The Wheelhouse is quickly becoming a favorite in my household. Before the pandemic began, we’d maybe been there twice. Living in Champaign, going out to dinner in St. Joe just doesn’t always come to mind. Our Restaurant Week takeout meal was our third takeout dining experience with The Wheelhouse, and all three meals have been wonderful.
The restaurant began offering Quarantine Date Night meals for two while indoor dining was unavailable. We tried one this summer, and we were very impressed. Four courses plus a bottle of wine for $65 is a pretty good deal for the amount and quality of food. My husband and I also took part in their New Year’s Eve wine pairing event. Owner and head chef Ryan Rogiers and his team partially prepared seven courses, included four bottles of wine, then hosted a Zoom gathering with his wife Abbie, owner and front of house manager. From their own home, they led participants through each course, explaining how to finish preparing and plating each dish. The Rogiers are genuine folks, and spending a few hours sharing food and wine virtually just endeared us to The Wheelhouse that much more.
For Visit Champaign County’s Restaurant Week, they are once again offering their Quarantine Date Night special. It’s only available for carryout. Since indoor dining is now available, they also have a dine-in special that includes salad or soup, choice of entree, and choice of dessert for $29.
Our first course included a salad with lemon-dijon vinaigrette. The salad was fine — nothing mind-blowing — but that’s okay. It was a nice, light start to a meal filled with rich flavors.
The second course was cream of tomato soup with grilled cheese croutons. We’ve had their cream of tomato soup before, and I was very happy to have it again. It was very thick and hearty with a delicious tangy flavor. The grilled cheese croutons are a perfect addition. A great twist to the classic grilled-cheese-tomato-soup combo.
For the third course, there are four entrees to choose from: pan-roasted chicken, beef stew, mushroom risotto, and crab bucatini. We selected the chicken and the crab bucatini.
The pan-roasted chicken came with 50/50 mashed potatoes, a mixture of sauteed veggies, and sauce Diane. The chicken breast was thick and juicy — and seasoned well. If I have my facts straight, 50/50 mashed potatoes are potatoes made with a ridiculous amount of butter. So of course, they were creamy and delicious. The vegetable mix included carrots, onion, mushrooms, and broccoli, and was all cooked well, not too mushy. Sauce Diane — typically made with dijon mustard, Worchestershire, cognac, and cream — was the perfect compliment to all of these components. I was tempted to lick the plate. I didn’t, because I am a lady.
The crab bucatini was actually crab squid ink pappardelle, but I kind of prefer a pappardelle noodle to a bucatini noodle. It was tossed with blue crab, roasted red pepper, spinach, and onion along with a white wine cream sauce. This was another delicious choice. The sauce was creamy but not too heavy, and there was a generous amount of crab meat.
We were offered three choices for dessert to share: tiramisu, bread pudding, or chocolate crème brûlée. We chose the crème brûlée. The custard was rich and chocolatey with a perfectly caramelized topping. They included a side of homemade whipped cream which provided a nice balance of flavor to the chocolate.
For those of us here in C-U, it’s a bit of a drive to go try this Restaurant Week deal, but the drive is worth it. If you miss out this week, follow them on Facebook to see more date night meal opportunities.
109 N Main St
Tu-Sa 5 to 9 p.m.