Last weekend my husband and I visited the WheelHouse to take advantage of Restaurant Week’s offerings. We really like visiting the St. Joseph restaurant. It’s not too far of a drive; it feels like we’re doing something by going there. The food is fine dining quality, but the ambiance is casual. It’s the best of both worlds.
We visited the WheelHouse on Saturday evening, and tried two of the three RW menus. Each RW meal includes an appetizer, an entrée, and a dessert for $29.
Image: A poster that says Champaign County Area Restaurant Week 2020 at the top. The remainder details the available menu options at the WheelHouse during Restaurant Week. Image from Visit Champaign County.
I selected the potato fritter appetizer. Served in a closed mason jar, three cheesy potato fritters sat in a spicy marinara sauce. (Smoking chicken was also listed as an ingredient, and as weird as it sounds, I’m not exactly sure where the chicken was in the dish.) The very cool part was that when I opened the lid, a poof of smoke escaped. If only I had someone else recording a video…this dish is Instagram-worthy. Most importantly, though, this appetizer was absolutely delicious. The fritters were fried to a golden, crispy perfection on the exterior, while the inside was smooth, cheesy potato. The sauce added a bright acidity. It was my favorite dish of the entire evening.
Image: Potato fritter appetizer at the WheelHouse. In a closed, hinged-lid mason jar are potato fritters and marinara sauce. The lid is closed, and the inside of the jar looks smoky. A silver spoon is threaded through the hinge on the back of the jar. The jar sits on a wood table. Photo by Jessica Hammie.
Image: Potato fritter appetizer at the WheelHouse. The hinged-lid mason jar is open. In the jar are three potato fritters in a red marinara sauce. Shaved parmesan dusts the top of the fritters. The jar sits on a wood table. Photo by Jessica Hammie.
My husband ordered the mixed greens salad as his appetizer. Served with kalamata olives and an orange-fennel dressing, the salad was simple but well executed.
For our entrées, we selected the roasted curry cauliflower and the root beer braised beef short rib. The roasted curry cauliflower was served with quinoa, Cahokia brown rice, broccoli, onion, garlic, and black beans. All of the components in the dish were nicely seasoned and cooked. This warm rice bowl with plenty of protein and carbs was comforting on a chilly night.
Image: Curry cauliflower and brown rice bowl at the WheelHouse. The bowl is white and a wavy square shape. In the bowl are brown rice, quinoa, broccoli, black beans, and cauliflower. The bowl sits on a wood table. Photo by Jessica Hammie.
The root beer braised short rib was served with Cahokia brown rice and mixed winter vegetables. The rice was perfectly cooked, but the veggies leaned a little more into the crisp part of crisp-tender. The short rib itself was sadly disappointing — it was tough and dry. Though the rice and veggies were flavorful on their own, I think the dish would have benefitted from the addition of the braising liquid, or some other sauce.
Image: Braised beef short rib with brown rice and vegetables at the WheelHouse. In a white, rounded triangular bowl are brown rice, broccoli, carrots, and a square piece of beef short rib. The bowl sits on a wood table. Photo by Jessica Hammie.
I quickly forgot about the underwhelming entrée as soon as the desserts arrived. This week’s dessert choices are caramel bread pudding with vanilla ice cream, spiced hot chocolate crème brulee with marshmallows and whipped cream, and an apple and cherry turnover with cinnamon ice cream, whipped cream and powdered sugar. We opted for the latter two, since we’ve already tried the bread pudding at WheelHouse. (It’s fantastic.)
Image: Apple and cherry turnover dessert at the WheelHouse is garnished with cinnamon ice cream and whipped cream, both on the left side of the plate. The turnover is triangularly shaped and sitting on a square white plate on a wood table. Photo by Jessica Hammie.
The apple and cherry turnover was generously portioned for one. The filling was sweet-tart, and paired nicely with the buttery crust. The highlight of the dish, though, was the cinnamon ice cream. It was perfect. Perfect! It’s made in-house, and I’m wondering if there is any possible way for me to acquire a pint of this deliciousness so I can continue to enjoy it in my house. I really enjoyed this dessert and gobbled it up pretty quickly.
Image: Spiced hot chocolate crème brulee dessert at the WheelHouse is garnished with whipped cream and several small, charred marshmallows. The crème brulee is a rich, dark brown, and served in a small round bowl. The bowl sits on a wood table. Photo by Jessica Hammie.
Over the years I’ve tried a few iterations of the WheelHouse’s crème brulee and have always been impressed. This spiced hot chocolate crème brulee was no different. That little bit of spice in the chocolate was so lovely — I can only describe it with a chef’s kiss. It wasn’t too spicy, or too gritty, or too smoky; it was exactly what I want in a spiced chocolate dessert. The crispy sugar shell on top was equally yummy, and is there anything more satisfying than cracking the burnt sugar top with a spoon? This crème brulee had me wanting to lick the bowl, but since that isn’t really appropriate, I instead tried to scrape every little bit out of the bowl with my spoon.
Even though one of the entrées was disappointing, on the whole, dinner at the WheelHouse never is. The potato fritter appetizer and the desserts were absolutely delicious and memorable. The service is always wonderful; the staff is friendly and accommodating. St. Joe isn’t all that far, and there’s plenty of parking. If you’re looking to treat yourself to dinner this week, bump the WheelHouse to top of your list.
109 N Main St
T-Th 5 to 10 p.m.
F + Sa 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Su 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Restaurant Week Menu available after 4 p.m.