Smile Politely

Hamilton Walker’s three course dinner for Restaurant Week is top notch

Restaurant Week kicked off this past weekend with more than thirty restaurants offering specials for the nine day celebration. You still have six days to enjoy this year’s Restaurant Week specials, so think about where you’d like to go this week. Not sure? Check out what we think are bites worth trying.

All week, the editors will share about RW meals they eat, so stay tuned for more Restaurant Week reviews throughout the week.

On Saturday, I visited Hamilton Walker’s for a date night, and we both ordered the Restaurant Week special.

It was very cold out when we walked to the Downtown Champaign restaurant for dinner, so we began with warm cocktails.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

I ordered the Irish coffee ($10). Made with West Cork Irish whiskey, HW coffee, a sugar cube, and whipped cream, this cocktail was divine. It was served warm but not hot, so I was able to immediately sip it. It was topped with sweet whipped cream — that they whipped to order(!), and the drink had a mellow coffee taste, balanced by the whipped cream and whiskey. The warm cocktail started with familiar coffee flavor and finished with Irish whiskey.

My date ordered the hot toddy ($9), made with Evan Williams bonded bourbon, fresh lemon juice, and honey. The drink was garnished with a clove-studded lemon and served in the same cute glass as mine. The classic drink was tart, warm, and boozy.

Hamilton Walker’s Restaurant Week special was a three course dinner for $29. To begin, we had a choice of appetizers: shrimp cocktail, crab cake, or lamb with a BBQ red wine sauce. 

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

I chose the lamb, and it was insanely delicious. When the two lamb chops arrived to my table, I could smell the char, and when I ate it, the taste of the sear. The flavors of the tender meat and rendered fat were incredible. There was a smoky BBQ flavor and Mediterranean spices of nutmeg and cinnamon. The lamb had a fantastic chargrilled bites and rich fatty parts, too. The sweet red wine sauce was great for dipping the chops. 

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

The crab cake was a small cake, but it had a lot of crab meat. The mini crab cake had a thick middle and a dark top that had a crisp to it. There were some diced bell peppers giving a little crunch to the soft crabby cake. The delicate crab meat was great with the orange sauce underneath.

The second course was a choice of soup or salad.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

I chose the soup because I stan for the HW’s soups. Hamilton Walker’s constantly rotates the soup; sometimes it is a beef soup, sometimes a vegetable medley — but it is always good. Saturday’s soup was a vegetable bisque, and it was heavenly on a cold night. There were no veggie chunks in this soup; it was a lovely pureed soup. The roasted vegetable flavors came through, and the creamy soup reminded me of a fancier, more flavorful tomato bisque. The tomato flavor was light, and the earthy mushrooms, veggies, and spices made the soup taste dynamic.

For all of Restaurant Week, the soup will rotate, so prepare to be surprised.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

The salad choices were mixed greens, spinach salad, or Caesar. My date ordered the Caesar salad. The housemade croutons on the salad were cubed, crunchy, and well seasoned with salt and garlic. The romaine lettuce was lightly dressed in a tangy, bright Caesar dressing. There was also finely grated Parm on top. Tableside, our awesome server Dane added freshly ground pepper, and that felt very fancy. 

For entrees, the Restaurant Week special has a choice of sirloin cap strip, fried cod, or grilled salmon. 

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

I ordered the steak because when I’m eating at a steakhouse, I want steak. I loved this sirloin; it had a dark sear and was expertly cooked to medium rare.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

The steak was hand-cut and dry aged for 40 days, developing a richer beefy flavor. The steak had a thin mushroom demi-glace and came with a side of potato cake and green beans. The well-seasoned sirloin was tender, flavorful, and juicy despite having very little fat. The five ounce cut was a solid size for dinner, especially after just eating an app and soup. There was a huge portion of green beans, and they were deliciously garlicky. It was a perfect steakhouse dinner.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

My date chose the fried cod which was served with the same two sides as my entree. The dish had one big codfish filet with crispy, crunchy breading that was fried to golden brown. It was served with a little cup of tartar sauce and a lemon wedge. The fried cod was soft and flaky in the middle, and each bite had a wonderful crunch from the fried exterior. This entree hit all the great fish dish notes: salty crust, tasty sauce, and a mild fish flavor.

The potato cake had a salty, crispy brown top which gave a texture contrast to the soft mashed potato middle. It was like a scoop of mashed potatoes wearing a crispy brown hat. I thought it was a unique take on the familiar steakhouse side, and we both loved the little potato cake.

I ended my meal with a cocktail, my favorite one at Hamilton Walker’s: the French martini.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Made with Hamilton Walker’s own vodka, Chambord, and pineapple juice, the French Martini ($10) was elegant and a little sweet — and a splendid way to end the dinner.

Hamilton Walker’s is a terrific restaurant to visit during Restaurant Week to try the steakhouse’s fine dining at an affordable $29 price point. The food is excellent, and the service is outstanding. Make a reservation as this RW special is available for dine in only. If you’d like to order food to go, there are a family pack options and cocktails also available to go.

Hamilton Walker’s
201 N Neil St
W+Th 4 to 8 p.m.
F+Sa 4 to 8:30 p.m.
Su 4 to 8 p.m.

Top image by Alyssa Buckley.

Food + Drink Editor / / instagram

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