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Seattle Times food writer Nancy Leson serves up the best info and tips on Northwest food, cooking, dining and restaurants.

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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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Posted by Clean Simple

5:48 PM, Apr 24, 2008

Interesting. We ate our 10th wedding anniversary dinner at Market Street Grill--a lovely, delicious meal we still remember fondly 5 years later. We don't get out much (babysitters cost the world!) but we'll check out the new place once it opens. Dessert=yum!

Posted by My Mother's Daughter

7:20 PM, Apr 24, 2008

Does Ballard REALLY need another pizza joint? As a Ballard local, would love to see some variety....

Posted by jason

10:49 PM, Apr 24, 2008

I agree with MMD, I give this new place a year (at most); especially if the owner's business plan revolves around the kids bringing the parents in just because they have dessert. Where did he just land from, the '50s?

Posted by reality

12:00 AM, Apr 25, 2008

Yes and no. One Ballard pizza joint is for sale, another is about to fail, someone doing it right could be successful.

Posted by Ballard Boy

11:05 AM, Apr 25, 2008

I also have my doubts about another pizza joint. I would LOVE to see something different. Korean maybe? Greek would be nice too. Other than Yanni's I can't think of a decent Greek place in the Northend.

Posted by Nancy Leson

2:34 PM, Apr 25, 2008

Whaddaya mean, Ballard Boy? Haven't you been to Georgia's?

Posted by Ballard Boy

2:42 PM, Apr 25, 2008

Years ago Nance and I wasn't impressed at all. Maybe it's time to try again. I just get so depressed with the Greek in Seattle when up north in Vancouver you can't walk a block without stumbling over a good Greek place. They are so rich and we are so poor.....

Posted by SeaG

10:15 AM, Apr 29, 2008

What? MSG closing? A sad surprise. Any word on how they'll honor gift certificates? I was given some awhile ago from a friend and have been too busy to use them. (sniff)

Posted by Alex

6:19 PM, Apr 29, 2008

How long before restaurateurs will realize that pizza and pasta are a commodity...And Nancy I agree with your son about Lunchbox Laboratory.

Posted by Cynthia

2:29 PM, May 01, 2008

This is so sad, we also have a gift certificate we were planning to use last night for our 14th anniversary. Not only was the food great but the service was always outstanding. What a bummer.

Posted by Nancy Bryant

8:27 PM, May 02, 2008

Lunchbox Laboratory is a delight: funky, small inside but with a big attitude, a tiny and intimate kitchen which serves wonderful food! So often that is the case; tiny kitchens but amazing food. Case in point: 74th Street Ale House or Place Pigalle.

I had the beef burger with cheddar and the fixins', my friend had the lamb burger and fries with that astonishing garlic salt. We shared a fabulous chocolate shake but I admit when my share was gone I ordered another.......served in lab beakers.
Don't miss the fries. The menu is extraordinarily comprehensive.

Posted by David and Cissy

2:22 PM, May 16, 2008

We were regulars at the Market Street Grill, and its demise leaves a hole in our hearts although it may be healthy for our wallets. Perhaps before too long someone will try again to provide Ballard with a medium-priced, quiet alternative to pizza and pasta. When that happens, we hope Ballard folks will support their local hihg-quality restaurant instead of trekking downtown to someplace noisier and more expensive.

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