Hometown Eats: Martin’s Downtown

Published: Jan. 19, 2023 at 3:23 PM EST
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - Roanoke Restaurant Week kicks off Friday, featuring over 2 dozen restaurants. One has perfected the fine balance between a quick lunch and sitdown steak dinner with a show. We’re checking out Martin’s Downtown for Hometown Eats.

“I just need a good burger, then you need to come to Martin’s to get that, or I just need a really good BBQ sandwich. Come to Martin’s, we have you covered,” said Martin’s Downtown director of operations Jason Martin.

Both delicious options, but don’t pigeonhole this joint into just sandwiches and burgers, Martin’s Downtown has built a reputation on block parties, daily specials, and a deep menu.

“It’s been a great fun ride. I still feel like our best days are ahead of us, I feel like every day we’re getting better and more creative,” said Martin.

Jason Martin opened this neighborhood bar and grill in 2005 and much like downtown, Martin’s evolved quite a bit over the last 18 years.

“We wear a lot of different hats whether you come in here for a great lunch or you want to come in for happy hour or dinner and some trivia or music bingo or whether you’re going to be here later in the evening and enjoy a live band. There’s a little something for everybody,” said Martin.

You can catch live music at Martin’s five days a week, maybe seeing the next great band on the way up, but it’s the fan-voted dining guide awards that Jason might be most proud of.

“Best can’t-miss daily specials. Best bar food. Best music. Best chili. Best wings. Best happy hour. We always love to get those accolades,” Martin proudly listed.

And one look in the kitchen explains why. Daily fresh ingredients, made to order.

“Our lunch clientele we feel really wants a nice fresh salad, especially in January, when everyone is trying to get back on their diets. Then when the weather starts to turn and warm up, people want that lighter food, so lots of great fresh-cut veggies and all that good stuff,” joked Martin.

Keeping it light? Try the black and blue tuna appetizer.

“Black with a Cajun spice and we’ll serve that with a blue cheese fondue,” explained Martin.

But if you like to start with a crunch, check out the Soul Rolls with pulled pork, pimento cheese and collard greens served with a Carolina BBQ sauce.

Maybe you need a hearty bowl of chili for the cold winter days. You’ll find award-winning 3-pepper bison chili or white bean chicken chili paired with a grilled cheese on a buttered, thick-cut artisan sourdough.

Hungry for something a little fancier? Beef tenderloin skewers covered with a house Chimichurri sauce with brussels sprouts and that to-die-for mac and cheese.

These are just a few of the wide variety of options you’ll find on the menu at Martin’s.

But after nearly 20 years, one might ask Jason what’s next. He’ll tell you about his passion project next door called Sidecar. It’s an upscale dining and spirits experience opened a few weeks before the COVID pandemic shut down restaurants in 2020. Not ideal, but it gave Martin and his team the chance to expand the dining room and iron out what they wanted from the new venture.

“Definitely kind of apples to oranges to Martin’s, but still great food and really focusing on the service. It has a beautiful atmosphere with some really nice touches like the quartz bar top. It’s just a really great room, a special room and we’re having a lot of fun. I have a great staff over there and it’s been great to see it evolve to what it’s become,” said Martin.

So, whether it’s a quick bite for lunch, tackling trivia while chowing down the burger of the month, or you’re looking for a long stay with dinner and a show, Martin’s could be the next chapter in your book of life.

“We’ve seen people meet here and kindle relationships and we’ve had some engagements and people who have met their wife or husband here. There’s some fun stories like that so it definitely makes us a hometown destination and an institution-type restaurant that we strive to be, just somebody you can count on,” Martin proudly said.

Martin’s Downtown, a hometown eat that’s always better with a little sidecar. Martin’s is at 413 1st St SW, Roanoke, VA 24011.