Our Restaurant Week coverage continues all week, and in addition to restaurant reviews, we’re also highlighting new restaurants and creators.

Baxter’s American Grille has become a regular participant in Restaurant Week (we reviewed it in 2017 and 2018). With a reasonable lunch menu, and an upscale, but not too fancy dinner menu, Baxter’s can be your choice for date night or casual Wednesday. (Have you seen those desserts?) I recently chatted with Allie Batson, manager at Baxter’s.

Smile Politely: Can you tell us a little about yourself? When and how did you decide to become a restaurant manager?

Allie Batson: I was born and raised in the very southwest corner of Michigan, in St. Joseph.  I started hosting at a small restaurant, basically right on the beach, when I was 16 — it was my first job. I fell in love with the industry almost immediately and never entirely left it, despite other endeavors. I moved to Phoenix, AZ when I was 23 and landed another serving/bartending job within the first week or so. I met so many incredible people through the restaurants I worked in and I learned so much about the industry as a whole. I decided then that I would not stop until I made a career out of it, one way or another. Since then, I have done event management with food trucks and briefly at a winery in Napa, and in March 2017, I got my first certification for the Court of Master Sommeliers. I love working with and talking to people, and I enjoy doing anything and everything I can to ensure our guests have the best experience possible at Baxter’s.

SP: What have been the most rewarding parts of your job?

Batson: Like I mentioned, I love working with and talking to people and Baxter’s gives me the opportunity to do that every day for a living; knowing that we have made someone's day special, or made their experience the best it could possibly be, those are my most rewarding moments.

SP: What about the most challenging?

Batson: This question is hard for me — we deal with challenges every day — but I think that every single manager at Baxter’s (the chefs, the Bloomington managers, and myself included) all enjoy the day to day challenges. They drive us to be quick on our feet and inevitably provide a learning opportunity, along with the chance to be better at the jobs we do.

SP: What do you hope to get out of participating in Restaurant Week?

Batson: We're definitely excited for repeat diners to come in and see what we've chosen to highlight, utilizing our Restaurant Week menu, but we would really love to expand our brand recognition by impressing new diners and giving them a reason to want to come back.

SP: Tell us about how you decided upon your RW menu. What can diners look forward to?

Batson: We recently did a menu change, which we do twice a year to reflect seasonal changes, so we wanted to balance things out really well by offering a few of our house favorites, but also highlighting some of our recently added dishes. Our kitchen is very chef-driven, there isn't much we don't make in house, so showing off the creations and incredible talent of our team was also a focus for us.

Visit Champaign County's Restaurant Week continues through February 2nd. 

Baxter’s American Grille 
100 Trade Center Dr
Champaign
M-Th 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
F 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Sa 3 to 10 p.m.
Su 3 to 8 p.m.

Photos courtesy of Baxter’s