In the past two weeks, I've eaten twice at Central Market on N. Lamar. It's an interesting experience - chill porch, live music, wine bar, upscale American bistro food. Yet, it's a grocery store.
Granted, this is Austin, headquarters of Whole Foods, which is more an experience than a grocery store with plenty of outdoor and indoor seating, lots of gormet ready-made food options and a bar for everything from juice to gelato.
As one of the area's few rivals to Whole Foods, it makes sense for Central Market to offer something of a dining experience. I'm just not so sure the food rivals Whole Foods. So far, I've tried the apricot chicken salad sandwich and the Mediterranean salad. Both a very fresh with large portions, although a little overpriced.
The chicken salad was the better meal. It wasn't overpowered by mayonnaise, and the apricots created a nice savory-sweet balance. Served on a croissant, it's pretty hearty for a chicken salad sandwich. I opted to go with the french fries as a side, although if you want healthy, you can order fresh fruit. The fries are crunchy on the outside, but still have a soft potato inside and not too greasy.
The Mediterranean salad is huge, filled with kalamata olives, feta cheese, and other Greek/Mediterranean staples. However, you can find a salad just like it at almost any decent American cafe, and I could've eaten a salad half the size for half the price. (It's $10 when you add grilled chicken.)
Overall, Central Market is a nice lunch spot if you have a large group, but it's easier on your wallet to buy ready-made food from the store rather than the cafe. If I had to choose a laid back place for sandwiches and salads, I'd honestly pick somewhere else.
Locations: 4001 N. Lamar and Westgate, 4477 S. Lamar