This post was written by a Butler University student about their experience at one of 40+ restaurants involved in Devour Downtown – a prix-fixe way to experience some of Indianapolis’ best downtown restaurants twice a year. Check out all the posts written about Devour Downtown on the Indiana Insider Blog
I want to preface this by saying I am forced to eat at hotel restaurants…a lot. The chain hotel restaurant sector is one that I am WAY too familiar with. When I found out that I was going to be eating at Circle City Bar & Grill, I figured it would be just a typical hotel restaurant: decent food, not too much spice or flavor (to cater to a wide range of people), awkwardly connected to a hotel lobby and lots of uppity business people discussing stock trends and barely looking up from their meals. I was expecting this type of atmosphere and food from the Marriott Downtown’s restaurant. Luckily I was delightfully surprised with the Marriott and the Circle City Bar & Grill.
For starters, walking in the door was actually a really pleasant experience. It didn’t have the stuffy, closed-in feel that most chain hotels do. Instead the Marriott Downtown was open and looked like more of an upscale shopping center than a hotel. Being connected to the Circle Center mall and having all the elegant conference rooms creates a significantly less “chain hotel-ish” atmosphere. Walking into Circle City was also a shock. It was incredibly open but still private and inviting. It had everything that an upscale restaurant should have: nice table settings, really comfortable but sleek chairs, a comfortable but classy color scheme and nice decorations.
My boss ordered the salad with mandarin oranges and nuts and topped it with grilled salmon. She said the salad was tangy and crisp and was a great take on a traditional oriental salad. Although the salmon was a tiny bit dry, she said it was light but still filling. It was a perfect for lunch! She also commented that the coffee was tasty (also surprising for a hotel chain.)
I had the roasted red pepper and tomato soup for starters and ordered the rigatoni with sweet Italian sausage, teardrop tomatoes and spinach. When the food came I was extremely impressed with the presentation. The soup was garnished with a grilled cheese finger sandwich and a dollop of sour cream. The mini grilled cheese was certainly a delightful surprise. It could be that I’m sucker for grilled cheese and tomato (and apparently red pepper) soup but it was just what I needed on a frigid January afternoon in Indiana.
The soup was creamy (but not heavy) and the red pepper definitely gave it a little more spice and flavor than the typical tomato soup. I would definitely order it again…especially for Devour Downtown Winterfest. I think I ordered the rigatoni for the same reason; I wanted a carb-packed comfort food to keep me full and satisfied for the rest of the day. It was a great choice. There was more than enough sweet Italian sausage with the rigatoni and tomato and spinach, which were all mixed in a light, almost white wine-like sauce. Usually sausage in pasta dishes is dry and overcooked but the sweet Italian sausage was very juicy and savory. I really liked that the pasta and meat was the star of the dish and the veggies were just a nice side flavor.
As a former server I am critical of wait staff and how they manage their tables. That being said, the server at Circle City Bar & Grill did a great job. She kept our drinks refilled and asked us about our meals and gave us extra things but wasn’t overbearing at all. One last pleasant surprise I had was when I got the check. I must have looked confused comparing the bill to the gift certificates and the manager came over right away asking if I had any questions. She could have been watching our table or just walking by, but either way it was very nice to have the manager personally come up to the table and inquire about my confused expression.
Feeding two people with an appetizer, soups, salads, entrées and dessert at a great restaurant for $30 (on the Devour Downtown Winterfest special menu) is a steal. Overall, the meal was an awesome surprise and a great choice for a quality, reasonable meal. Don’t be scared away by the Marriott logo associated with the restaurant. It’s certainly not your average room service meal.