Bistro leaves critic lukewarm

The Downtown Mall Bistro is a quiet place that doesn’t try too hard.

Instead of CDs, you’ll hear the radio.

The yellow wall tiles don’t quite match the Christmas–colored wallpaper, but that’s okay; they’re not supposed to.

The flowers aren’t real, but why would they be?

This is where you come to have an easy sit–down lunch with friends, not to scrutinize the little things.

You shouldn’t wait for someone to seat you; bring cash or a checkbook.

Also, sit facing the window. That way you’ll be able to watch interesting Meadville folks smoking cigarettes and waiting for the CATA.

At the Bistro breakfast is served all day. After talking to the owner, I discovered omelets are especially popular, ranging from cheese omelets ($3.99) to the Sirloin Steak Omelet ($6.45), and each is served with home fries and toast.

Every morning the Downtown Mall Bistro offers a different breakfast special such as corned beef hash omelets or seasonally appropriate pumpkin pancakes. Their homemade chili is a favorite (bowl $3.75, cup $2.59).

The menu contains what one would expect of a typical small-town diner, the main perk being its affordability.

Sandwiches, wraps and burgers start around $6 but, sadly, don’t come with fries (you can add fries or soup for $1.50).

Going along with the feel of the restaurant, we weren’t particularly adventurous in our orders.

I had the ham and cheese sandwich on toasted pretzel bread ($5.99); the cheese was melted and the bread had just the right crunch to it.

One of my friends got the chicken tender basket, served with fries and applesauce ($5.95) and another got French toast and ordered bacon ($5.49).

The French toast was sprinkled in powdered sugar and cut in diagonals, just the way I like it, but I thought the bacon could have used a bit more grease.

Since the restaurant was almost empty we had the waitress pretty much to ourselves. She did all the things a good waitress should do, which included refilling my water glass promptly at least three times.

For the duration of our meal, I don’t think we saw more than seven or eight other faces.

Maybe Saturdays are slow, but there is no reason to assume a positive correlation between a restaurant’s activity and its quality.

On the plus side, since the restaurant was almost empty we had the waitress pretty much to ourselves –– she was friendly and on top of things.

Admittedly, though, the portions are slightly below average. That makes sense, though, given that the bistro only serves breakfast and lunch. If you are really, really hungry, this might not be the best place to dine.

All in all, The Downtown Mall Bistro does what it’s supposed to do.

I don’t recommend taking a girl on a date there, but it’s worth trying out with a couple of friends if you’re in the mood for some pretty good food.