As a student at Ball State University, Scott Wise spent many a night at Mugly's Pub & Eatery, a local dive known for its burgers and trio of draft beers. After some time away, Scott returned to his college town of Muncie only to discover that Mugly's was for sale. Rechristened Scotty's Brewhouse, the former dive now sports a handmade oak bar and old-fashioned gas-burning lanterns, not to mention more than 30 beers on tap.
Scotty's now has six locations throughout Indiana as well as sister pub, Thr3e Wise Men Brewing Co, and each has its own menu of brews, wines, cocktails, and alcohol-repellent sodas. Though the libations change, the food menu remains the same at each award-winning eatery. The brew houses' cooks pair beer-spiked marinara sauce with gourmet grilled-cheese sandwiches full of cheddar, mozzarella, and pepper jack, as well as crown half-pound burgers with peanut butter and jalapeños. Bison burgers are available on a low-calorie menu, and gluten-free options include chicken sandwiches smothered in thai peanut sauce. All venues welcome scores of families and kids, who feast on homemade pizzas, salads, and subs--especially on Sundays and Tuesday, when kids eat free with the purchase of adult entrees.
The sun sets over the Chicago skyline, burnishing the tops of the edifices and casting their reflections on Lake Michigan. But instead of lounging on a boat in the water, guests are sitting in the bright blue dining room of AJ's Burgers & Beef, gazing at a mural of the city's downtown buildings. As natives of the Chicago suburbs, the owners wanted to bring big-city eats to this college town, for which they've earned several awards from local publications. To this end, Vienna beef hot dogs are piled high with bright green relish, yellow mustard, sport peppers, and celery salt, and italian beef sandwiches are soaked in au jus and topped with giardiniera for a more authentic Windy City meal than a grilled pair of Air Jordans. Signature plates include crispy seasoned waffle fries and an Angus-beef burger slathered in housemade garlic sauce.
Misty and Josh Barnett, owners of Three J's Pizza, named their pizza joint after their three kids, Jeremiah, Joslyn, and Josiah. The family-minded eatery serves everything from the 10-topping Jaegar pizza to pastas, meatball sandwiches, homemade breadsticks, and cinnamon sticks. The kitchen staff even encourages customers to submit their own creations, whether they're topping combinations for pizza or blueprints for meatball-made houses.
At School House of Chili, which is located on the campus of Purdue University, cooks simmer seven varieties of chili. Recipes range from the vegetarian chili, which contains black beans and sweet potatoes, to the Tailgate chili, which contains brisket, ground turkey, and bacon. The restaurant's build-your-own chili bowl concept allows diners to choose a base—rice, mac ’n’ cheese, and Fritos are a few options—before adding on a choice of chili and toppings such as sour cream or habanero peppers. Chili dogs, nachos, and sandwiches round out the menu, and sips of beer wash it all down.
On Sunday mornings, Baja Peninsula's cozy interior is home to diners eating dishes of homemade corned-beef hash crowned with poached eggs and stacks of lemon-ricotta pancakes topped with fresh strawberries and whipped butter. At midday, guests graze on steak quesadillas with sour cream and fresh pico de gallo and twirl forkfuls of shrimp fettuccine alfredo into giant, edible knots. In the evenings, Baja Peninsula's chefs lovingly churn out roasted herb chicken breast, seafood risotto dotted with jumbo shrimp, and slabs of cheesecake made fresh daily.