Hotel restaurants typically fall into one of two categories: separate entities with waitstaff and a full menu or counter-based service with limited offerings. The former is designed to be enjoyed by hotel guests and could appeal to passersby. The latter will cater largely toward the hotel guests — convenient bites just an elevator ride away.

But can a person off the street take advantage of hotel offerings not geared toward them? Well, hungry after a Tuesday night Happy’s Run Club, my companions and I certainly tried at The Bistro, a breakfast and dinner spot inside the Courtyard by Marriott downtown.

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The Bistro's seasonal watermelon and goat cheese salad

I will admit, we were expecting the full-restaurant experience, to the point we were a little concerned about being waited on in our sweaty athletic garb. But there was no reason to be worried, as we ordered from the counter and were directed to a booth to wait for our dishes.

Our cashier was also bartender and cook, so the service was slow. But she was pleasant and made sure to bring out the food as it was ready so we could nibble as we waited for the rest.

My vegetarian companion ordered the three-cheese grilled cheese and tomato soup ($10.50). The grilled cheese was gooey without being too heavy, and while we had the distinct impression the soup was premade, it was thick, tasted of real tomatoes and not overly salty.

Another companion ordered the green goddess chicken BLT ($12.50), which came out as a salad rather than as the listed sandwich. It had the same ingredients, though, so it wasn’t a terrible mix-up. The green goddess dressing was a clear star and it made its way onto nearly every other part of our spread. The bacon was better than expected and the lettuce was remarkably fresh.

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The seasonal squash and pesto flatbread

The seasonal watermelon goat cheese salad ($9) was a shockingly tasty, complex dish. It was light and refreshing, the watermelon juicy and sweet, the goat cheese a perfect tangy topping. Basil leaves mixed with the lettuce lent an herby pop to the palate, and the garlic vinaigrette brought over by the server balanced it all out.

My roasted herb chicken breast ($15.75) was unremarkable, but serviceable, though the accompanying broccolini was oversalted. I also ordered the seasonal mango margarita ($10.50) for fun, and though I admit I am no margarita expert, I found it perfectly sweet without an overpowering taste of alcohol (my preference).

The table shared the seasonal summer squash flatbread ($11), which was another pleasant surprise. The flatbread was crisp without being crunchy and the squash topping was a subtle savory note that paired well with the richer cheese and herby pesto base.

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A breakfast meal of avocado toast, seasonal lemon yogurt bowl with vanilla granola and a small Starbucks coffee at The Bistro inside downtown Marriott.

I went another day to sample the breakfast menu, ordering the avocado toast ($12), the seasonal vanilla lemon yogurt bowl ($6.50) and a small chai latte with almond milk ($4). Service was by another sweet server but once again slow, though there was a chef in the back who brought out my yogurt bowl in a to-go container despite the fact I was eating in.

The lemon was a tart counterpoint to the Greek yogurt, and the vanilla granola added needed crunch, but it was pretty unremarkable. The toast lacked the pickled red onions and toasted tomatoes advertised on the menu, but the mashed avocado was fresh and generously applied. Adding the sea salt on the side ended up being a mistake, but I picked off the large grains and salvaged it.

The dinner menu had an admirable range of flavors with affordable prices and large portions. And although the service was slow, the women who were the catchall workers on both visits were sweet and attentive.

But if you happen to be wandering by at breakfast time, keep walking. The Bistro’s breakfast was underwhelming and mine certainly didn’t taste like it warranted $30.

If you’re not staying at the Courtyard by Marriott, you’ll never know The Bistro is there, and it wouldn’t be a culinary loss by any stretch. But if you do happen to wander in, perhaps from the adjacent Starbucks, you’ll find offerings a step above most counter-type hotel options.


The Bistro

Inside the Courtyard by Marriott, 206 Third St.

Breakfast served 6:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.; dinner served 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. daily

(225) 831-4646; marriott.com

Pros: Dinner menu is fresh with a decent range of offerings; pleasant servers

Cons: Breakfast menu is average and overpriced; slow service


Email Natalie Duleba at nduleba@theadvocate.com.