Time was when one went to a restaurant largely to be excused from kitchen duties, and to be served by other people. But cooking is now a glamorous activity, indulged in with fun and laughter by those with well-developed recreational proclivities. Professionals part-takers are like sports stars (not movie stars; you still have to look good to be famous doing anything on the screen). And so, in recent years, we get restaurants in which customers are in the kitchen, watching the work being done and feeling as if they were part of it, not merely a consumer. You even leave the restaurant with a need to have your clothes dry-cleaned, from absorbing the kitchen aromas. Here is one such place.
If the idea of being four feet away from where your entire dinner is prepared sounds fascinating, Carrollton Market is the place for you. Although the rest of the dining area is standard, the stools at the food bar allow you not only to watch the cooking, but to ask the cooks questions about it all. You really don't have to look at the menu--just wait until they cook something that looks good, then point your finger at it. This is not the cleaned-up act like at Commander's Palace's chef's table. You see the kitchen as kitchens really are.
Chef-owner Jason Goodenough (what an interesting name for a chef!) opened Carrollton Market in early 2014, after a career that included culinary school, restaurants, corporate and private cooking. The building is a reconfigured former residence, in what had been the historic market area of the old Town of Carrollton. Numerous previous restaurants passed through, the best of them being Frankie's Cafe, Padrino's, and One. All of them struggled with the small size of the restaurant, although One did better than most by installing the counter in front of the kitchen line, which gave the place uniqueness.
Even with nine seats at the food bar, this is a small restaurant, with little tables and an odd traffic pattern. The tables farthest from the door are intimate, and keep you out of the cold breezes intruding from winter outside and well away from the kitchen. A full-service bar to the right of the entrance is capable of making craft cocktails and offering well-chosen wines. The service staff is knowledgeable and attentive, but if the place is busy you experience gaps in service a little longer than you're used to. The kitchen is taxed to the max. A dining partner said, "It's like watching traffic in Rome. Everybody veers around at top speed, barely missing one another!"
On a first visit--and perhaps all subsequent--the food bar is the place to be. Ask for and follow recommendations of the service staff and the chef, too.