It’s hard to figure out exactly what is going on at Fort Worth’s new Market + Table. The West 7th eatery is cram-packed with so many under-realized concepts it can make your head spin. There is a coffee bar, a juice bar, and a liquor bar, as well as seating for a casual dining menu. Sharing the space (and almost certainly adding to the confusion) will be a seasonal fine-dining restaurant, Table, scheduled to open in November. Then there is Market, which, for the moment, seems to consist of a sparse and improbable selection of jams and olive oils arranged inconveniently on high shelves around a tiny dining area. All of these projects, with their respective waitstaffs, are wedged into the storefront shell recently vacated by Tillman’s Roadhouse, now painted a flat and charmless battleship grey.
A recent lunchtime visit found the place abuzz with servers and baristas, but few customers. My guest and I were seated immediately by an earnest and friendly staffer, who provided us with clipboard menus. We started with a duo of hummus — two baseball-sized scoops of dip served with vegetable sticks and toasted naan. The traditional chickpea hummus was fresh but a bit bland. The second hummus was an unfortunate mixture of mashed black beans, tahini, and too much cumin.
[box_info]Market + Table
2933 Crockett Street, Fort Worth. 817-850-9255. 9am-9pm Sun, 7am-9pm Mon-Thu, 7am-10pm Fri-Sat.
All major credit cards accepted. [/box_info]
The tomato basil soup, as recommended by our server, may have been the standout item of our trip. Spicy, creamy, and smooth, the cheery bisque was a bright spot in the drab, sunless hull of Market.
Fresh-pressed juice seemed like a fun idea, and Market has a festive selection of fruit and vegetable blends spiked with spices and herbs. The presses have cute names like A Craftwork Orange and The Almond Butters. Sadly, on the day of our visit only two juices were available: Pumpkin Spice Spice Baby and Dude Where’s My Carrot? Apparently the kitchen has the unpalatable habit of preparing their juices in advance, though this does allow for more reasonable sizes and prices. The mud-colored mixture of carrot, celery, and cucumber juices with a hint of ginger was nowhere near as lively or as tasty as the soup.
Market’s housemade black bean burger would have been pretty good if it hadn’t tasted an awful lot like the black bean hummus we had eaten earlier. Still, it was generously packed with nuts and topped with quality condiments and zesty pickles. The grilled cheese sandwich with kale pesto was pretty decent — nothing you couldn’t make at home, but perfect for wiping up the last dregs of tomato soup from the bowl.
The big bummer was the autumn panzanella, which ought to be a Tuscan-style salad made with chunks of vegetables and stale hunks of bread soaked in oil and vinegar. Market’s version looked so promising on the menu: arugula, cranberries, pepitas, butternut squash, shallots, and a rosemary vinaigrette. What arrived at the table, however, was a thinly dressed arugula salad, lightly garnished with the other ingredients, and topped with three pitifully stale croutons. Yes, technically everything on the menu was on the plate, but it was a tremendous disappointment.
Certainly any new restaurant will take some time to get things up to speed, but Market + Table is only a new restaurant in the broadest sense. The owners and the chef of Tillman’s Roadhouse opened the place with the idea, presumably, that this mishmash of food services would be better suited to their West 7th neighborhood.
They clearly know how to run a successful restaurant and build a brand, and that’s why their current iteration is puzzling. It is going to take more than the perfectly adequate and utterly unremarkable fare they are currently serving to make much of a splash, and the cluttered concept feels like they are trying to be too many things to too many people.
[box_info]Market + Table
Duo of hummus $8
Tomato basil soup $4 (cup)
Panzanella salad $6 (small)
Black bean burger $8
Big cheese sandwich $8
Carrot ginger juice $3 (small)[/box_info]