Upscale restaurant Doña Magnolia opens in Hotel Indigo in downtown Spokane | Food News | Spokane | The Pacific Northwest Inlander

Doña Magnolia: A New Dining Experience in SpokaneDoña Magnolia: A New Dining Experience in Spokane A mural adorns the wall of the newly opened Doña Magnolia restaurant, depicting a flapper named Magnolia ignoring the gaze of an admirer. Manuel Montijo, Jr., the restaurant’s chef and co-owner, has selected this muse to represent the establishment’s international flavors and modern flair. Montijo, trained at the Oregon Culinary Institute, brings years of fine dining experience to Spokane. The menu at Doña Magnolia offers a diverse array of options, including arancini, ceviche, Szechuan dumplings, pink pasta, New York steak, fried rice with sausage, green coconut curry, and grilled salmon tacos. The chef plans to change the menu seasonally, incorporating new dishes like pork belly. “I want it to be something that you can be transported to by eating certain foods,” Montijo explains. The building that houses Doña Magnolia has a rich history, dating back to the Prohibition era when it hosted travelers seeking gambling and drinking. Today, the restaurant offers a private room for special events and a happy hour with 10% off the entire menu. Montijo’s passion for food is evident in his meticulous attention to detail. “From the moment you’re greeted by the host to the moment you’re seated at your table and you’re given water or drinks — it’s really a team effort,” he says. The restaurant’s corner location provides a panoramic view of the city, reminiscent of Edward Hopper’s famous painting “Nighthawks.” Montijo is optimistic about the future of Spokane’s food scene, which he finds more close-knit than Portland’s. With his unwavering commitment and the support of his family, Montijo aims to make Doña Magnolia a culinary destination. “My passion and the hunger to make the restaurant a success and make a name for myself,” he says.

In deep sepia paint on a white wall, a woman in a flapper dress ignores the gaze of a besotted admirer. She tilts her chin down, in profile to the mural’s viewer, revealing a flower tucked into the side of her curled hair.

The mural’s painter, renowned Spokane artist Daniel Lopez, named the woman Magnolia.

She’s a patron saint of sorts. She graces the wall of the restaurant beneath the Hotel Indigo on the west side of downtown Spokane. That restaurant used to be called Magnolia American Brasserie. But now it has a new owner, a new chef, and a new, simpler name — Doña Magnolia, or “Lady” Magnolia.

Doña-Magnolia opened in March and is Spokane’s newest fine dining spot, helmed by chef Manuel Montijo, Jr., who is also new to town. Montijo, who trained at the now-defunct Oregon Culinary Institute, spent years working in fine dining in Portland and is excited to open his first restaurant in Spokane.

Montijo was personally selected by co-owner Fredy Martinez, who also owns Molé Restaurant in Kendall Yards, to create an experience inspired by international flavors and modern flair.

“We wanted to make it a little bit different, rather than just French,” Montijo says. “I always find that (when) you don’t have restrictions to determine your menu, you can play around and do a little bit of everything.”

Montijo doesn’t exaggerate. For appetizers at Doña Magnolia, try the fried risotto balls called arancini ($11), a plate of tuna and salmon ceviche ($22) or spicy Szechuan dumplings ($12). For dinner, try the pink pasta ($24), a New York steak ($40), fried rice with sausage ($18), green coconut curry ($24) or grilled salmon tacos ($20).

Montijo plans to change the menu approximately every three months and is already planning a new menu, including a new pork belly dish.

“I want it to be something that you can be transported to by eating certain foods,” Montijo says. “For example, you eat ceviche — that’s Central or South American, coastal. But then you can transport yourself by eating a curry dish and go to an Asian country. Then you can go to Italy and have pasta, and then from there you can go to America and have something else.”

Travel is inherent not only in the menu, but in the history of the entire building. About a hundred years ago, with a good location near the railroad tracks and shrewd, discreet owners, the building would have played host to many travelers during the Prohibition era of the 1920s looking for illegal gambling and drinking — depicted in other murals inside.

Today, for anyone looking for a perfectly legal yet extremely chic birthday party or business meeting, there is a private room for rent near the main dining room, which is suitable for buffets or presentations.

Doña Magnolia only opened in March, but it’s already proving to be a popular place to dine before concerts at the Fox Theater, which is just across the street. The restaurant comfortably seats about 100 people, but it’s best to make a reservation in advance to ensure you get to the show in time.

For those with a little more time on their hands, Doña-Magnolia has a happy hour every day from 4pm to 6pm with 10% off the entire menu, including drinks.

Montijo grew up in the Tri-Cities, took cooking classes in high school, and knew he wanted to be a chef when he graduated. He went to the Oregon Culinary Institute (which closed in 2020) and fell in love with fine dining.

“The Portland culinary scene — everyone in that community lives it, breathes it, talks it, lives it,” Montijo says. “You find good, good talent there. The passion is there, you know, so it’s hard not to rub off on that.”

After years in Portland, Montijo returned home to the Tri-Cities and spent a few months as executive chef at Fredy’s Bar & Grill in Kennewick. Yes, that Fredy’s — as in Martinez, a veteran restaurateur who also helped open spots like Umi Kitchen and Sushi Bar in Kendall Yards and Nudo Ramen in downtown Spokane.

Although Montijo’s tenure at Fredy’s was brief and the steakhouse has since closed, his talent and attention to detail made a deep impression on Martinez. When Martinez took over Magnolia American Brasserie after it closed in 2023, he knew exactly who he wanted to own and operate it with.

Montijo offers more than just food: it is about the complete dining experience.

“From the moment you’re greeted by the host to the moment you’re seated at your table and you’re given water or drinks — it’s really a team effort,” Montijo says. “It’s like an orchestra.”

Montijo is usually in the kitchen, where he feels most at home. But every now and then he sneaks into the dining room to keep an eye on his guests.

“I like the expressions on people’s faces when they’re eating,” he says. “You can see them nodding their heads. Anyone who comes in and takes the time to come and eat here — I want them to remember the dining experience.”

While some restaurants shy away from city centre locations, Montijo is undeterred by the “different walks of life” that walk past Doña Magnolia’s tall glass windows.

At night, the contrast between the bright interior lighting and the dark street is reminiscent of the diners looking out onto the sidewalk in Edward Hopper’s famous painting “Nighthawks.” A mural next to the restaurant’s delivery entrance is a nod to that same painting, further romanticizing the corner restaurant.

Spokane’s food scene is different from Portland’s in many ways. It’s smaller, Montijo says, and more close-knit.

“Everyone knows each other a little bit,” he says. “I feel like a lot of good restaurants have that background, where the chefs know each other or have worked together at some point.”

Montijo works 13 to 14 hours a day to make his restaurant dreams come true. He hopes that his passion and the support he receives from his wife and two children will eventually pay off.

“My commitment and passion are definitely there, and the hunger to make the restaurant a success and make a name for myself,” says Montijo.

Time will tell how many admirers will join the muse Doña Magnolia.

Doña-Magnolia • 110 S. Madison St. • Open Mon-Thu 7am-10am & 3pm-8pm; Fri-Sat 7am-9:30pm; Sun 7am-8pm • 509-862-6410 •


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