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Main Dish

Open your dining possibilities with OpenTable

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Offering online reservations via OpenTable, Cafe Magnolia cooks up innovative American fare, such as its bistro tender entrée.
Offering online reservations via OpenTable, Cafe Magnolia cooks up innovative American fare, such as its bistro tender entrée. - (Photo / )

Here's some food for thought. Why is it so annoying to call and make a dinner reservation? Half the time you get put on hold, and with all the background noise on their end, I find myself doubting that they even heard the correct time and guest count. Plus, I usually have to spell my last name three times — slowly.

That’s why I love it when restaurants offer online reservations on their websites via OpenTable. You can also make reservations directly on or through the mobile app. It makes the reservation process as easy as apple pie, and it even sends you reminders. But, hey, I’m the same kind of person who would rather buy something with Amazon Prime than go to a mall.

So the recent news that travel-booking agent Priceline acquired OpenTable means that OpenTable will be increasing the number of local restaurants (and international ones) that offer online reservations. At the moment, about 50 Central Pennsylvania restaurants are registered through OpenTable, and I can’t wait until this concept goes more mainstream around here. Additionally, you can treat OpenTable as a new way to search for restaurant possibilities, similar to how you might use Yelp or Urbanspoon.

One of my favorite local OpenTable restaurants is Cafe Magnolia in Mechanicsburg. As a rather small and sometimes overlooked restaurant, I’m surprised that it offers online reservations, but I love that the owners understand the importance of such a tool.

That’s not the only surprising thing. Cafe Magnolia has an expansive and innovative American-style menu that is sure to delight every palate. While I’d typically order steak only at a place that was known for steak, this place sure knows how to do it up right. I’d even go so far as to say that its bistro tender entrée is its secret weapon. These twin char-grilled beef tenderloins are topped with a rosemary-mushroom demi-glace and accompanied by bacon-topped mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli. Did I mention that the reasonable $24 price tag also includes a house salad and rolls? And this big meal tends to yield leftovers for my lunch the next day. The fact that Cafe Magnolia is BYOB is simply icing on the cake.

With the expansion of OpenTable, I hope to discover many more places like Cafe Magnolia.

What restaurants have you discovered through OpenTable?

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Erica Reed

Erica Reed

Erica Reed is the editor for custom publishing at Journal Multimedia, but she moonlights as a foodie and wino. Follow her at @HbgFoodandWine.

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