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Style and Substance

The chef-driven Market to Table doesn’t forsake flavor in its search for beauty.

Market to Table opened in the Roper Garden Building in Historic Downtown Winter Garden in 2016 but its roots had already begun to grow in the area several years prior at the district’s popular Saturday farmers market, where chef/owner Ryan Freelove would sell soups, salad dressings, butters and marinades. When the restaurant Al Fresco decided to vacate its space, Freelove took the opportunity to go from farmers market stand to full-service restaurant.

My friend and I arrived at the restaurant for an early dinner on a recent Saturday evening for our reservation and were seated in the intimate dining room. There is a small, screened patio for people looking to eat outdoors. Although it was white tablecloth, I found the dining room casual and not overly fussy.

Our server came by to get our drink order and explained to us that the menu is just a simple printed paper because the restaurant often changes offerings depending on what is in season and what the chef is interested in doing. However, there are a few mainstays that tend to stick around, including a chicken dish and the beef short ribs.

For drinks, we ordered specialty cocktails, although I was tempted to instead pick a wine as there was a nice selection with plenty of by-the-glass options. The beer selection—not so much. But there were some craft beers and a few bottle offerings from the Crooked Can Brewery, which is located a few blocks down from the restaurant.

I ordered the Pearly Lei ($12), a blend of vodka, macadamia nut liqueur, passion fruit and coconut. Served in a martini glass, this drink was sweet and creamy with a pleasant citrus-like undertone. My friend ordered the Witch Doctor’s Mule ($13), which consisted of Jura single-malt scotch, elderflower and housemade honey-ginger shrub. The mule came in a copper mug and with a garnish of burnt rosemary that was still smoking when it got to the table. We both loved the rosemary in this drink, which added a pine-like aroma and gave the cocktail an herbal kick.

For our first appetizer, we ordered the Mozzarella Burrata ($9). The mozzarella was served on a bed of greens with slices of melon, a dried piece of prosciutto, crostini and a balsamic drizzle. The mozzarella was warm and soft and went well with the melon.

For our second appetizer, we ordered the Bone Marrow ($13) primarily because I was so curious about how it would be served. You don’t often see bone marrow on menus in Central Florida. The presentation did not disappoint as we were served up a large bone that had been cut in half to expose the cavity and two large pieces of focaccia. The spread was delicious and what a tactile experience scooping marrow right from the bone—certainly worth trying if you haven’t done it before.

Our server did inform us that there were several steak cuts available but not listed on the menu. However, for our entrées, we opted for the Lake Meadows Farms Chicken ($26) and the Beef Short Rib ($28). It is worth noting that besides a few salad dishes and one pasta entrée, the menu at Market to Table is meat and seafood heavy, so if you’re vegan or vegetarian, you might feel limited in what you can order.

The chicken, which is harvested from the nearby Lake Meadows Farm, came positioned on top of truffle risotto in a pool of jus with a spattering of edible flowers. It was a beautiful presentation and the food was just as good as it looked. The chicken skin was crispy and the meat inside was moist while the savory risotto added a creaminess to each bite.

According to our server, the Beef Short Rib is the most popular item on the menu, so we were excited to try it. It came atop a potato puree with a red wine jus and a side of the seasonal vegetable, which was romanesco. It is easy to see why this dish is a favorite. The beef was so tender it slipped right off the bone and melted in your mouth.

For dessert, we ordered the Raspberry Macaron ($10). It was a giant macaron sandwich filled with raspberries and chantilly cream with a vanilla gelato drizzle. Again, it was a wowing presentation. The flavors were all there too: bright, sharp raspberry and sweet, soft cream with a chewy cookie. However, we were given spoons to eat it and it was hard to get a piece of the dessert without squishing the whole thing. I’m not sure if a knife to cut it up would’ve been any help.

But overall, from the moment we sat down to our last dish, Market to Table impressed us with its beautiful presentations and tasty offerings. In no way is style sacrificed for substance. Here, the plates are gorgeous but so are the flavors. And with a chef-driven menu changing with the seasons, we’ll certainly be back to see what else Freelove will come up with next.

Market to Table
146 W. Plant St. | Winter Garden
407-395-9871 |

This article originally appeared in Orlando Family Magazine’s November 2019 issue.