The spirit of the Grateful Dead's Jerry Garcia is kept alive in Manitou Springs' lively little restaurant, Sugar Magnolia's, the latest reincarnation of the cozy space that used to house Manitou Bakery, then Breadhead Artisan Breads. Opened as a small ice-cream shop on Ruxton Avenue, Magnolia's moved to its larger facility on Manitou Avenue in January, expanding its offerings to a full breakfast and inventive lunch fare.
Entrepreneurs Tim Ondrejka and Cindy Frankmore put their creative heads together to come up with a dcor and a menu that are both stimulating and appealing. Tim, a Jerry Garcia aficionado, has lined the walls with several large early-Garcia black-and-white photos, and a 1970 bumper sticker affirming, "Chicken Little was Right."
Cindy's handmade creation, a large red-and-white circus tent, adorns the east wall, giving Sugar Magnolia's a festive feel. I was so captured with the restaurant's dcor, it took a while before my daughter and I finally settled down to read the menu, which, for breakfast, included giant omelets (we peeked at the table next to us) made with fresh ingredients and perfectly browned potatoes, along with a huge orange slice and whole wheat toast -- a meal and a half for just $4.99.
The lunch menu sounded even more tempting, and since it was that in-between time of day, we ordered a cup of vegetable barley soup -- more of a stew than a soup -- served with "the best garlic bread ever tasted," according to my daughter. I counted at least six vegetables: carrots, broccoli, celery, onions, tomatoes and potatoes. The soup was nicely seasoned, although I needed to add a bit more salt.
My daughter selected the Deluxe Burrito, a great choice considering it was about 5 by 8 inches in size and heaped high with sour cream and salsa (she elected the mild version) and filled with the usual beans, rice and cheese. The guacamole literally oozed out of the burrito when poked with a fork.
I ordered the Warm Ravioli Salad, which held eight plump five-cheese ravioli seasoned with Magnolia's own special dressing, a mild vinaigrette with roasted onions and peppers. The salad was topped with toasted walnuts and served with more garlic bread. Our server, Patty, brought out the chef, Mami, who named the five cheeses in the ravioli: ricotta, mozzarella, Romano, Parmesan and fontina.
We both regretted we couldn't have stayed longer to order more food, since the daily specials were a vegetarian sausage quiche, an asparagus lemon crepe and several desserts, including Magnolia's homemade ice cream in a wide assortment of flavors -- mocha chocolate chip, butter pecan and coconut, to name a few. I took home a kiddie scoop of coconut ($1) and a huge sticky bun ($2.25) with pecans swimming in a tasty goo.
One's sweet tooth can definitely be satisfied with any of the tempting choices from Sugar Magnolia's fresh-baked daily selection of buns, muffins, cookies and candies -- even peanut butter cups. Not to mention breads. Magnolia's also makes special order cakes for any occasion. My advice: Come with a group of friends and share, as the portions are larger than life.Kids may want to try "bubble tea," an Asian drink consisting of several choices of colorful, sugary flavors mixed with half-and-half and served in a glass over ice with floating tapioca pearls. Adults can relax with caf au lait, or a cup of one of the many exotic tea choices, and enjoy the vintage '60s and '70s dcor, including a light-up Mr. Peanut and Tim's retro toy collection. (He intends to make a toy room in a space off the dining room this summer.) Magnolia's also features an 8-foot-long marble ice-cream bar, complete with stools and brass footrests, a brass rail and all the fixings of an old-time soda fountain, a treasure Tim acquired from a Denver auction.
We walked out of Magnolia's entertained and stuffed, carrying leftovers that would last a few days, eager to go back again. No doubt Jerry Garcia would be proud to know he has been immortalized in the little town of Manitou Springs at a restaurant named after one of his best songs.
-- Jan King Garverick
729 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs
Open daily, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.: Breakfast, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Lunch, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. After 3 p.m., sweets, coffee and tea