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It used to be that every downtown in America was home to one or more unpretentious restaurants that could be relied on for an order of soft-poached eggs, a good burger and a bowl of soup, all prepared without flash or drama, but competently — and quickly enough that a harried downtown office worker could dash in for breakfast, head back for lunch, and always be back to the office in time for the next meeting.
We live in an era when the dining scene is increasingly separated by a great divide. On one side of the culinary chasm, there is an enormous amount of “upscale dining” — some formal, most casual, all characterized by an upfront emphasis on showcasing a chef’s personality, viewpoint and advanced culinary concepts, for which customers always pay a premium price.
On the other side, are hosts of mostly interchangeable chain restaurants that cultivate a reliable, though boring, mediocrity.
Meanwhile, the middle ground has disappeared, and those few moderately priced diners and short-order palaces that remain are taking on the beleaguered feel of an endangered species.
When the Delta Restaurant closed last spring, after a half-century of serving meals downtown, it seemed just one more step down the road to extinguishing that style of dining.
But now comes Dish on Market. Truth to tell, Dish on Market doesn’t look or act anything like a greasy spoon diner — nor does it smack of upscale ambitions (though in these early months, it’s showing signs that it may eventually grow into an excellent downtown eatery).
The expansive space hasn’t changed much under the new owners. It’s a long, narrow dining room with a handsome old bar on one side, comfortable booths on the other, a dining room off to the side and plenty of seating upstairs. There are new hardwood floors and pale green accent walls.
And the management team has upscale credentials. Owner Anderson Grissom, for instance, has worked at Asiatique, and chef Dave Nelson counts the now-closed Nios and Ferd Grisanti’s on his résumé.