It’s Restaurant Week in Champaign County. With twenty-five participating restaurants, there are plenty of options. We’ve outlined the menus, offered suggestions, and now we have some reviews for you. We’ll update this article daily, so be sure to check back over the course of the week. Restaurant Week continues through Saturday, February 3rd. 

Happy dining!

— Jessica Hammie, Food & Drink Editor

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Baxter’s Bar and Grille | 100 Trade Center Drive, Champaign

Lunch

My boyfriend and I decided to have Baxter’s for lunch on the first Friday of Restaurant Week to kick off the weekend. We decided to try lunch since we have had Baxter’s for dinner before and enjoyed it. Baxter’s Restaurant Week lunch menu was also only $9 for an entrée with included side, and a dessert, which is a pretty great deal.

We arrived at 11 a.m. when the restaurant opened and were the first customers there, though other people quickly trickled in as we were seated. Since we were able to preview the Restaurant Week menu beforehand, we already knew what we wanted to order. I chose the Southwest BLT with fries and my boyfriend ordered the Chicken Melt with chips. Our server was prompt with placing our orders and our entrées were delivered to us shortly.

My Southwest BLT included spicy jalapeno bacon, tomato and lettuce with house guacamole and roasted red pepper aioli sandwiched between grilled sourdough bread. Though I usually eat BLTs in the summer, I was happy to have one in January. The bacon had a hint of the jalapeno but wasn’t too spicy. The roasted red pepper aioli seemed spicier to me, and I wished there was more of it on my sandwich; it was the same with the house guacamole. But the sandwich itself tasted great and made me wish for warmer days. My side of fries was well seasoned and came with a side of ketchup.

The chicken melt included grilled chicken breast topped with Swiss cheese, applewood bacon, tomato, lettuce, and basil mayo on a pretzel bun. It was a good, hearty sandwich. My boyfriend enjoyed the sandwich and the house made chips that came with it.

After eating our entrées and sides, we were already pretty full but realized we also had dessert coming our way. For dessert, I ordered the crème brulee and my boyfriend ordered the gooey butter cake. We have had the gooey butter cake before and loved it. This time was no different. If you have not tried the gooey butter cake at Baxter’s yet, I highly recommend it, though I also recommend sharing it with someone because it is a lot of dessert and very sweet. It was almost as sweet as, and similar in texture to cake batter and was finished with a caramel drizzle, fresh berries, and a mint leaf. It also came with two scoops of chocolate ice cream and even though the ice cream is sweet, it helps counter the extreme sugar high that you get from the cake.

My crème brulee was also wonderful and also a generous portion that could be shared between two people. The marshmallow-y custard and the torched top layer make for a great combination of textures that really wakes up the taste buds. It was also topped with some fresh berries and mint leaf. While we don’t typically order dessert at lunch, these desserts were a welcomed addition to our lunch date.

— Brittany Busboom
Photos by Brittany Busboom

Dinner

The restaurant space in the Wolfram building on Neil and Kirby in Champaign dates back to the early 90s, when TGI Friday’s opened up to ravenous crowds, celebrated in films like Cocktail, and that made the locals feel just a bit more cosmopolitan. After its 20+ year run, a new restaurant called Prairie Fire opened in its place, and it was arguably the worst attempt at a steakhouse in the history of this city, from my perspective. 
 
Two years ago, Baxter’s American Grille, that has its original and only other location in Bloomington, IL, opened in the same spot. It’s a restaurant I’ve been to, and it’s got food that I like. So I was happy to see them participating in Restaurant Week. 
 
 
The special menu for the promotion is affordable and yummy. $19 will get you a soup or salad, plus a choice of three entrees, and a dessert. And although the kitchen isn’t offering diners anything new or creative that strays from its menu (all items offered are available on the regular dinner menu), the quality of food and the level of service makes this a worthwhile night out that won’t break the bank. 
 
My wife and I were greeted warmly; our host Sidney was not only friendly, but talkative in the best ways, asking about our day, if we were celebrating anything special, and when we told her it was just a date night for us tired ass parents, she asked about our children, with genuine and sincere interest. It’s the sort of thing that truly helps make a meal. Staff that smiles and greets their patrons can be assured that missteps later in the meal are forgiven easier, and generally, without much concern. 
 
Curtis was our waiter, and had a big, fun personality. He explained the promotion, and offered us suggestions for drinks and wine, and smiled the whole way through. 
 
We both went for the Brazilian kabobs, because it’s what appealed to both of us the most. Smothered chicken and poached cod were options, but the prospect of grilled steak with chimicurri (a house favorite for us) and fresh vegetable kabobs over rice is basically the type of food we prepare when we are at home. 
 
 
We decided on a Caesar salad and the soup, which was a cream of asparagus. Both were perfectly delicious, although the soup was served a little lukewarm, which made it a touch gummy as I got to the bottom. The Caesar, while not the greatest we’ve ever had, was dressed appropriately. Which is to say, it wasn’t drowning in it. The croutons were crunchy, and the flavor was on point. Again though, the lettuce wasn’t ice cold, and the plate was slightly warm. Both are factors with a Caesar salad. Still though, it was good. 
 
 
The entrees were served, and timed well with the finish of our appetizers. Both plates were bright and colorful and our steak kabobs were cooked perfectly to temp at medium rare. That’s not easy, with cuts this small, and the chef should be proud of its line for executing so well. The vegetables were also cooked the right way, just toothsome enough to give in to a bite, but certainly not underdone. The rice was… rice. But it wasn’t mushy at all, and was a nice vehicle to sop up the chimichurri and juices from the steak as we finished the meal. 
 
Dessert was to be creme brulee and Dutch apple crisp, but alas, they were out of both. I asked Curtis if that was rare and he told us that the Restaurant Week promotion had them slammed. He was apologetic, and offered us any other dessert from the regular menu, and so we chose the mixed berry Napoleon. The picture won’t do it justice. It’s the type of dessert that comes out and all the tables around you start gawking and pointing at it because it’s so huge and dwarfs everything else around it. It’s for four people, really. We enjoyed it, although there was no chance we were going to finish it. We did the best we could, and called it a night. 
 
 
Ultimately, this was a really delicious and affordable evening out. Our costs for a babysitter notwithstanding, the check came out to $42 after tax, and for what we were offered, it was an absolute steal. 
 
— Seth Fein
Photos by Justine Bursoni

C&C Kitchen | 107 E Sangamon Ave, Rantoul

Early in our relationship my husband and I tried to go to New Orleans every few years. Not to age us too much, but it’s been a while since we made it back. We chase the feeling of being there from time to time by eating somewhere with great Cajun food and atmosphere. Restaurant Week 2018 provided us with the perfect opportunity to pretend we were once again lunching in the Big Easy by visiting C & C Kitchen, and we took it.

The Restaurant Week deal is pretty straightforward: two po’ boys with fries for $15. Normally this meal could run as much as $24 depending on which two sandwiches you pick (the brisket and alligator po’ boys top the price range at $12 each; the shrimp po’ boy normally sells for $10 and the catfish for $9). There isn’t a wrong turn to be made on their menu, so it was tough to choose. The fact that it was the Saturday lunch rush and we were far from the only people needing our waitress’ attention helped us blurt out the two that spoke to our souls: shrimp and alligator.

Sides other than fries include either red beans and rice, or greens for a $2 upcharge or mac and cheese for an additional $3. At our waitress’ recommendation we sprung for the mac and cheese; I can’t imagine I’ve ever spent that little on something that delicious. The sauce was flawlessly lush and creamy, but I couldn’t put my finger on what gave it an almost woodsy flavor. Reading SP’s earlier review of C & C I realized it may have been Gouda, but before I did that my best guess was filé powder (ground sassafras leaves).

shrimp po' boy

Similarly, the seasoning on the shrimp seemed more nuanced than what comes from a typical Cajun spice mix. The light breading complemented the flavor well. By contrast, the alligator tasted like salt was the only embellishment and it was coated in a deep, crunchy breading. I believe you have to really know your way around a fryer to pull off both ends of the spectrum like that.

alligator po' boy

My husband and I liked both but declared alligator the winner. I guess that’s the main benefit to choosing the deal; when you put two delicious sandwiches next to each other in head-to-head competition it’s easy to find out which one you’d get next time. Having said that, I can’t imagine we’d have been disappointed if we’d only gotten to try the shrimp — it was delicious. Besides that, everything else about a fully dressed po’ boy from C & C — the hearty bread that doesn’t upstage the ingredients, the fresh greens and tomato, the silky remoulade sauce — make it a sandwich that would still taste pretty great without meat.

The only downside to getting the Restaurant Week deal, as I saw it, was that we watched amazing-looking dishes sail past us to other tables that we couldn’t order, having committed to checking out the special. If that gives us an excuse to go back soon, though, I can’t really consider it a downside at all (chicken and waffles, I’m coming for you).

— Rachael McMillian

Photos by Rachael McMillian

Hamilton Walker’s | 201 N Neil St, Champaign

My husband and I visited Hamilton Walker’s on the first Friday of Restaurant Week. We arrived just before 7 p.m., and the place was packed. We grabbed the two remaining seats at the bar. The service at the bar was pleasant, if a little busy — there were three or four people taking care of the bar patrons, as well as mixing drinks for the entire restaurant. It was loud, and there was a lot happening.

The RW menu included soup (corn chowder) or salad, two-3oz filets or salmon with mashed potatoes and green beans, and a slice of chocolate cake for $19. My previous experiences at Hamilton Walker’s have not been entirely positive, so I was excited about the prospect of trying the restaurant again at a bargain price. Normally, this meal combination would be about $50, though I imagine that if you ordered each item individually the sides would be large enough for sharing. That’s still a steal — which really should have been a red flag.

The salad was fine — it was what you might expect for a salad. The dressing was tasty, and the croutons were nicely seasoned.

The problem with the meal was with the entrée. The dish looked okay when it arrived, though I personally prefer more of a caramelized sear on the meat. I ordered my meat at medium. One of my filets was at medium. The other was over. The meat was way too salty, and not as tender as I’d expect from beef tenderloin. The mashed potatoes were thin, salty, and gritty. The green beans were water-logged and salty, which is to say, inedible. When I looked down the bar at other diners, they too, seemed to be eating the protein and avoiding the sides.

The slice of chocolate cake was massive, and, surprisingly, quite good. It was a positive way to end an otherwise disappointing meal.

— Jessica Hammie

Photos by Jessica Hammie

Kohinoor | 6 E Columbia Ave, Champaign

Kohinoor is one of the newest (and best) additions to Downtown Champaign, taking the place of what was once Escobar's on Columbia Street. As a restaurant with a fairly fixed menu, having them jump on the Restaurant Week bandwagon was a good thing to see.

When I spoke with the folks who run the joint — they appeared to be pleased about how RW was going for them, and what it brought to the table. My girlfriend and I ordered a two  things — the Chicken Tikki Masala and the Kohinoor Bhuna Gosht — which came with a variety of additional items, making these $20 deals a no-brainer for us.

Before we get to those two items, we were both served with some extras: a salad, mango shake, and a samosa. All of these things normally cost a few bucks each, so this is added benefit to ordering off of the RW menu.

Even though the salad was good, we were looking forward to the rest of the meal. The intro is nice, of course — all brought out at the same time — but the real beginning of this meal was the samosa, which is just an excellent crispy nugget of goodness. This samosa was filled with peas, complete with such a nice crisp outside and a perfectly cooked inside.

The Chicken Tikki Masala was one order, which is such a staple it is tough to resist and a newer option for us, the Kohinoor Bhuna Gosht, — which is a lamb-based mixture with onion, green chili, garlic, and vinegar — were both served with an option of rice or naan; you can't really go wrong with ordering either of these. Both are tough to describe outside of being straight up delicious. If you save the mango shake until the end, it functions as a dessert in a lot of ways. Some sips along the way work as well, of course.

Even though this wasn't an amazingly exploratory trip to Kohinoor (by that I mean, our orders were fairly straightforward), one thing remains a certainty — this is one of the best and most bang-for-your-buck restaurants around. This deal for RW is one that goes a long way and left us both incredibly full and satisfied.

— Patrick Singer

Photos by Anna Longworth

Miga | 301 N Neil St #104, Champaign

I was happy to see Miga jumping in on Restaurant Week, it has proven to be possibly the best restaurant in all of C-U, in my humble opinion. I've had a chance to check out Miga's new sushi menu, one that is deserving of your attention — however, for this particular RW review, I decided to check out the $39 dinner option instead of the $29 sushi dinner option. My selections from the menu were: Brisket Bun as the appetizer, Roasted Chicken Breast for the entree, and the Lime & Coconut dessert.

Initially, I looked over the menu Miga was offering and it didn't seem to align with their usual cuisine, though after some thought — I do appreciate what they are going after here: appealing to new potential customers by offering approachable items, while still infusing their style into the dishes. So, I went with this option.

The Brisket Bun was excellent: a steamed bun folded over with brisket, pickled cabbage, and spicy mayo in the middle. It was super good, and easily shared. This is something that Miga is offering as a part of their winter menu, so starting out with something that you can typically get there.

The entrée I chose was the Roasted Chicken Breast, which came with a bed of kale and sliced potatoes, which on its face seems like a entrée option you can get just about anywhere, so I was intrigued. This was a beast of a helping — just look at that thing, it was a monster and cooked perfectly. Kale is oftentimes a forgettable component of a meal like this, but it was soaked in the au jus, which made it even tastier, though it was just barely over salted. Just ever so slightly, but totally OK.

My girlfriend and I were with a couple of our friends, one of who happened to order this same RW offering, but decided to go the Kimchi Lasagna route. While the presentation of lasagna can be a challenge, I did have a bite of this and it was good. You might think about going this route with your entrée.

The dessert was Lime & Coconut: a scoop of lime ice cream with a bed of marshmallow, pieces of coconut, and a coconut cookie on top. The dessert was delicious — though the cookie should've been broken up a bit more, as it was a little tough to eat given the shape of the bowl, and an attempt to break the cookie with a spoon is a dish waiting to be spilled if you're not careful. I broke it up with my hands, and all was well after that.

Our service was solid, and the restaurant was busy — so I chalk this up as a win for RW and Miga — a place that can seem difficult to approach for many because the price point is a tad higher than average. From my experiences, I walk out of that place full and satisfied.

— Patrick Singer

Photos by Anna Longworth

Nando Milano | 204 N Neil St, Champaign

One of the best deals during Restaurant Week is Nando Milano Trattoria. I had never been to Nando Milano before and I was excited to use Restaurant Week as my excuse to have a date night with my boyfriend that included an appetizer, entree and dessert for $39. We visited the restaurant on a Friday night and even though we had a reservation, the place was packed. I think we weren't the only ones who had the idea to use Restaurant Week as an excuse to treat ourselves to some fine dining.My date and I both ordered from the prix fixe menu.

I ordered the carpaccio for my appetizer and my date ordered the polenta bolognese. Though the restaurant was busy and full of people, our waiter was very attentive and delivered our first courses to us sooner than expected. We both loved what we chose and had a hard time deciding who ordered better. Honestly, it was a tie even though they were completely different from each other. The truffle vinaigrette on my carpaccio was wonderful and not too overpowering of the dish itself. The beef carpaccio is similar to prosciutto and paired well with the parmesan and arugula. It was the first time we had tried polenta and we thought it was similar in texture to whipped potatoes. It was served hot and tasted delicious. We would definitely order both of these appetizers again.

We had heard rave reviews of Nando Milano's gnocchi from friends and from Smile Politely’s review, so that was a must try for us. The gnocchi is handmade daily, so it was incredibly fresh and unlike any that we have had before. The gnocchi had a firm outer layer that held it together, but as soon as I bit into it, it melted in my mouth. The taste of the Gnocchi Sorrentina  as a dish, with the peeled and baked tomato sauce and scamorza cheese, was incredible. This was unlike any gnocchi that either of us has had before and it was the star entrée of our dining experience.

polenta

gnocchi

Paccheri Pistacchio Speck e Gamberoni

I decided that I wanted my entrée to be something that I have never had before and that wasn't on Nando Milano's regular menu. The Paccheri Pistacchio Speck e Gamberoni was a dish that stood out to me. It was served with a langoustine, or prawn, with Paccheri pasta and speck in a creamy pistachio sauce. The presentation was great with this dish. The pasta was stood upright with the prawn in the middle of the dish. As far as taste, the pistachio sauce was the highlight for me. The speck was flavorful and paired well with the sauce. The prawn was cooked well, but was a little difficult to eat with just a fork and knife. This was a dish that I don't regret trying and was happy that it was available for the restaurant week menu.

Nando Milano's dessert menu did not disappoint. My date had the cannoli, and I chose the tiramisu. My date enjoyed the cannoli, though it was a little difficult to break up with a fork to eat. The difference in texture from the hard, outer shell and the soft filling with semi-sweet chocolate chips was a great combination. My tiramisu was delightful. The coffee flavor was delicious and mixing it together with the whipped topping and ladyfingers made for a wonderful end to a fantastic meal.

Over all, we were both impressed with each of our courses on the Restaurant Week menu at Nando Milano. All of our courses were beautiful and tasted great. The staff and servers were also attentive to our needs, despite having a restaurant full of people. I highly encourage anyone who hasn't tried Nando Milano to try it out during Restaurant Week. And don't forget to order the gnocchi!

— Brittany Busboom

Photos by Brittany Busboom 

Pizzeria Antica | 10 E Chester St, Champaign

I headed to Pizzeria Antica for the first stop on my week of local feasting. This downtown Champaign favorite can be a bit pricey, but they import many ingredients from Italy, and in my opinion you get what you pay for. I’d only visited once before and this time, in honor of restaurant week, I was looking forward to spoiling myself with an antipasti and dessert.

My dining companion and I arrived at Pizza Antica at around 5:45 p.m., before the dinner rush took over. I knew it would be a crazy night since it was the very first day of restaurant week. To my unabashed delight our table had a perfect view of the cook sliding rounds of fresh dough into the red-hot flames of the oven. Our server arrived and explained that the restaurant week special was as follows: antipasto or small salad, any one pizza off the regular menu, and one scoop of gelato or sorbet for only $19 bucks. My mouth began to water as my eyes searched the pizza section of the menu for the perfect pie.

We decided the best way to tackle this was to start with one antipasto — the meat and cheese board — and one salad, a classic Caesar. In a matter of minutes the meat and cheese platter arrived in all of it’s bountiful glory. In the corner of the platter was a pile of freshly baked flatbread, in the middle sat stacks of pink prosciutto and spicy red Calabrese salami, right next to that was an assortment of fresh cheeses including brie and fresh mozzarella. The platter also included olives, Peruvian sweet peppers, artichokes, a jalapeño jam, and a strawberry balsamic reduction. My favorite combo was the spicy Calabrese salami piled on the flat bread, dipped in the reduction, and topped with a thick slice of creamy fresh mozzarella. The classic Caesar salad was generous for being a small salad. The crisp romaine lettuce was dressed well and was topped with thick ribbons of fresh Parmigiano Reggiano and crunchy croutons.

I ordered the pizza Margherita and when it arrived, it was a thing of beauty. The melted fresh mozzarella pooled on top of the vibrant red tomato sauce that was adorned with bright green leaves of fresh basil. The smell of the tomato sauce mingling with the sweet basil was out of this world amazing! The house made crust was cooked nicely and had the perfect amount of seasoning, softness, and chew. It must be the special Caputo Tipo 00 flour they use. The second pizza we chose was the Chimichurri Pizza made with local lamb sausage, Calabrese sweet peppers, fresh basil leaves, and aromatic Argentinean chimichurri spices. The Calabrese peppers and fresh San Marzano tomato sauce were both delightfully sweet, and it complemented the salty and spicy local lamb.

For dessert, we headed over to the gelato case to get a closer look and make our selections. The rainbow of sweet treats looked so tempting it was hard to choose just one scoop, but I ended up with a fruity forest berry sorbet that contained actual little berries, and my companion chose the salted caramel gelato. The little berries in the deep purple sorbet were tart and added some interesting texture to the silky sorbet. The salted caramel gelato had a smooth and creamy texture with just the right amount of salty and sweetness. The notes of rich buttery caramel were divine.

After our bellies were full, we requested some boxes and the check. As we packed up our leftovers I thought about what a great the restaurant week special is: we saved almost $20, and got to enjoy 3 courses. I recommend you put Pizza Antica high up on your list of places to eat this week.

— Rebecca Wells

Photos by Rebecca Wells

Project 47 | 101 N Lombard St, Mahomet

Restaurant week is a good time to travel to restaurants you’ve enjoyed before, explore the ones you haven’t, and most of all, take advantage of an amazing deal. I’d never heard of Project 47, and I’d never been to Mahomet before, but I knew I had to try the Mac & Cheese Chicken and Waffles as soon as I saw the menu options for Restaurant Week. Everything on the menus for RW looked appetizing, but that’s what stood out the most.

I was impressed with the entire menu for the flat price of $29. I started off with jambalaya as my appetizer. If you order this dish, make sure you can take the heat! I could not, so although the flavors were spot on, the spice made me tap out. My friend agreed it was spicy, but he ate every bite! So it really just depends on how hot you like it.

The next dish was the reason why I chose Project 47: Mac & Cheese Chicken and Waffles. I was not disappointed with my selection. The chefs actually cook the Mac inside of the waffle; it’s served with two chicken legs on top, seasoned potatoes, and asparagus. This is the most creative take on Chicken and Waffles I’ve indulged in. The savoriness of the mac and cheese, the sweetness of the waffles, and the kick of the maple chipotle syrup came together as great combination. The smoked chicken legs had the right amount of crunch on the skin, and the meat was still very tender. I don’t eat smoked chicken often, so it was a nice reminder of how much I enjoy it.  I also like that smoked chicken was used instead of fried, because it added a nice twist on a classic combination. It was clear to me that this was a well thought out and nicely executed dish.

I thought about the fact that dessert would be the next course, and took a majority of the waffle, a chicken leg, and sides to go. I wanted to try something I’ve never had before, so I ordered the fried cornbread. It was crunchy, sweet, and tasted great with ice cream. I was a little too excited, and dug in before I snapped a picture. My apologies.

This was my first time taking advantage of Restaurant Week and it was a great experience! I got to catch up with an old friend over good food at an affordable price. I was happy with the portion sizes, and I got a good feel for Project 47 and its menu. I’d go again for sure!

Anisa McClinton

Photos by Anisa McClinton

 
 
For this year’s restaurant week menu, V. Picasso is offering an all-vegetarian option, and in my opinion, even if you are a carnivore, you won’t miss the meat at all. The first course is slices of fried butternut squash on a bed of lightly dressed arugula, topped with candied dates and whipped goat cheese. The butternut squash itself was excellent. The batter was light, crisp, and just salty enough, while the squash inside was cooked perfectly. The whipped goat cheese on top had quite a kick to it, so I asked out waitress what gave it such heat and cayenne was the answer. I admit I am a total wimp when it comes to spicy things, so on it’s own it was just a touch too spicy for me, but it paired so nicely with the sweetness of the candied dates on top. Altogether, it was a well-balanced dish and probably my favorite of the night.  
 
 
The second course is artichoke tortelloni in a roasted garlic demi glas. The pasta was cooked perfectly and stuffed with tender artichoke hearts and pieces of sundried tomato, which really stood out and brightened up the dish. The demi glas was light, with whole roasted garlic cloves that were delicious and complimented the pasta well, without overpowering it. The micro greens that sat on top might look like mere garnish, but they actually helped give the dish a nice, crisp crunch. 
 
 
Dessert was a warm gooey butter cake served with banana milk and pomegranate seeds. I have to say, I really loved the banana milk underneath the cake; it was thick, creamy and sweet, with a strong banana flavor. The cake I had was a little more crumbly than gooey, but was still just plain yummy. The pomegranate seeds on top were really what made the dish for me, adding little pops of fresh, bright flavor. 
 
Overall, V. Picasso is the place to be if you’re looking for an upscale vegetarian option this week, but I would still recommend it to anyone, even my fellow carnivores out there.
 
— Kate Fenton
Photos by Kate Fenton

Watson’s | 211 North Neil Street, Champaign

When I saw Watson’s menu for this year’s Restaurant Week, I knew I just had to try it out. It’s a three-course meal for just $19, which is pretty reasonable. Last year, Jess had a glowing review of their tofu po’ boy during restaurant week, and that has made an appearance again this year. However, the chicken pot pie offered as the “meat” option this year was what really piqued my interest. So, I headed out during the first weekend of restaurant week. I was met with three courses of southern flavor that Watson’s has made their own.

For the first course, Watson’s is serving a plate of their fried Brussels sprouts, which is an appetizer on the regular menu. The Brussels were fried to be perfectly crunchy on the outside. There were also shallots and maple pecans, which gave just a touch of sweetness that was a really pleasant contrast to the savory sprouts. There was a tangy, spiced aioli on the bottom of the pile of sprouts, which I didn’t even realize was there until I got to the last few. I definitely understand why it was plated this way — to keep the sprouts from getting soggy — but the best bite of the entire plate was when I got a bit of the aioli, pecans, and sprouts all in one, and I ended up with only a few of those bites.

The second course was their chicken pot pie. Watson’s is giving patrons the option to order it with or without the Nashville hot seasoning. Having been to Nashville to try the famous seasoning myself, I can vouch for Watson’s in that their Nashville hot is on par with some of the original hot chicken spots in Tennessee. So, I was thrilled to have the chance to try a Nashville Hot chicken pot pie. The pie comes with a mixed greens salad that had shaved cucumbers, beets, and carrots. I could have gone without the salad- it came already heavily dressed in a creamy house made ranch, and I always prefer to dress a salad myself.

Even though the salad was a little underwhelming, the pie itself had a flaky crust that, once sliced open, emitted a burst of spicy aroma that would make anyone salivate. The gravy wasn’t super thick; it was more like a hearty hot chicken soup, but still rich and savory. There was plenty of chicken in my portion, and the vegetables were cooked just right. If you like spice, this is definitely the option that you want to choose!

To round out a meal already full of delicious southern food and flavor, the third course was apple cobbler with a scoop of Prairie Fruits Farm gelato. This dessert is a large portion and was great for sharing. The crust of the cobbler gave a good crunch and the apple filling tasted distinctly homemade in the best way- no fake, syrupy taste there. It was served at just the right temperature and the ice cream was softened but didn’t melt right away. It was a perfect ending to a great prix fixe restaurant week menu.

— Katie Simpson

Photos by Katie Simpson

The WheelHouse | 109 N Main St, St. Joseph

Although we’ve published a proper review of The WheelHouse, I hadn’t actually been — Jillian, one of our writers, reviewed it late last year. I was looking forward to trying the restaurant, and RW offered the perfect excuse to round up some friends open to adventure and make the drive to St. Joe.

Earlier last week I called ahead and made a reservation, and I’m so glad I did. The restaurant was packed when we arrived at 7 p.m. on Saturday night. It’s already a relatively small space, and there was a line when we got there.

The RW menu was $29. I chose the ultra bowl, the beef stew, and chocolate bread pudding for dessert. The friends I was with were totally game to order off the RW menu, so I had the good fortune of sampling the rest of the entrée and dessert options.

We all ordered the ultra bowl: quinoa, beans, lentils, tomatoes, corn, peppers, kale, citrus and herbs and farm fresh egg. This salad was stupidly delicious. It was perfect. The beans were cooked perfectly. The texture was complex and interesting. The seasoning was right on, with just the right amount of acid. I could eat a massive amount of this salad every single day.

Of the three entrées, I liked the beef strew the least, but not because it wasn’t good. It was great and cooked perfectly. The meat was tender and moist. I would have liked for there to be more veggies, and I think the bread could have been a little heartier. I’m splitting hairs here — because I’d order the stew again — but I think the other two entrées were even better. The mushroom risotto was rich and creamy, earthy and indulgent. It’s a really fantastic vegetarian option. My favorite entrée was the venison ravioli. The pasta was perfectly cooked — toothsome, if you will. The portion was generous, and in this case I think the lightness of the grilled bread was appropriate for the creamy but light sauce.

venison sausage ravioli

crème brulee

The dessert options for the evening were crème brulee, chocolate bread pudding, and peanut butter chocolate swirl cheesecake. We ordered all of them. They were all ridiculously good. The cheesecake was the perfect combo of peanut butter and chocolate: rich and creamy with salty-sweet. The bread pudding wasn’t too rich or too heavy; you could taste chocolate and enjoy the custardy texture. It wasn’t too sweet. The crème brulee — buttermilk, I believe — really sang in its sweet and tangy combo. The custard was creamy without being too rich.

chocolate bread pudding

peanut butter chocolate swirl cheescake

If there was one unifying aspect to all the dishes at The WheelHouse, it was balance. There was a clear attentiveness to balancing flavor and texture, heaviness and lightness, acid with sweet. Nothing was too salty, and despite stuffing my face with three courses (plus some appetizers off the regular menu), I didn’t leave feeling overly full or gross. I was perfectly satisfied.

— Jessica Hammie

Photos by Jessica Hammie

Silvercreek | 402 N. Race St.  

I’ve always had a soft spot for Silvercreek. As an undergrad and young adult living in C-U, it was a go-to spot for a date night splurge. I love the atmosphere; it always feels warm, cozy and welcoming. Friday night was no exception. With our early-ish dinner reservation we had the bonus of live music, a regular Friday “happy hour” event at the restaurant, and it set the mood perfectly for our Restaurant Week date night. They were offering a prix fixe menu, which we’ve had great experiences with at Silvercreek’s wine and beer pairing dinners, so I was expecting this one to give us some delicious options. The dinner included an appetizer, entree, and dessert for $25.99, a pretty good deal based on the regular menu prices, and most of the items were unique to the RW menu.

Out of the four appetizer possibilities, I selected the fried Brussels sprouts. I love Brussels sprouts, and no one else in my household does, so I leap at opportunities to have someone prepare them for me. They were cooked perfectly, softened just enough but not mushy and they were nicely charred. They were tossed in a mustard sauce that gave them a lovely tangy flavor, though I maybe could’ve used just a touch less of it. There was also a potato pancake underneath which was tasty, but I didn’t eat much of because I was anticipating more carb-filled goodness in my subsequent courses. My husband chose the calamari sauteed with vodka marinara, and we were both impressed with it. The texture of the calamari was just right, very tender, not too chewy, and he loved the saltiness of the capers and olives in the sauce.

 

I struggled to choose my entree because I really could’ve gone with any of the four choices, but I settled on butternut squash ravioli, and my husband selected the pot roast (he has a hard time passing up a solid meat and potatoes dish). My ravioli was marvelous. The butternut squash filling was lightly sweet, and the bleu cheese topping countered that nicely. It was finished off with chopped walnuts, adding a satisfying crunch to each bite. The brown butter sauce coated the ravioli well without being overly greasy. My husband’s dish was comfort food for sure, but not just a pile of warm food that all tasted the same, as can often be the case with meat/potatoes/gravy. The red wine gravy was super flavorful yet did not mask the rosemary and garlic in the potatoes. The meat was tender and delicious.

Two dessert options meant we got to try both. I liked the neapolitan concept of the crème brûlée; a chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla. Each had its own distinct flavor, and I thought the chocolate was the easily the best. The consistency of each was a bit thicker than what I usually expect out of crème brûlée, but they were still quite yummy. The amaretto bread pudding was gigantic, and we barely made a dent, but it was delightful. As a dessert that neither of us would usually gravitate to on a dessert menu, we were pleasantly surprised, and the combo of the amaretto custard and housemade brioche was a winner. Overall an enjoyable dining experience. The courses were well-portioned and well-timed; we didn’t feel like we had to rush to finish before the next one came, yet we finished with enough time to get to the next portion of our evening.

— Julie McClure

Photos by Julie McClure

Editor's Note: This article will be continually updated throughout the week.