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April 24, 2008 4:30 PM

Market Street Grill, pizza and burgers (again)

Posted by Nancy Leson

Arnel Sta. Maria asks: "I went to the Market Street Grill in Ballard last month for the 30 for $30 to have their fantastic truffled fries with their rib eye steak. While I was there, the server said that they're going to be going under new management in a month. Have you heard this?"

Nope, Arnel. I'm professionally embarassed to say that was news to me. And for those of you who haven't been around long enough recall its grand opening, allow me to mention that Market Street Grill was among the first yupscale restaurants to scale the bar-and-bistro heights of Ballard. (Mind you, this was in 2000, back before Ballard became "the new Belltown" and way before Georgetown became the "new Ballard.")

Well, after several fruitless calls to the place over the past week, I finally drove over there to see what was up. And what's up is that Market Street has gone down -- it's been closed for about two weeks. The storefront windows are papered over, the bar and its booze are covered in construction dust and I've heard diddly-squat from longtime owner John Sillers (John? John? Whither art thou -- and Kendell?). Meanwhile, Marin Maranov, the new owner, was kind enough to stop ripping the place apart and talk to me for a few minutes about what was going on there.

Turns out Maranov -- whose son, Mitko, owns Padrino's Pizza & Pasta in North Capitol Hill -- is in the process of transforming Market Street Grill into a lighter, airier restaurant and bar he'll call Via Verde. For the past seven months, Maranov, late of Bulgaria, has been surveying the local pizzeria scene. Impressed with the family-friendly practices and wood-fired pizza he saw at Tutta Bella, and despite the proliferation of pizza and/or pasta places in the neighborhood (it's right up the block from Palermo Pizza & Pasta), he's convinced he has what it takes to turn a pizza-and-pasta profit.

Once the place opens (ETA: mid-May), his plan is to offer a menu big on "thin-crust pizza, spaghetti, salad and dessert -- a lot of desserts." This way, says Maranov, "The kids will come, and they'll bring their parents. If the kids know there's something delicious, they'll say, "Come on Mom, let's go!"

He's right about those kids, because as I stood there leaning against the open windows of the former Market Street Grill's storefront, reporter's notebook and pen in hand, my kid was giving me the evil eye from the car -- which I'd parked right in front of the place. And once I was back in the car, he didn't waste a beat before saying, "Come on Mom, let's go! I'm starving." That's when we drove straight over to Lunchbox Laboratory, where Nate, who knows a thing or three about burgers, ate this one, with a side of "twisty fries":

What did he think? Here's the quote, from a kid whose middle name is Bacon-Cheeseburger: This is the best burger I've ever eaten! But next time I'm ordering the Tater Tots."

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