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Bleaux Magnolia Review

Some of the best overall flavors in the city of Napa, Bleaux Magnolia is Creole cuisine with a Napa Valley twist.
(Update: Alas, Bleaux Magnolia closed up shop in early 2009)

Bleaux Magnolia
1408 Clay St.
Napa, CA

Tue - Sat: Lunch (11:30 am - 2:30 pm), Dinner (5 pm - 9 pm)
Sun: Brunch (11 am - 3 pm), dinner (5pm - 8 pm)

Bleaux Magnolia is a California spin on Creole cooking. I would've preferred a bit more Creole and a bit less California, but oh well, at least its flavor profile is a nice change from the traditional Napa Valley cuisine that you see around the area which can sometimes get repetitive. Since Creole is a jumble of different influences (European, Asian, African, etc.), sometimes Bleaux tries to maintain that same hodgepodge spirit with new dishes. Some hits and misses there, but overall, the food is plenty good.

Bleaux Magnolia food

Bleaux Magnolia has strong, distinct flavors, and their dinners are usually quite good. We've been there for brunch as well which didn't do much for us, but overall Bleaux Magnolia is one of the more underrated restaurants in the area.


At Bleaux Magnolia, you start off with their cornbread which is a nice change of pace from the typical bread starters at most restaurants. Outside of the sweetness of the corn, there are bits of jalapeno and cheddar in there as well. Not enough to make it particularly cheesy or spicy and take away from the cornbread but just enough to make it more than vanilla cornbread. Pretty too.

Bleaux Magnolia cornbread

The appetizers can be an interesting mix. We've had their lumpia which at first struck as odd to find in a Creole cooking place (even a California-ized one), but it turns out that there was a Filipino presence in the New Orleans area which never occurred to me (perhaps I would've done better in geography and global history if it were attached more to food.)

Below is their BBQ shrimp appetizer. The BBQ sauce is spicy by California standards in the sense that the heat will still be on your tongue for a while after you're done. We love spicy foods so we thought the sauce was a delicious blend of sweet and spicy. I vaguely remember pomegranate as an ingredient in it. It sits on top of a block of potatoes, carrots, peas, and a spicy sausage of some sort (chorizo?). Very tasty.


Bleaux Magnolia bbq shrimp

One day, they had a pork belly appetizer special with grits in a rich jus  and probably had enough calories for a lunch. Very good.

Bleaux Magnolia pork belly with grits


We think that the Bleaux Magnolia entrees are the strongest part of their menu. Usually well-seasoned, good flavors, rich, etc. We've had their seafood gumbo and duck breast jambalaya which they bill as their flagship foods, and although they were ok, we actually like their other entrees a lot better. Our first time there, we had this wonderful pancetta wrapped pan-roasted chicken with grits. We haven't seen it since which is a bummer. Their Niman Ranch Pork Osso Buco is also an impressive piece of meat, served with sweet potato fries and mustard greens.

They had a so-so interpretation of fried chicken and waffle. Fried chicken breast sitting on top of a waffle sitting in a mushroom-rich creamy gravy. Not sure how to feel about this one. On one hand, the mushrooms and gravy were great. On the other hand, the fry on my chicken was just a pan-fry with a thin coating,  I expected the chicken to be more of hard, battered fry, but I'm not up on my fried chicken and waffles, I guess.  Another problem I had was that the chicken was a little under-seasoned for my taste. Combined with the gravy, it was tasty, but I would've preferred the fried chicken to play a stronger role.


Bleaux Magnolia fried chicken


The rather atrocious picture below was actually one of the better entrees we've had in Napa Valley. It was a NY Strip steak covered with fresh horseradish and a panko crust. There are also some Brussels sprouts in there and some fries. The steak was nicely cooked and had some groovy smoky flavors in it. The horseradish added a nice kick. I have some quibbles that perhaps the panko crust maybe ended up a bit softer than it should've been (I think of panko as adding some crunch. Maybe it's just me), and the fries could have been crisper. But flavor-wise, this one was a real winner.

 Bleaux Magnolia NY Strip with Horseradish and Panko


Bleaux Magnolia does have a 3 and 5 course tasting menu which is basically just smaller portions of their appetizers and entrees. They go for $48 with the wine ($33 without). I think the 5 course goes for $79 with the wine and $58 without. Highly recommended. This might actually be a better deal than Redd in the sense that their appetizers were still decent-sized, the entrees weren't tiny either, and their wine pours looked pretty generous. Maybe the staff was just feeling generous that day.  They told us that the customer could pick the wines to go with the food, but we decided to put ourselves in the hands of their wine steward, and we were very pleased with the selections he brought out for us to go with our food. 


Bleaux Mangolia desserts are worth saving room for. They do of course have bananas Foster, and it was fine and everything, but there are better ones. We liked their huckleberry lemon bread pudding more. Bread pudding with Meyer lemon and huckleberries with some cream.

Bleaux Magnolia lemon huckleberry bread pudding


But the best one we've had so far is their fried butterscotch with apples dessert. Crunchy, sweet, rich, and then you have the sourness and texture of the apple salad on the side. It also came with a sour apple sorbet.  The waiter suggested to try to get a bit of the sorbet, some pudding and some apple in each spoonful so that you get a mouthful of caramel apple flavor.  He was right, and it was great.  The presentation is a bit on the haphazard side, but this was a really nice dessert.

Bleaux Magnolia apple butterscotch


We've been there for Sunday brunch. We went with the more breakfasty type of foods, but it wasn't quite our cup of tea. The Monte Cristo Beignet sounded interesting at first, but we couldn't get the flavors (black forest ham, roasted turkey and provolone beignet dusted with powder sugar, kumquat cayenne and berry jam) to work for us. I tried the Crab Cakes Benedict (fresh rock crab cakes served with poached egg served on a English muffin topped with a crawfish hollandaise), and that came out a bit on the blah side as well. Little too sweet and subdued, muffin not crunchy enough, etc. We keep on meaning to stop by for lunch and try their muffulettas and po boys.

Bleaux Magnolia setting and service

Bleaux Magnolia is where Il Posticino used to sit on Clay st. The location is on the outer edge of downtown Napa so it doesn't benefit as much from foot traffic as other restaurants do deeper downtown. This made us worry a bit for Bleaux Magnolia's future. But I think they have a strong locals following now and look to be in pretty good shape.

Bleaux Magnolia does inherit Il Posticino's cozy setting though. It only sits about maybe 30 people inside and 30 people outside. Inside, it's a fairly cramped seating with a darker wood look where their tiny kitchen is easily within a plate throw. The outside patio has this nice outdoor seating area with some light curtains surrounding an outdoor framework that more shares Posticino's Italian roots than Magnolia's Creole. Oh well, work with what you have. Depending on the day of week, you should call ahead for reservations because of the small size of the restaurant.

Service is pretty attentive. The head host / manager works the area pretty hard. The waiters are friendly and look to please even if sometimes the polish isn't quite there. I actually kind of like friendly staff with a slight lack of polish as it makes the whole experience feel more real and less choreographed.

Price of our meal

Brunch : 1 appetizer, 2 dishes, 2 glasses of wine, tax & tip: $60

Dinner: 2 entrees, 1 appetizer, 1 dessert, 2 glass of wine, tax & tip: $100-$120

Dinner: 2 tasting menus with wine (3 courses each), tax & tip: $145 

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