A truly great restaurant lunch can force you to ask some difficult questions about yourself. Of course, there is the very common, “How can I learn to prepare food like this in my kitchen?” But there is also, “Why don’t I come to lunch here more often?”
That’s what I was asking myself about Martin’s after a fantastic lunch there last week. The answers to the latter question were unsatisfying. Sure, it’s not right next door to my office, but it’s not a substantially long drive. I could get in and out of there easily within my usual lunch break.
And sure, the turn-in from Narrow Lane is horrible. In fact, it is both a terrible piece of paving to enter the parking lot (prepare to scrape your car), but it is also situated at one of the very worst intersections in the city.
But those are not great reasons. And they’d have to be great reasons to avoid the fantastic food at Martin’s. It’s reasonably priced, the service is excellent, and you get the clear feeling that you’re supporting something local with a bit of tradition under its belt.
We don’t even eat fried chicken, which most people will tell you is the main reason to go to Martin’s. It’s clearly some kind of super secret bonus level of amazing fried chicken, but the fact that we’re vegetarians and still rave about the place ought to tell you something about the quality of the other dishes.
Folks that read our food reviews know that we sometimes make exceptions to our vegetarianism for a good piece of fish, and that was the case on this lunch at Martin’s. The fried catfish compares favorably with any other in town, probably one microscopic notch below the lemon-pepper catfish at Isaiah’s.
But the veggies really stand out. First, you have the huge variety. There’s a long list for each day of the week, plus a rotating “veggie of the day” slot that was occupied during our lunch by an excellent dish of boiled and cubed rutabagas.
The mashed potatoes were creamy, and the peas and beans were boiled just right up to the point before they become mushy. We were pretty much too full for dessert, but went there anyway because we knew that (at least for the sake of writing a review) a meal at Martin’s just can’t be considered complete without sampling the dessert menu.
The cobbler quickly made the transition from bowl to stomach to precious memory. The pie was (as it always is) an enormous and eye-popping wedge of chocolate that would seem like an airport restaurant novelty item except that it is one of the finest food items you have ever consumed.
If anything could be improved about Martin’s, the tablecloths and bottles of hot sauce and pepper sauce on the table were a little sticky and grimy. The history of the place is awesome (and it’s great when restaurants put their history on the front of the menu). But you don’t want to feel like you are sharing a meal with all of the sticky-fingered people that have sat at that table before you.
All in all, as noted, we were confronted with tough questions. “Why don’t we come here for lunch more often?” Faced with no decent answers, plans were made to incorporate Martin’s more frequently into the lunchtime rotation. We encourage you to do the same.