Thursday, September 6, 2001

Going to town

Posted on Thu, Sep 6, 2001 at 4:00 AM

Never say what a restaurant is not. Writing that one restaurant would be better if it were more like another is unfair and pointless. So I won't say that the Market Street Café in Celebration is not Dexter's or Tu Tu Tango or even the College Park Diner because -- of course -- it is none of those things.

I can say that the Market Street Café is not Max's Café. That's because Max's is gone and Market Street has taken its place. The new cafe is being run by Restaurant Partners Inc., which operates four Pebbles restaurants around Orlando. They've done a good job of assimilating the old-days' Celebration atmosphere. If halogen lights and computers had been around in the '50s, Market Street would have fit right in with its retro-modern diner design. Big booths, wide windows and earth tones prevail, making the place something of an upscale, new-urban greasy spoon.

The eatery is the antithesis of existentialism. One doesn't wear black, drink bitter espresso and read Kierkegaard at Market Street. You order a shake and a burger -- and are happy if you get the special round booth by the front door so you can watch resident Celebrants buzz by on rented electric scooters. I heard one of the waitresses, who was about half my age, say "groovy." Another server must have done well in Celebration Diner school, as she made a point of calling me "hon."

I'm not complaining, mind you. The Market Street Café is pleasant, just not very exciting. Regardless of whatever preconceptions you may have walking in, the food is prepared well and nothing seems processed. Market Street serves turkey with cornbread stuffing and meatloaf with mashed potatoes. They're so traditional that you'll be tempted to see if mom is in the kitchen.

Salads and "starters" are enormous. "Portobello" salad ($5.95 small, $9.95 large) is a dinner plate piled high with romaine, diced tomato, slivers of Gouda, corn and big slices of mushroom with a sun-dried tomato vinaigrette. Order the small. A cheese quesadilla ($5.95) is as big as your head, and if you order fried-chicken tenders (simple white meat rolled in cornflake breading, $6.95) as an appetizer, don't bother with an entrée.

I had the smoked chicken pasta ($11.95). The definition of "pasta" is spaghetti, but it was firm to the tooth and dressed in a pleasant wine and garlic sauce -- lots of garlic. The meatloaf ($10.95) was covered in brown mushroom gravy almost as dark as cocoa, with excellent homemade potatoes.

If you're looking for an undemanding meal in a "smallville," you might consider the drive.


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