By Camilla Marais | Culture Editor

Orinda’s Wild Magnolia features California-fresh cuisine, such as decadent flatbreads, delicious salads, and other charming bites. (Courtesy of Yelp)

Orinda is a Saint Mary’s neighbor that I never thought to explore. From Walnut Creek to Berkeley and from Oakland to San Francisco, there are so many culinary landscapes to check out. Can you blame me for overlooking our own little Orinda? This quaint area of the Bay only came back into my horizon when my BART ride took me past Lafayette and to the Orinda stop (directions have never been my forté). While waiting for my friends to save me from our local transportation system, I wandered. What I saw surprised me; there are so many trendy, quaint, and delicious-looking places in that neck of the woods. As I explored décor and menus, I made the mental note that I would be returning soon. I stayed true to that promise.

The following Friday, my roommate and I hit the number one place on my list: Wild Magnolia. From its aesthetic to its commitment for sustainable fare, I knew this was a place worth checking out. I explored Wild Magnolia’s website prior to my first visit and was incredibly impressed with the restaurant’s mission statement. The restaurant says, “[Wild Magnolia] feature seasonal, sustainable small plates with light and healthy options for lunch and dinner.” Sign me up.

Wild Magnolia was lively upon our arrival, and I thanked my past self for making a reservation a week before. The ambience of the space was warm, inviting, and homey. The décor was floral and fresh while still maintaining a level of sophistication. Our hostess was friendly, and we were seated immediately upon arrival. The menu was dreamy from trendy dishes, such as roasted shishito peppers, to classics like mussels and fries —Wild Magnolia has it all.

I will openly preface this meal experience by saying that my roommate and I ordered way too much food. When you go to Wild Magnolia, you will not need to order much to feel satisfied. We were simply excited. We placed our orders and enjoyed a fantastic view from our outdoor seats to people watch. Before long, the irresistible aroma of our appetizer arrived at our table: the roasted shishito peppers. Lightly charred, salted, and doused in a coriander-lime vinaigrette, these peppers were addictive. With a crisp exterior and lusciously soft center, this appetizer was fresh, salty, and the perfect bite to share.

After our plates were cleared, we anxiously awaited the arrival of our main courses. About 10 minutes later, our gorgeous dishes arrived at the table: the kale and quinoa salad with grilled prawns for me and the sausage flatbread for my roommate. To share, we also ordered the cauliflower rice with chive butter and wild mushroom risotto. Salads can get a bad rep and are often called “boring” and “rabbit food.” However, my salad would put all these accusations to rest. Each bite was hearty, flavorful, and offered an array of textures. From the sweet zucchini to chewy dried apricots and from the crunchy roasted almonds to the creamy goat cheese, the only thing that made this salad even better was the drizzle of a grapefruit vinaigrette. The grilled prawns were a blissful addition, adding a smoky sweetness to the dish. I was also happy to see that the portion size was generous and that I really got my money’s worth.

My roommate’s flatbread was equally as exciting. The crisp flatbread was topped with tangy marinara sauce, creamy mozzarella, rich andouille sausage, and was finished with fresh Fresno chiles and Castelvetrano olives. The thin flatbread held up well to its smorgasbord of toppings, as the sensation of smoky, rich, fresh, and spicy goodness was transferred from plate to mouth. For our sides, the wild mushroom was incredible. The umami-rich and creamy dish was so luxurious we wanted to take a bath in it. Despite our hearty entrees and appetizer, we basically licked the dish clean. While the cauliflower rice was cooked in a luscious chive butter, it was cauliflower rice, so we weren’t too in love with it. However, it was probably the best rice-substitute dish I’ve had in awhile, so I respect Wild Magnolia for that.

As the night came to a close and our appetites were satisfied, we could not bring ourselves to order dessert, but this will be a great incentive for us to come back as soon as possible. We departed from Wild Magnolia with leftovers in hand, happy and satisfied, anticipating our return.

In conclusion, if you ever find yourself lost in Orinda, stumble over to Wild Magnolia—they’ll take care of you.

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