Vijaya Lakshmi Mandapati operates Magnolia's Restaurant & Lounge alongside her husband, Raj. Photo by Joe Veyera
Vijaya Lakshmi Mandapati operates Magnolia's Restaurant & Lounge alongside her husband, Raj. Photo by Joe Veyera

For more than two decades, Szmania’s was a dining mainstay in Magnolia Village.

But for the second time in less than five years, the restaurant has changed hands and names.

Magnolia’s Restaurant & Lounge (3321 W. McGraw St.) is the latest addition to the neighborhood’s food scene, with new owners Raj and Vijaya Lakshmi Mandapati recently completing their transition of the space most recently known as Rogo’s.

The husband-and-wife team is hoping to continue the fine dining tradition set by its predecessors.

“We are still not there yet, but we are working hard,” Raj Mandapati said.

The Mandapatis are no stranger to the restaurant business, dating back to their time in Charlotte, North Carolina, where the couple had a stake in a trio of Indian-focused spots. That partnership that ended when they moved to Seattle four years ago.

“It’s hard to work remotely on a restaurant,” Raj Mandapati said. “You need to be here day-to-day.”

The decision to relocate was made after their daughter decided on the University of Washington as her top choice to pursue a medical degree.

“We had to be local,” he said. “Otherwise, we cannot even afford it.”

In the meantime, the Mandapatis kept their eyes peeled for the right place to open their own restaurant. The couple closed on their purchase of Rogo’s in mid-October.

“Based on the neighborhood and the ambience, we loved it,” he said.

As they considered what changes to make — from the branding, to décor, and the menu — the Mandapatis were clear from the start that they weren’t interested in bringing another Indian-centric dining option to the area. Instead, they wanted to add a selection of Indian specials, along with putting their own spin on other items if need be.

That’s exactly what they’ve done with the menu at Magnolia’s Restaurant & Lounge, keeping the mainstay steaks, seafood, and burgers that diners had come to expect at Rogo’s, while adding several Indian dishes, with entrees like lamb vindaloo and butter chicken making up a quarter of the offerings. Also remaining are a few German items dating back to the Szmania’s days, like jaeger schnitzel.

The Szmanias have offered some guidance to the new owners as well, with Ludger and Julie — who operated their namesake restaurant from 1990 to 2014 — visiting recently from their Wenatchee home.

“They really appreciated all the quality we are giving,” Raj Mandapati said. “That gave a lot of energy for me and my wife.”

The kids’ menu has also been overhauled with a wider selection for young diners.

In addition to the name and menu, the new owners have also made a few cosmetic changes to the space, adding new artwork to the walls, and a TV in the bar area. They also plan to add a tandoor oven in the kitchen.

All the while, they’re taking feedback from customers about the changes they’ve made.

“It’s hard to satisfy 100 percent anywhere, in any field,” Raj Mandapati said. “But we are trying our best to try out our items.”

To that end, he said the neighborhood has been supportive of their efforts thus far, and understanding of the hiccups that come with an ownership change. They hope to return the favor by making the dining experience worthwhile.  

“We’re receiving a lot of positive feedback,” he said. “That is giving us a boost everyday.”

Magnolia’s Restaurant & Lounge is open 4 to 9 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday, 4 to 10 p.m. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. For more information, visit www.magnoliaslounge.com.