in an extra one just so we could try all the flavors. It’s small touches like these that you remember. Not just is the eatery hospitable but it also takes the extra step to serve local, seasonal produce, sustainable fish and hormone-free meats and poultry. Kudos, Magpie!

Magpie also has one of the cutest décors in town. I love their exposed brick walls adorned with artistic scrolls. Minimal but stylish---thumbs up! Also, in addition to the farmhouse tables and natural light; there’s a small front patio where you can relax, soak up some rays and watch people hurry by when the weather’s pleasant.

Lastly, Magpie has killer cookies…possibly the best in town. I’ve been heartbroken by their food too many times now, so as of late I’ll stick to just nibbling on their incredible baked goods. YES, their cookies alone are worth driving over there for. Mr. S. thinks the peanut butter ones are a wee bit on the dry side but the snickerdoodle as well as their oatmeal cookies are amazing. But their piéce de résistance without a doubt are their chocolate chip cookies ($1.75). Soft and chocked full of heavenly chocolate chunks, these baked treats are a must-have. They’re also quite big and perfect for sharing…but trust me you won’t want to. You’ll exclaim, “Look Salma Hayek!” and scarf the cookie down in nanoseconds before your poor, unsuspecting boyfriend has a chance to figure out what’s going on.

So in a nutshell, if you’re near the R Street Corridor, my advice is to pop into Magpie for a cup of coffee or a glass of wine and one (two? three?) of their phenomenal cookies but skip the full on meal there. Even though I love their food philosophy and that they’re a small business; I just can’t justify dropping any more dinero on pricey, lackluster food when there’s other seriously delish places to eat in Sac. One of these days I might get up the gumption to give Magpie another whirl and if I do, I hope they prove me wrong and blow my socks off.
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