PEORIA — Things are not always what they seem.
Take Table 19, the restaurant at the Marriott Pere Marquette hotel in Downtown Peoria, for example.
You might think it's just a fancy place with a high-priced menu, the kind of spot one only suggests for special occasions.
The fact of the matter is that, along with offering an attractive and comfortable dining room, the food served at Table 19 is very affordable.
No, I didn't go down there in the evening for prime rib ($32) or a filet ($35) but, even on the pricier dinner menu, Table 19 entrees hold up well against the fare at other popular restaurants in the area.
We dropped by for lunch, taking time to see how Peoria's oldest hotel was doing. Fresh out of bankruptcy, the place looks to be on its way back.
The ground floor lobby decor is always worth checking out and the smart visual lines continue once you enter the hotel dining room, which is both bright and cheery.
Table 19, by the way, has nothing to do with a movie by the same name of a few years back. That movie recounted a wedding reception where Table 19 was the outcast table. That's the opposite of what occurred in Peoria history.
When the Pere opened in 1926, the most sought-after table in the hotel's restaurant was Table 19, according to a big sign that greets visitors to the dining room.
We slipped into a booth where our server immediately provided water and outlined the daily special — a crispy chicken sandwich with chipotle dressing and a cup of soup ($8). That sounded good to me while my dining companion ordered a candy beet salad ($5) with butternut squash soup ($3).
The soup — in both cases — was delicious. I went with mushroom soup that turned out to be a revelation. It was thick and creamy, bearing an intriguing mix of flavors. As for my companion's squash soup, the fact that it disappeared rapidly indicated it was well received.
The sandwich was more than adequate size wise. The chicken was as crispy as advertised, aligned with lettuce and tomato and a sauce that added flavor without raising one's temperature.
My companion didn't seem to mind that the beet salad wasn't exactly large. Served on a narrow little plate, the salad made his day, he raved.
The luncheon menu is pretty spare with a choice between four different salads and four sandwiches. But you can "pick two" (cup of soup and half-sandwich for $8) or "pick three" (soup, half-salad and half-sandwich for $10).
On a return visit, I might have to try the Marriott burger ($12). That's free-range, grass-fed beef with Table 19 sauce, cheddar and bacon. That comes with your choice of seasoned fries, potato chips, fruit, potato salad or cole slaw.
You can also find that burger on the larger dinner menu.
Lunch or dinner, the bottom line is that you need to add Table 19 to your list of go-to places in Downtown Peoria. Pretend to be visiting Peoria for the first time. You'll be impressed.
Steve Tarter covers city and county government for the Journal Star when he's not working on restaurant reviews. Contact him at 686-3260 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at Twitter@SteveTarter and facebook.com/tartersource.