Native Tulsans don't often consider a hotel as a place to dine. The only time you might even explore hotel options in Tulsa may be when family comes to town. I, however, like to take in-town vacations. There's nothing like wallowing around in a fluffy, ridiculously large bed, watching free HBO and ordering room service right here in Tulsa. Inside that room, you could very well be anywhere in the world. Many local hotels house the best hidden treasures for restaurants that delight not only out-of-towners, but also for locals.
Recently there has been a surge in hotel presence in downtown Tulsa and one of the most unique reincarnations is the Courtyard Marriott which dove inside the iconic Atlas Life Building. It was a brilliant rearrangement of space, keeping the soul of the place -- like marble walls and classic elevators -- while adding modern amenities any traveler needs. Not only is a classic building functional, it remains historic. It's an honest-to-goodness 'boutique' hotel, which is quirky, lovely -- but not meant for certain things.
I sauntered in to the art deco delight that is the Atlas Life Building and hit the second floor where The Bistro at Courtyard Marriott was designed to "Eat, Drink, Connect." Just a few paces to the left, you have arrived. A large counter with a sign that says "Order Here" is surrounded by a unique lounge area. Bright, modern décor was comfortable -- welcoming. The only remnants of the building before it were the classic windows and the familiar view of downtown. There were plenty of cozy nooks to not only relax, but "plug in" and check up and catch up online.
I can't say figuring out the protocol at The Bistro is easy. I actually asked the front desk if I was at the right place. Behind the large, wrap-around bar was a wine, beer, liquor selection. There were some beer specials for that day, but in general, hotel pricing was definitely in effect. The Meridian pinot grigio was $7, but cocktails and other meat-and-potato wines ranged up to $10.
You place your order at a counter in the middle of the brightly-lit, uber-modern room. It isn't a true dining room, however. There was only one person behind the bar. And she was also the chef. Her can-do attitude was outstanding, but the system worked against her. The chef is not present on Fridays and Saturdays.
Signage boasted seared salmon, steak and pasta dishes on signage in the elevator, but alas not a single entrée listed on the menu was available, which included seared salmon, bbq ribs, herb-roasted chicken. Oh, and no soup (broccoli cheese) and no Asian salad. The menu was an ocean of options, yet not a bite to eat. It seems counter-intuitive, but it's the business plan. They cater to travelers' unique needs -- comfy, rounded booths with a television directly in front and their very own remote? Heavenly! This was more like a coffee shop on steroids. Not a romantic place to experience food -- you eat food here. Keep in mind, this building was for offices. The Bistro is more of a convenience to hotel guests than it is a restaurant. But even from a guest state of mind, the set-up was confusing.
Limited to the abridged menu, the salads and appetizers received more attention. The Lettuceworks section offered a Perfect Caesar Salad ($8.25, with chicken $10.25). It was a nicely-flavored dressing, but there was a lot of it on some less than lovely specimens of romaine. I won't get into the semantics of "perfect," but the price tag added insult to injury.
The Buffalo wings (only six for $8.95) got me a'flutter, with flavors like Thai chili, BBQ or classic buffalo. I ordered up the classic flavored, and they were not wet wings. They had a crispy, salty, not-too-spicy exterior. It included a standard bleu cheese with a few sprigs of carrots.
The French Dip was a solid offering. The bread had a nice chewy texture that soaked up a standard but not-too-salty au jous. Melted cheddar cheese covered nice slices of roast beef. Not sandwich-sized, but thick, quality slices. It came with cole slaw and a choice of chips, vegetable sticks or fresh fruit. I opted for fresh fruit. I was asked if I wanted green or red apple or banana. I asked for a green apple and my faithful attendant went the extra mile to look in back for one. So, fresh fruit means the whole fruit -- easy to take on the go.
The Bistro Burger (single $8.95, double $11.25) is topped with Wisconsin cheddar, bacon, lettuce, tomatoes and bistro sauce. The beef patty was thick and tasty, and the bistro sauce was a creamy, spicy mix that I enjoyed. It was served with a nice crinkle-cut fry.
Clearly, this is not a locale built for a Friday or Saturday night. They aren't meant to serve the leisurely, vacationing guest. Imagine you are a stranger in a strange land. You aren't here to dilly-dally, you need the basics: good coffee, a makeshift office and a comfortable place to land. If you are a Tulsan, you are best served by heading to Atlas Grill for a true artisan lunch, or take a short jaunt down the sidewalk to Edward Delk's for some supper and a classy cocktail. But if you are a guest in Tulsa, who just wants a cup of hot Starbucks™ Coffee and a quick nibble before you dash to the next meeting, The Bistro Café will fit the bill.
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