Magnolia Natural Market and Café
Cynthia Gingrey, Owner Magnolia Natural Market and Cafe'
Magnolia Natural Market and Café210 York St., S.E. • (803) 649-3339 • Monday-Saturday, 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m.
There’s a magnet on the microwave in the open kitchen at Magnolia Natural Market and Café that reads, “Be kind. No exceptions.” It’s the motto of an underground movement known as the Secret Agent L Project, in which “secret agents” participate in small missions of kindness that often involve leaving inexpensive gifts in public places for unsuspecting recipients.
The motto is also an apt description of Cynthia Gingrey, the cheerful co-owner, and staff who run the “mostly organic, 100 percent happy” restaurant and market on York Street in Aiken.
Gingrey, who was a forensic engineer in her other life, bought the restaurant and market three years ago in partnership with her father-in-law, Bill Gingrey. She had been a volunteer with Aiken Naturals which, until recently, held a produce market at the shop every Tuesday. She had also worked in the kitchen of the café when the couple who owned it went through a family crisis. When the couple decided to sell, Cindy and Bill purchased the restaurant. Today Cindy runs the market and restaurant and her father-in-law handles the bookkeeping.
Some menu items are only available when Cindy can acquire the best ingredients—like the organic heirloom tomatoes and fresh ricotta cheese in her popular tomato tarts (shown above) or the Alaskan wild-caught salmon that tops the fresh salmon salad.
Patron Favorites: The Goddess dressing, a tahini-based dressing, and the house-made hummus. Both are perfect dipped up with their popular flax chips, which are made with just four ingredients: masa, flax, soy oil and sea salt.
Gluten Free Friendly: Magnolia is gluten-free friendly, with plenty of vegan and vegetarian offerings. “But there’s something for everyone. Even the McDonald’s crowd will find something they will like,” Cindy says.
Mostly Organic Offerings: Breads are homemade. Salmon is Alaskan wild-caught and the beef in the Magnolia Burger is local MiBek Farms pasture-raised beef from Barnwell. Burgers are served on organic sprouted wheat buns from Alvarado Street Bakery, shipped in from California. The blueberries in the blueberry cobbler are locally grown and topped with a candied ginger cobbler crust.
The Market: Although the Tuesday produce market was discontinued, you can still purchase organic produce from Magnolia. Cindy sends a list of available items to customers on her e-mail list on Thursday evenings. Orders are accepted on Friday and the produce is delivered to the market for pick up on Tuesday. To sign up e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
On the Horizon: “We’re getting ready to open for dinner at least two or three days a week,” says Cindy. Dinner service will begin by January, if not sooner.