We were excited this weekend to try out the newest addition to Raleigh’s dining scene, Market Restaurant, tucked away on N. Blount St. in the Mordecai neighborhood (and next to the fabulous Escazu chocolates). It’s a small, cozy space with an open kitchen and a gigantic garage door which can be opened onto the similarly small patio. Out front, all manner of herbs are cultivated in small planters, giving the first indication of the restaurant’s mission to provide fresh, local food. In fact, the menu claims to be “West Coast inspired”, which, one imagines, entails fresh produce, fish, and maybe some offbeat selections.
To begin with, water is served with a refreshing slice of cucumber – perfect for the fast-approaching summer heat. Each table gets a handsome glass carafe for refills, which our waitress employed repeatedly. Although attentive service is nice, and she was very friendly, I would have preferred to refill our own glasses – it feels more convivial, or something. For lunch, I chose the pressed cilantro chicken sandwich ($9), and my wife opted for the fish tacos (also $9). The waitress let on that the sandwich was one of their most popular items – it seemed to be the safest choice on the menu – and as we waited I began to feel a little sorry for the chef. It seemed that the sandwiches were the only thing he was making. Other items on the menu were more unconvential, if no less tempting – turkey/spinach burger, pina-colada chicken salad, kale chips, tempeh meatballs on the kids’ menu.
We also ordered “crack fries”, so named for their presumed addictiveness. The menu described them as hand cut potatoes with truffle oil, parmesan, and fresh herbs. In fact, they were roasted, not fried, and though well seasoned, were a little limp. I wouldn’t say they were addictive. And although the serving size was ample, at $7 I’d probably skip them next time around. The homemade ketchup was a nice touch. It made me wonder why you don’t see that more often. Why is it that the industrial bottled variety is ketchup?
The chicken sandwich was surprisingly large, but that was mostly on account of the bread, which may have been the thickest sliced bread I’ve ever seen. It was almost an inch thick on each side! I thought the sandwich was tasty, but I would have liked a bit more of the smoked tomato salsa and cotija cheese. The proportions were just a little off. The accompanying roasted corn and black bean salad was just right. The fish tacos were the better lunch – pan fried tilapia with salsa and cabbage slaw. They were terrific served on crispy flour tortillas. These came with an orange & fennel salad, which might have benefited from a little more orange.
Overall, the food at Market tasted like something you’d make at home. Real food, good ingredients, well prepared, healthy and satisfying. And that’s a great thing.
Rating: * * * 1/2