For a fancy night out in Champaign-Urbana, Hamilton Walker’s is where I want to be. It’s the sort of restaurant where it’s appropriate to dress up a little. It’s elegant inside, and the service is outstanding. My kids love going to dinner at Hamilton Walker’s, too, mostly because they love drinking water out of fancy goblets — the glamour!
The swanky steakhouse in Downtown Champaign has delicious food, but dinner here can be quite expensive (the menu has a $58 ribeye), so when Visit Champaign County’s Restaurant Week comes along, I love to go for a date at Hamilton Walker’s for the prix fixe since it offers a taste of the regular menu at a discounted price. This year’s Restaurant Week menu is slightly different than last year’s offerings, but the idea is the same: three courses sampling some of the restaurant’s best bites.
For dinner, my husband and I each ordered the Restaurant Week three-course special, but we chose different starters and mains. I had the soup, grilled shrimp, and the bread pudding dessert; he had the crab cake, grilled steak tips, and bread pudding.
While we waited for our dinner, our server brought bread and butter for the table. The bread was complementary and made locally by Central Illinois Bakehouse, which is cool. I loved how the bread was warm and soft, and the salted butter was easy to spread on the bread.
Did I mention my children crashed this date? Because they did. My youngest especially liked this bread and definitely ate more than his share. When we ran out of bread because my children are part duckling, our server brought us another fresh basket of warm bread.
I ordered the sherpa cocktail ($11), which was absolutely perfect. Made with whiskey, orange bitters, allspice dram, and dry Curaçao, the cocktail had great whiskey taste with a finish of warm spices.
To start, I had the roasted chicken and asparagus soup. The thin, creamy soup had rustic cuts of chicken and diced softened asparagus, and I really liked the herby flavor. When given the choice between soup or anything else, I always get the soup here. Hamilton Walker’s always has delicious soup, and I love that no matter the rotating flavor, it is always good.
For his appetizer, my husband had the crab cake. The Restaurant Week version was a miniature version of the appetizer crab crake from the regular menu. It had a crispy top from the grill, and the orange sauce was a tangy complement to the crab cake. The chunks of red crab meat and fresh herbs with a little lemon tasted great.
Because we were so tempted by the other features, my husband and I took a slight detour from the RW prix fixe for an additional appetizer of chicken wings ($13).
These wings had an awesome honey sesame glaze, and the rendered fat under the crispy skin was melt-in-my-mouth amazing. The wings were sweet with a tasty five-spice flavor in the seasoning. I loved these wings and just wished there was one more because three wings were hard to split between two people.
For my entree, I ordered the grilled shrimp skewers, which had two wooden spears of three big shrimp. These shrimpies were plump and juicy with an wonderful smoky flavor. The shrimp went perfectly with the tasty cream sauce — but honestly, what doesn’t? I dragged my green beans and dipped my potatoes in that cream sauce, too.
My husband ordered the grilled steak tips for his entree, and I had a bite. Marinaded with so much flavor, the steak was excellent, and I loved the strong black pepper taste. The medallions of grilled steak were tender and cooked to my husband’s preference (medium). The sides were the same as mine, and they were tasty — the smashed potatoes especially. The scoop of potatoes was well seasoned and mostly smooth with chunks of soft red potato throughout.
For the final course, we each received a slice of bread pudding with a custard sauce. The slice had a yummy cinnamon flavor with a cake-y, eggy texture that got gooey under the vanilla sauce. It was like French Toast became a cake, and then it rained down custard. This dessert was a wonderful finish to the meal, and we were totally stuffed.
Earlier, I mentioned that my kids joined us for dinner, and they enjoyed their meals as well. My oldest loves the fish here, and he also loves the macaroni. My youngest has food allergies, which Chef Zach Schweig handles very carefully.
The kid’s dinners finished with ice cream for dessert. That said, it was basic vanilla ice cream, but the fact that two giant scoops are included with the kids’ meals is a nice touch for people dining out with children.
All in all, Hamilton Walker’s RW special prix fixe is a taste of the ritzy excellence the modern American steakhouse offers in Downtown Champaign. Whether you’ve never been or if you’ve been before, Restaurant Week is a good time to enjoy Hamilton Walker’s delicious steak and seafood at a really great price — with or without the kids.
Reservations are strongly recommended.
201 N Neil St
Su-Th 4 to 8 p.m.
F+Sa 4 to 8:30 p.m.