Smile Politely

Wrap up Restaurant Week at The WheelHouse

On this occasion, I fulfilled one of the goals of Restaurant Week — to get out and try something new. I’ve had The WheelHouse on my list for awhile, but you know, it’s all the way in St. Joe. Which honestly isn’t really that far away, but it just means that I kind of forget that it’s there. Earlier in the day I double checked their Facebook page to remember what types of dishes we would be choosing from and BONUS it was half price wine night. Not often you can enjoy a $4 glass of wine when dining out.

Their RW offering was three courses for $29, with three selections to choose from per course. A quick glance of the regular menu prices indicated that this was pretty comparable to what we would have paid to order the items separately.

For the appetizer course, my husband chose tomato soup with grilled cheese croutons and poblano cream — such a perfect wintery selection to offer. I opted for the smoking sweet potato and pork dumpling with kimchi. And yes I wrote that correctly: “smoking” not “smoky.” When our first items arrived the difference was apparent. My appetizer was actually smoking. It came trapped in this nifty jar, and when I opened the lid it was like a science experiment was happening right there at the table. Kind of a cool effect. Once the smoke cleared I found the dumpling, kimchi, and a bit of sweet potato puree. It was an interesting combination of flavors. The kimchi was wonderful, with just the right amount of heat, and it was a nice balance for the sweetness of the dumpling and puree. The dumpling was okay. Good flavor, but the pork seemed just a touch dry and the outer wrapping a little chewy.

The tomato soup was on point. Hearty, rich, and the poblano flavor was a welcome addition. My husband begrudgingly shared one of his croutons with me (it’s research!) and wow, the cheesy goodness. It recreated the taste experience of dipping your grilled cheese sammie in your soup.

I think we would both agree that the main courses were the highlights of the meal. The duck was an obvious choice for my husband, as he can’t resist that particular dish, and it’s not on a lot of menus around these parts. I went for the shrimp and grits.

The duck was grilled perfectly. Medium rare, ridiculously tender and well-seasoned, it melted in my mouth. The dumplings — these were a better texture than the appetizer —and broth rounded it out well.

Shrimp and grits are a new love of mine, and I jump at the chance to order it because it’s not something I want to attempt to make at home. I’ve had good and not so good — grits can either be a warm and delicious accompaniment, or a bland mess. These were the former, especially when topped with the delightful flavor combo created by bacon, peppers, pickled corn, and lemon cream. That lemon cream was enough to make me want to lick the plate. I restrained myself, as I am a civilized lady. The shrimp were just the right texture, and there was a good amount of them provided. The dish was quite filling and a welcome comfort food for the cold night.

The dessert options were not on the menu, but given to us by the server as we finished our mains, so it’s possible they will be different when you go. We were offered peanut butter chocolate tiramisu, lemon bar with raspberries, and a bread pudding — I cannot remember the specifics here since we went with the other choices.

First, the “tiramisu.” I put it in quotes because while it was delicious, it wasn’t really tiramisu. My first thought was “where are the layers?” It was missing the ladyfingers, which I feel is a pretty important component of this particular dessert. It was lovely, creamy, and peanut buttery, and I can’t complain about the addition of chocolate sauce, but it needs a different name.

The lemon bars were quite good. The right balance of tart and sweet, with a buttery crust. I liked the fresh raspberries with them, though I think the dish would be even better when berries are in season. Both desserts were hearty portions, and we left full and happy.

We will definitely be back to The WheelHouse to sample more of their menu, which I know shifts with the seasons. It’s definitely worth the short jaunt to St. Joe as Restaurant Week wraps up.

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

The Wheelhouse
109 N. Main Street
Saint Joseph
Tu-Th 5 to 10 p.m.
F-Sa 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Su 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Photos by Julie McClure

Staff writer

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