Sure, it’s convenient to stop at the Marquee Lounge for a beer and a bite to eat before or after a show at Creative Alliance at the Patterson in Highlandtown. But you don’t really need a performance as an excuse to sidle up to the bar or take a seat at one of the restaurant’s bare wood tables. The small, lively bistro is a destination unto itself. For a short time, the Hamilton restaurant Clementine managed the space, installing one of its former sous chefs in the kitchen. When the restaurateurs pulled out of the Creative Alliance, chef Jeremy Price stayed behind to oversee the seasonal, local offerings. And we’re glad he did. He’s constructed a tight, interesting menu with several items that have Asian influences. The food here is unfussy, yet exhilarating. The banh-mi sandwich, for example, is a hearty version of the Vietnamese staple with Berkshire pork belly, silky chicken-liver pâté, house-made sausages, and kimchi vegetables stuffed into a crusty baguette that’s been slathered with chili-lime mayo.

Light fare ranges from wild-mushroom pancakes and sautéed kale to Korean Buffalo wings. We fell in love with the “char-cu-te-rie,” an array of house-smoked duck breast, more of that pâté, a house-made pork terrine, a dollop of excellent blue cheese, house-made pickles, and enough toasted-bread slices for all of the parts. The blackened chicken nachos are easily a table snack: A pile of locally made Tortilleria Sinaloa nachos blanketed with pickled-jalapeño cheese, pico de gallo, and crème fraîche.

The night we visited, there were three entrees—chicken pot pie, a veggie noodle bowl, and a grilled Creekstone Farms steak with chimichurri sauce, mashed potatoes, and mixed vegetables. We’ll definitely go back another night for a full dinner.

The desserts are as homey and earnest as the savory choices. Though the flourless chocolate cake was a temptation, we opted for a good-old-fashioned carrot cake that we’re sure was baked with tender, lovin’ care.

The tiny room was packed the night we visited. It’s a cozy environment with dark brick walls and wood and a bar that basks in a painted mural’s reds, oranges, and yellows—a gorgeous setting to enjoy cocktails, wine, or craft brews. And the bartenders and servers are as congenial as the place.

The restaurant entrance is off the Creative Alliance’s lobby. And while the galleries and stage are a draw, the Marquee Lounge certainly deserves its own starring role.