Monday, July 13, 2009

13 JUL 09: To Market, To Market

Downtown Columbus has two big churches on the east side of First Avenue. So how can there be a restaurant serving wine on the west side, across the street? Since neither church is Catholic, it can't be one of those "indulgence" things....

The place serving wine on First Avenue may be one of the most overlooked restaurants downtown. It goes simply by The Market -- well, except a subtitle specifies it's "the fresh fish joint." Otherwise, you might confuse it with "Market Days" and only show up on Saturday mornings.

I took a short drive up First Avenue to The Market a few weekends ago. It's certainly nothing like that famous fish market in Seattle, where the staff tosses salmon around. The restaurant is located too close to law offices to risk a liability suit.

The Market wasn't full on a Saturday night, so I was able to have a window seat along First Avenue. This allowed a view of evening traffic - but as the sun set, the only light I had to read the menu came from the other side of the window pane. I'm not sure if it was a matter of ambiance, energy savings or both.

Because I was dining by myself, I didn't ask for alcohol. But I found the wine list at The Market reflected the overall upscale-yet-casual atmosphere -- because one section listed "wines for your 90-foot yacht." Was this list borrowed from Green Island Country Club?

(The bottles of 90-foot yacht wine cost as much as $150 -- which make this a perfect spot for dinner, after you win a big lawsuit at the Government Center.)

This still leaves the question: how can The Market sell wine within one block of First Presbyterian Church? Based on what I found at the city web site, wine sales are allowed within 300 feet of a church -- but "mixed drink" sales are not. So please don't ask for Seven-Up with your fancy bottle, to make a wine cooler.

But I went to The Market for the food, and fish dominates the menu. People who don't like seafood have to order chicken tenders from the "guppies" children's menu, settle for vegetable side dishes -- or sneak into the back alley and look for scraps from Locos Amigos Cantina.

The Market has daily specials, but the basic grilled salmon was good enough for me. It came with a salad which came in a fairly large bowl - seemingly 50 percent larger than the salad at The Fife and Drum Restaurant [10 May]. When it comes to the Florida lettuce crop, timing must be everything.

The grilled salmon was tender and tasty - but as I pondered my dinner, something seemed missing. I finally figured out The Market didn't serve bread with the meal. If you hope to compete with Red Lobster's cheese biscuits, this simply has to change....

I turned down dessert because treats were waiting for me at home. So with a tip, my salmon dinner at The Market cost slightly more than 20 dollars - but hold it. The server forgot to include my soda in the total. After pointing it out, the server allowed me to have it for free. Somehow I doubt this happens with the top-dollar wines.

Even with the flaws we found, The Market strikes me as a nice spot for lunch or dinner. Simply make sure everyone in your group likes fish - and persuade them downtown Columbus actually has nice restaurants off-Broadway.

Now a quick check of weekend leftovers:

+ Which local pastor preached against the TV game show "Wipeout," because it shows people going to desperate lengths to win money? Yet this pastor has admitted liking "Are You Smarter Than a Fifth-Grader" - where those same people might wind up looking incredibly stupid in a different way.

+ Rangers at Franklin D. Roosevelt State Park issued their annual warning against motorcyclists going too fast on winding roads. One tree was marked as a "Tree of Shame," apparently because so many bikers have crashed there -- and because the Garden Club of Georgia is too strong a lobby to allow that tree to come down in a state park.

+ The Savannah Morning News reported dozens of people went on a special tour of Savannah homes -- only all the homes had backyard chicken coops. The city which gave us "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" now can give us a sequel: "Sunrise in the Barnyard."

+ The annual "Redneck Games" concluded in East Dublin, Georgia. I read this online, and wondered how much Phenix City overbid to have the Marshall Tucker Band perform Saturday night.

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