BY CHRISTINE BARBOUR
Unless you are a terminal stick-in-the-mud, the menu at Scotty’s Brewhouse will make you smile. It is full of foods that sound like they were designed by a kitchen full of creative and hungry kindergartners, but those foods are surprisingly delicious for all that.
Take the Cookie Monster, for instance—a giant chocolate chip cookie that is topped with vanilla ice cream, then lavished with chocolate sauce and whipped cream—or The Shewman Special, a burger slathered with peanut butter and jalapeños that give it a sort of Asian peanut- sauce twist. Dill-pickle chips, battered and deep-fried and served with a horseradish dipping sauce, are oddly addictive. And the Cap’n Crunch Berry French Toast is a sweet (make that very sweet) ode to childhood breakfasts, the kind you might have made for yourself early in the morning, before your parents woke up and wondered what on earth you were doing.
Oh yeah, and there’s the box of Red Hots, candies that comes with the check.
It’s clear that someone had fun putting this menu together. There are more conventional bar food items, of course—wings and ribs and burgers of all kinds, excellent nachos (ask to have them made with “real” cheese rather than nacho sauce) and several kinds of fries and tater tots that can be served plain or “loaded”—topped up with cheese, bacon, and sour cream. But as well there are heart-warming mac ’n’ cheese, really good salads with house-made dressings, and rich and wonderful desserts like carrot cake and fluffy peanut butter pie. The deal is, if a Scotty’s cook makes something that owner Scott Wise likes, it goes on the menu. Hence dishes like The Shewman and the 7 Tidals Buffalo Chicken Dip and Luke’s Cajun Steak Ranchero Wrap, and hence the menu that is now the size of a small book.
Wise is a native of Muncie, where he opened the first Scotty’s Brewhouse in 1996. The Bloomington Scotty’s is the second in Wise’s small empire of restaurants, opened at the urging of his COO who, Wise says laughingly, “bleeds cream and crimson.” A fixture in downtown Bloomington since 2001, Scotty’s is home by day and early evening to a business and university crowd before the place livens into its college-bar niche by night.
Not yet 40, Wise now owns five Brewhouses (one more is in Lafayette and two are in Indy) and has recently added Scotty’s Lakehouse in Fishers and Scotty’s Burger Joint in Columbus, both of which source their food locally as much as possible (all of the beer and even the vodka at the Lakehouse is produced in Indiana), and the Thr3e Wise Men Brewing Company in Broad Ripple, a pub named for Wise and his two young sons that brews its own beer and serves free-form, thin-crust pizza and Italian sandwiches.
Despite the growth of the Scotty’s brand, the restaurants keep their local identities and atmosphere, partly because cooks in each location make all their food in-house—right down to the salad dressings and hot sauces. It’s a pretty good bet they are also trying out new dishes to add to the ever-lengthening menu…and having a lot of fun doing it.