Magnolia Grill - A Tasteful Splurge in Durham

Posted May 21, 2007 11:44 a.m. EDT
Updated May 24, 2007 12:12 p.m. EDT

Every half decade, Gourmet, the most prestigious of American cooking magazines, publishes its list of “The Top 50 Restaurants.” Among that list in last October’s restaurant issue, as it was five years ago, is Magnolia Grill, Ben and Karen Barker’s modest-looking Broad Street eatery.

The Barkers, both Culinary Institute of America graduates, are used to the spotlight. In 1999, Ben won the James Beard award as Southeastern Chef of the year. The next year, Karen was chosen Best Pastry Chef in America. They followed these accomplishments with two beautiful, well-reviewed cookbooks.

Gourmet describes Ben’s cooking as “daring, almost reckless…but it works—flavor after flavor makes its own space, elbowing the others out of the way in an ecstatic parade.” The article adds, “Karen Barker’s desserts end the roller coaster ride with the straightforward pleasure of a knockout chocolate cake or a classic lemon tart.”

Barker protégées (Scott Howell of Nana’s and John Toler of Bloomsbury Bistro, to name just two) have opened their own fine restaurants around the Triangle area. But, this month, why not visit the Triangle’s most famous eatery, deigned the eleventh best restaurant in all America, and help the Barkers celebrate their honor? But be patient—their phone may be ringing off the hook. I have a feeling Gourmet readers from all over the country will be calling for reservations, too.