When dining out, people want more than good food and friendly service. They want atmosphere. Around here, that usually means nautical themes, salt breezes, and Gulf views. But not always, and Jesse’s Restaurant is a great example.
Thirty miles west of Gulf Shores is the tiny town of Magnolia Springs, population 723. Small, yes, but it isn’t one of those places where if you blink, you’ll miss it. The town is so lovely; you won’t let yourself blink. It’s a serene place, and the most activity you’ll see will be at Jesse’s.
One hundred years ago, the building now known as Jesse’s Restaurant, housed Moore’s General Store. You can find it listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 2012 Steve & Angie Coltharp purchased the property. Although they incorporated as the Magnolia River Restaurant, they chose to name their new venture Jesse’s, in honor of Jessie King, who managed Moore’s General Store from 1922 to 1933.
Steve came to Magnolia Springs from Colorado but was no stranger to the South. He attended both Ole Miss in Oxford and graduated from the Culinary Arts Institute of Louisiana in Baton Rouge in 1999. After a decade out west, he and his wife were inspired to return South. Their opening of Jesse’s restored the historic property to its long-held prominence as the hub of the town.
The restaurant has outdoor seating under the shade of magnificent live oaks. Inside, it is much larger than it appears, with several different dining rooms. Despite its capacity, you will want to make reservations for dinner. You’ll find most patrons dressed in casual to special occasion clothing depending on why they are there. Wear shorts, a tee-shirt, and flip flops, and you’ll feel under-dressed, even for lunch.
Jesse’s is most proud of their steaks, including dry-aged and wet-aged options. Their Whiskey Steak specialty is a 16-ounce cut that soaks for 24 hours in a concoction of Jack Daniel’s, Cajun seasonings, ginger, and soy sauce before it hits the heat. Chef Rebecca Jordan focuses on local produce and makes sure there are offerings for vegetarians and those looking for gluten-free selections. Their BLT incorporates fried green tomatoes and bacon that they cure on site. They even make their own butter.
If you are here for a while or come so often that your once magical beach vacation has become routine, take a trip to Magnolia Springs. A nice meal, a bit of history, and a slow cruise under the canopy of live oaks will rejuvenate your sense of romance.
Tips for visiting Jesse’s Restaurant
- For dinner, make reservations. Do not be surprised if there is still a wait after you arrive since its the type of place people like to linger after they’ve finished their meal.
- For a special occasion, ask for your favorite dining room.
- Don’t go on Sunday’s, they’re closed. They also don’t serve between 4 pm and 5 pm.
- Check the website for holiday hours. They are open for several, but with particular hours.
- Let the server know if you have a fish or shellfish allergy in case the recipe includes these and the menu doesn’t make it obvious.