One could call Magnolia’s Deli & Cafe President Barack Obama’s favorite Rochester restaurant — if by favorite you mean the only one he’s ever been to. 

If you weren’t already aware that he ate lunch at Magnolia’s back in 2013, you’ll learn the second you step into the waiting area. A large plaque decorated with the Democrat & Chronicle article documenting the occasion hangs close to the very chair he sat in, marked with another smaller plaque. There’s even a “Mr. President” menu item with his simple order, a soup and grilled cheese.

We certainly spent a lot of time in the waiting room, with our group of five taking a little over an hour to get a table on a busy Friday afternoon. They don’t take your phone number, so we had to stay close by if we wanted a chance to snag a table. 

Managing Editor Henry Litsky was immediately impressed with his iced chai latte, declaring it was so good that he’d be getting another one after his first couple sips. Two of our other tablemates shared a rich and smoky dark roast iced coffee that, in non-foodie terms, was “baller.” They all said they’d come back here just to get more coffee. 

We started off sharing the spinach dip with some chips and pita crackers. The general consensus was that it was good, but a little too watery. I enjoyed it more than I thought I would, as someone who has admittedly avoided spinach dip their whole life, with the cheese balancing out the spinach.

Sandwiches made up the bulk of the menu, most on slices of sourdough. The group all ordered different sandwiches — the Chicken Basil BLT, the East Ave, the Harvard, the Marion Street, and the Wisconsin. Prices are average for a sit-down sandwich place, hovering around $15, and the meals come with a side of kettle potato chips and a pickle slice. Henry also added a bowl of French onion soup to his order. 

Across the board, the sandwiches were solid, with just a few notes concerning sauce levels and meat generosity. I really enjoyed my Wisconsin grilled cheese, with a mix of two cheese, small apple cubes, and bacon. The colder crispness of the apple goes well with the warmth of the rest of the ingredients. The Marion Street was too heavy on the artichokes for Senior Staff Marla Litsky’s liking. 

“You have to really like artichoke,” she noted. “I didn’t expect it to be as much of a presence as it was.”

The cake display at the counter was tempting, so we ended up ordering a slice of carrot cake and a slice of triple chocolate cake to share. The cake was great, but several of us were put off by how sugary the icing was. The triple chocolate cake was amazing, with a thick layer of mousse on the bottom, and would instantly fulfill anyone’s chocolate cravings. 

With their large menu and cozy interior, I can see how Magnolia’s has become a Park Ave staple – even fit for a president.

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