Last week, a few of my friends and I wanted to grab lunch somewhere casual and semi-fast, as we had about an hour to spare. We decided to give Indiana-based chain Scotty's Brewhouse a try — it's in the new Carriage Center development on South Neil Street, in front of Harvest Market. When we got there, it was surprisingly busy for lunch time (noon) with a mixture of retired folks and business people, and we were hopeful that we could get in-and-out in under an hour because we saw other working people eating there.

Our server said that there is a daily lunch rush from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and it can get pretty busy, but there is seldom a wait for seating at lunchtime. She did say, however, that the dinner rush from 5:30 to 8:00 p.m. on weekends results in wait times upwards of 30 minutes, and special events (football games, concerts, etc.) can come with wait times of over an hour. Scotty's is a huge space with multiple dining areas and seating options, but calling ahead to see if there is a wait may be advised. There is also a link on their website to check and see what the wait time is, as well as to add your name to the list. You just have to make sure that you can be there within five minutes of your call time or they will move on to the next group.

Upon walking in to the restaurant, we were greeted by a host at the stand in a small waiting area adorned with University of Illinois decor as well as an abundance of local beer growlers on industrial shelving. The entire space is very eclectically decorated with a variety of seating options (including leather couches, bar seating, round nightclub-style circular booths, and traditional tables), brick, shiplap, metal, Illinois decor, and a really cool handmade chandelier. There are a couple of video games in one of the dining rooms, and a big square wooden bar with seating toward the back of the main dining room.

We were greeted by our server and given the menus and silverware when we sat down. The silverware was wrapped in what we assumed were our napkins, but looked and felt like old kitchen towels, which was a bit strange. The menu is incredibly extensive with a large assortment of burgers, sandwiches and wraps, salads, wings, pizza, and other bar foods. One of my friends had been before and said that the menu we received was recently paired down, and that the original was even more lengthy, which I couldn't imagine — it was hard enough to choose from the options in front of me! There was a special lunch menu with a smattering of entrees from each area, and included a drink for around $10. There is also a very large beer list with over 32 beers on tap, including several local brews, offered in pours of several different ounces.

We chose our dishes and waited about 35 minutes until our food was brought to the table. Our server said that there was a backup in the kitchen, which was atypical for that time. I ordered the lunch special chicken strips and waffle fries with ranch dressing. The portion was ample as there were four strips, many fries, and coleslaw. The chicken strips were crispy and freshly fried. The waffle fries were not as hot, as if they had been sitting for a bit while the chicken was cooking.

One of my friends ordered the entree sized sweet chicken club wrap, which consisted of breaded chicken, cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, and honey mustard dressing. It also came with fries, but she substituted a small macaroni and cheese, which was so good! It was cavatappi pasta with a blend of melted cheeses. The pasta was cooked al dente and the cheese was gooey and stringy perfection. I will definitely order this in the future.

My other friend ordered Monty's Frisco Melt, a patty melt with caramelized onions, swiss cheese, sourdough toast, and side of thousand island dressing. She really enjoyed the sandwich and the waffle fries as well. We were all very pleased with our choices and agreed that the mac and cheese and waffle fries were worth coming back for. Everything was fairly priced and the portions were sizable, especially for lunch.

There are some other features worth noting that make Scotty's Brewhouse unique. Happy hour is from 3 to 6 p.m., from Monday through Thursday. They offer rotating drink specials including seasonal cocktails, draft beer, and wine. There is also an outdoor patio that is dog friendly. Additionally, there are several kid-friendly bonuses: kids are given crayons to color with at the table and can pick from a "treasure chest" with the purchase of a kid's meal. When Scotty's opened there was a kid-friendly area with a chalkboard wall and bean bags, but this has since been converted for gaming machines. Scotty's also has delivery through both GrubHub and OrderUp with a $10 minimum and 45 to 55 minute delivery times. They also have a conference room that seats up to 15 people with free wi-fi and a 60-inch PowerPoint-capable television, as well as two party rooms that can seat 30 to 60 people.

We enjoyed our trip to Scotty's and all agreed that we would come back for dinner. If you're craving bar food and have some time to wait during lunchtime, it's a great option in the area.

Scotty's Brewhouse is located at 2001 South Neil Street, Champaign, and open Sunday through Tuesday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., and Wednesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to midnight. 

All photos by Jessica Wolff.