Tag Archives: meat and three

Lunch at Martin’s

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.

Martha’s Place

I had been to Martha’s (458 Sayre St.) a couple of times, but for various reasons hadn’t gotten around to writing a review. I had eaten lunch there several times because it is well-regarded and also walking distance from downtown offices.

Martha’s is a white house, divided into multiple rooms. You enter through the front door and are presented with a very narrow hallway where people are clustered waiting for tables and waiting to pay. There’s a staircase heading upstairs to your left, but I have never been up there. The entry hallway is covered with those autographed pictures of semi-celebrities that have dined there and left promotional traces of themselves.

Martha’s smells great. It has an atmosphere that immediately makes you comfortable. You feel like you are in someone’s house. The servers are incredibly friendly and quickly offer you sweet tea or lemonade. Many people take a mix of the two.

Now, here’s where the review gets tricky. At all of my early meals at Martha’s, I came away perfectly happy. I was prepared to write a glowing review about a delicious lunch. I had fond memories of their “pick from the menu” veggie plates and tasty desserts. I remembered the whole meal being quite affordable and a good experience.

However, the first time I tried to go to Martha’s with the intention of writing a review, they were closed. Turns out, they, like almost everything in Montgomery, is closed on Mondays. For a future Lost in Montgomery post, we will put together a list of all of the establishments that are closed on Mondays. It’s shocking how hard it is to buy a good meal on a Monday.

OK. No problem. We tried again a few weeks later. We entered just as an entire busload of teenagers was being seated in the back dining room. We sat for 20 minutes or so without anyone coming to take our order. We were on a tight lunch schedule, so we couldn’t wait. We figured they were just understaffed and overwhelmed by the arrival of some field trippers looking for lunch. No problem. It happens. We did notice that there appeared to be a buffet set up, but we didn’t know if that was a special setup just for the group, or a new format, or a new option, or what. Like I say, nobody came to talk to us, much less take our orders.

Finally, we went back this week. We sat in the back dining room which was vibrating like one of those old vibrating football games. We think it was some kind of problem with the air conditioner. No problem. Our sweet tea cups looked like a T-Rex was stomping around, but no problem.

Here’s the problem: It appears now that Martha’s has made a permanent switch to the buffet system. And, while not ideal, that wouldn’t be a problem in and of itself. But they also appear to have switched from just using meat as a flavoring for some of their veggies to making their veggies into some kind of meat stew. Gone were the collards (perhaps with a tiny piece of pork that could be picked out). Instead, there was some kind of blend that was 50-50 collards and pig meat. Same deal with the cabbage. Same deal with the peas.

We decided we couldn’t rationalize paying buffet prices to only be able to eat the rice and the corn. Why can’t these damn places figure out that there are thousands of ways to flavor vegetables that don’t involve animal flesh? It’s not that hard! We left and — given our suspicions that this is just the new permanent format at Martha’s — we won’t be back.

That’s a shame. Martha Hawkins seems to be a nice lady and an important figure here in Montgomery. A lot of people love her restaurant. But for those of us who prefer Southern food without heaping doses of shredded meat injected into every dish, we’ll have to get lunch elsewhere and just imagine what we’re missing on the dessert front.

Daisy’s Diner

Daisy’s looks like it ought to be closed. More precisely, it looks like it IS closed. The outside of the building looks rough. The sign looks like it was painted in another era — the era before the previous era, and maybe the one before that.

“There’s no place like home … until now!”

The building is white and sits in one of the most interesting areas of downtown Montgomery. The Biscuits stadium gleams, still looking new and state of the art. The police station is somewhere back in there too, along with the clusters of bail bonds shacks that surround it. And the Brewpub also sits at the edge of this frontier. But most of what’s back in this area is a wasteland of empty warehouses and boarded up buildings. If you take the right path through this maze, you’ll end up at the river. If you weave in the right order, you go through some shacks straight out of a novel and end up at a restaurant overlooking the river called The Marina. We’ll review that at another time (preview: I hate it).

For now, just know that on the edge of this part of town, somewhat near the minor league baseball stadium and somewhat near the Farmer’s Market Cafe, there’s a white building on Jefferson St. with a big sign: Daisy’s. And the plug-in neon sign in the window tells you that it’s open.

Inside, every table is full at lunchtime. Most of the people are wearing work shirts with patches like “Bob’s Heating and Cooling.” The working class vibe contrasts with, and yet compliments perfectly, the homemade signs saying that Daisy’s is a “WiFi Hotspot.” Guess they are trying to lure the legislative crowd.

The paint is peeling in some parts of the interior and it looks like the whole place could use a good cleaning. But it’s not dirty in the way that makes you worry about the food. It’s just that it’s in a crappy part of town and they probably just focus a lot more on the food than they do the atmosphere.

The place is sort of ahead of its time in that you can see the entire open air kitchen. This is considered high class in many big city restaurants and I’ll concede that it’s cool to see the hustle and bustle of the food being prepped and the dishes being washed. The menu is pretty expansive, but it’s clear that the thing to do at lunch is order off of the large list of veggies (rotating by the day of the week). The menu also has a large breakfast section.

I roll with the staples: collards, mashed potatoes, black eyed peas and fried okra, along with cornbread and some sweet tea. My lunch partner has a similar plate, but tries the fried green tomatoes.

The food is good, but a little on the greasy side. The collards, potatoes and peas were far superior to the okra, which was fried to the point of being blackened. They were greasy little hard pellets, and I couldn’t eat them all, even with liberal application of the hot sauce. But the rest of the food was quite good. The fried green tomatoes were actually outstanding: thick slices with a good fry-coating. Good tea, friendly service, reasonable prices. You get the feel that a lot of the customers are here for burgers and bacon.

We both got out of there for a total of $20 or so, including tip. It’s a good option for downtown lunches, although it could be tough to get a table given the small size of the place and evident popularity among the lunch hour crowd. All in all, it was a very favorable experience, although there was a bit of the fatigue associated with a grease coma shortly after getting back to the office. I’d give Daisy’s 3.75 pieces of burnt okra out of 5.