King of Brunch: Behind the scenes of Sugar Magnolia

Meg Elwood

A Sunday morning, which could easily begin as a cold and dreary day, quickly brightens up as the doors of Sugar Magnolia, one of Statesboro’s finest gems, unlock.

At 8 a.m., owner Barry Turner and cooks Joshua and Kevin were the only ones inside Sugar Mag’s (as locals like to call it). Stoves were lit, coffee was brewed and smooth coffee-shop jazz wafted from the kitchen. The cooks and owner went straight to work without hesitation, moving smoothly and swiftly throughout the kitchen, proving that this was their regular weekend routine. Tomatoes were sliced, hash was spiced and the warm aroma of morning began to swirl around the whole restaurant.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but only words can describe how good this place smelled, how amazing the food tasted and how simply perfect this homegrown restaurant really is. Even with all of the chairs still stacked on top of the tables from the night before, one could already feel the warm welcome that Sugar Magnolia had to offer. The inside is small, very homey, the classic hometown bakery vibe. It feels almost French from the warm yellow walls, short red checkered curtains, a painted piano in a back and illustrations of Magnolias hanging on the walls.

Back in the kitchen, Turner hand-peeled and cut fresh green apples from the Farmers Market for their popular “Glazed Cinnamon Apple Biscuits.” He spoke about how Sugar Magnolia was started by himself and his friend who was the head baker at the time, but retired a few years ago.

“I wouldn’t really call it a hobby, its just a very enjoyable way to spend my time,” Turner said.

Guests call Sugar Magnolia a Statesboro staple, and a popular perk is that it supports the community in many ways. All of the food is made from scratch with produce purchased from local farms at the Farmers Market. They support the local farmers and others as much as they can, from one small business to another. Back when the Statesboro Farmers Market first began, Sugar Magnolia was one of the original vendors selling the various types of fresh bread that still fill the baskets on their shelves today.

As the clock struck 10 a.m., Sugar Mag’s doors opened to the faithful customers waiting outside in their cars. Two minutes later, Sugar Mag’s was transformed into a bustling scene. The coffee shop jazz was accompanied with the soft murmurs of morning chatter and dishes clicking in the kitchen as orders were prepared.

Theresa and Patrick Novotny are Sugar Magnolia regulars. They come to enjoy the food, friendly staff and relaxing atmosphere whenever they can, but especially on Thursday for pizza and Sundays for brunch.

“They [Sugar Magnolia] have a large sense of downtown community. Over the years they have done a lot of stuff with local musicians, they always have a local artist on display and it’s a great main hub for the community. There’s been a ‘Congress on the Corner’ Q&A session with a local congressman and you can see every type of person here, from doctors to judges and lawyers to families. It truly is a great place,” Patrick Novotny, who also teaches Political Science at GSU, said.

Linda Evans, another regular, has been coming to Sugar Magnolia every Saturday and Sunday for several years. Linda even has her very own special, which is simply named “The Linda.”

“It’s really just a breakfast sandwich, but I asked for it all separately with a biscuit instead of buns. One day someone came up to me and asked what I had and then, it became a hit. True story!” Evans said.

With dishes like the Mozzarella Scramble, the Monte Cristo, the Pulled Pork Hash and The Linda, Sugar Magnolia really wears the mid-morning crown. Plus, this is only the brunch side of things; they also have lunch, pastries, bread and other delectables.

“It really is an all around perfect place,” Evans said, “It really is.”