When I first heard I was reviewing a cafeteria style eating establishment, the fine dining girl inside me clutched her imaginary pearls and coughed into her crystal glass of prosecco. Okay, it was a tumbler of pinot grigio, but that’s neither here nor there. I have to carry a tray? Walk around and order my food? Make my own salad? Dispense my own drink? Nope. It was all too much. So to say I was pretty impressed at the ease with which the whole process went down, as well as how much I enjoyed my meal, is a big deal.

My friend and I hit up Betsy’s Bistro at the Fields at prime lunch time on a Wednesday afternoon. Neither of us are Carle/Health Alliance employees, so we learned together that it is located within the Carle/HA administrative building. After a short walk through the lobby, we came upon Betsy’s. Bright, clean, inviting and busy, it was typical of a corporate style cafeteria. 

My friend and I meandered around for a few minutes to check out all of our options. While we knew we would be dining in, we were both drawn to the grab and go case which was packed with healthy, fresh options for anyone on the run. Fruit, veggies and hummus, cheese and nuts, salads, sub sandwiches, sushi and even keto friendly snacks. There is a section called Delights, which featured cupcakes, cookies and specialty coffee. Betsy’s Bistro even has take and bake pizza ($13, order ahead of time online) and family meals for two or four. They also offer hot and cold catering options for meetings, retreats, and conferences.

Betsy’s has what they call Sizzle Lunch, which is made to order foods fresh off the grill. I chose to go with the hot ham and cheese ($5). An incredibly kind and lovely woman who referred to me as “honey” multiple times rolled some good old fashioned white bread in a whole lot of butter, threw a plentiful amount of ham on the griddle to warm up, and placed two giant slices of cheddar on the bread. I knew this bad boy was going to be good. While my sandwich melded into a beautiful package of meaty and cheesy goodness, I made my way over to the Global Station which features “entrees from around the world, as well as comforting classics from around the corner.” Each day is a different global special. I was pretty excited to see that this particular Wednesday was chicken or tofu pad thai and a veggie egg roll ($7.25). I served myself a decent portion, along with some crushed peanuts and sweet and sour sauce on the side. My friend, a self-proclaimed connoisseur of all things leafy and green, chose to make a plate from the salad bar.

Once we grabbed our drinks, black tea for her, diet coke for me ($1.25 each), we made our way to the cashier — another sweet and friendly employee, by the way. Salads are weighed to determine the price and my friend's 2 lb. salad was $9.15. Initially I thought this seemed excessive, but my friend said the price was cheaper, or comparable to, other salad bars that she frequents. My dining partner is a legitimate salad elitist and she was thrilled with her meal. She said she would come back just for the kale salad. The kale was marinated in an olive oil-based dressing just long enough to soften up the crunchy green without making it soggy. The sweet cranberries and almonds added in another texture and flavor that she really enjoyed. The remainder of her plate was basic salad bar fare which she dressed with a light honey mustard.

While she enjoyed her healthy plate, the carb lover in me was thoroughly devouring all the deliciousness of my hot ham and cheese. I’m a condiment girl at heart and didn’t even miss it on this sandwich. I couldn’t wait to dive into my chicken pad thai, but unfortunately it fell a bit flat. It was lacking in flavor and the texture was dry and sticky, not typical of other pad thai dishes I’ve had. The egg roll was crunchy and had plenty of veggies stuffed inside. The sweet and sour sauce, which had just a subtle hint of spice, accented it well.

This former cafeteria snob has turned over a new leaf. Whether you’re looking for a quick snack on the go, or lunch with a friend, the casual atmosphere, friendly staff and abundant meal choices makes Betsy’s a great breakfast or lunch option in Southwest Champaign. Follow them on social media for updates on daily specials.

Betsy’s Bistro at the Fields
3310 Fields S Dr
Champaign
M-Th 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
F 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Top photo from Betsy's Bistro Facebook page; all other photos by Stephanie Wheatley