Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Ball State grad makes his mark with Scotty’s Brewhouse restaurants across Indiana

By Lynn Schwartzberg lschwartzberg@heraldt.com

January 6, 2010

When Scott Wise graduated from Ball State University, he left his hometown of Muncie to find his future. He went to Houston and worked briefly as a copywriter and a bartender.

Finding more pleasure from the bartending job than copywriting, Wise returned to Muncie where his family lived.

With the support of his family, Wise purchased a bar near the Ball State campus and, at age 22, became a business owner. The bar, named Scotty’s Brewhouse, instantly brought out his passion for the restaurant business.

The menu at Scotty’s was straightforward with a selection of burgers, sandwiches and other items. Wise included items that he had enjoyed over the years while on vacation in various locations. The menu has grown radically since those early days, but the original dishes remain.

The napkins were, and still are, terry cloth hand towels. When asked about the napkins, Wise explained, jokingly, that perhaps he’s a messy eater.

Actually, he had seen towels used in a restaurant in Hilton Head several years earlier and liked the style.

After his initial success with Scotty’s Brewhouse in Muncie, Scott Wise opened a second restaurant called Lucy!Lucy!

Unfortunately, this restaurant was a total failure, although a vast amount of knowledge was gained from the experience Wise mentioned.

Any other business owner might have become a bit gun shy, but luckily for Bloomington, Wise tried again. Opening the first restaurant in town after the new smoking ban took effect in 2001, Scotty’s Brewhouse on North Walnut Street has become part of the downtown restaurant landscape.

Due to the success of the Bloomington restaurant, the nonsmoking ban became a company policy. Scotty’s became a favorite in Bloomington for casual dining especially for Chicago Cubs fans, where the games are always on.

Scotty’s Brewhouse has since expanded to Lafayette in 2004, and Indianapolis, on the north side in 2007, and downtown early in 2009. A new location, with a slightly different concept will be opening this year at the Geist reservoir. The new restaurant will be an upscale burger bar with an emphasis on locally grown produce.

Scotty’s restaurants have a polished feel but remain local. The management team has been together for over a decade, an accomplishment Wise is very proud of.

The kitchen staff at each location participates in the creative process, regularly creating items for consideration on Scotty’s permanent menu.

The most popular dishes at Scotty’s are the fried dill chips, buffalo wrap and the Lucy burger. Each restaurant has a slightly different customer base, with Bloomington patrons ordering more vegetarian friendly options and favoring local products.

In 2009, Scott Wise was named Restaurateur of the Year by the Indiana Restaurant Association. Wise downplays his award, reminding me that he is only as good as his team. He regards his employees so highly that he sends them each a thank you note on their annual anniversary date.

Philanthropy has become an important mission for Scott Wise, expressing his belief that businesses should have a social conscience. Over the years, these activities have become more important and have taken on a more personal meaning.

Scotty’s has participated in Toys for Tots at Riley Children’s Hospital for many years. For the past five years, Scott Wise and his staff deliver the toys personally, visiting with each child during the holiday season. In 2009, Scotty’s teamed up with Ghyslain Chocolatier in Union City to create Red Wagon Hot Chocolate. Scotty’s donates $1 from every cup purchased to Riley Hospital for Children.

Scott Wise has plans for Scotty’s Brewhouse in Columbus, Ohio, and Chicago. He will be bringing his interpretations of flavorful, casual dishes into those competitive markets. I expect Scotty’s will be well received as it has been throughout Indiana.


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Scotty’s Brewhouse Chili

2 6-pound cans stewed tomatoes

1/2 pound serrano peppers, diced

4 yellow onions, cut into chunks

8 pounds ground beef

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

4 tablespoons granulated garlic

6 tablespoons chili powder

4 tablespoons cumin

2 6-pound cans chili beans

1 6-pound can tomato sauce

In a food processor or blender, puree the tomatoes, peppers and onions.

In a 5-gallon stockpot (or the biggest one you have) over medium heat, cook the beef, pureed veggies and spices until the meat is brown, stirring often to ensure even browning.

Stir in the chili beans and tomato sauce and heat over medium heat to 165 degrees.

Makes four gallons. Note: This recipe makes enough chili for the Scotty’s restaurant crowd. If your party is a bit smaller, change the portions accordingly.

Cheeseburger Potato Soup

6 pounds ground beef

4.5 quarts (18 cups) water for broth

4 1/2 cups onions, chopped

6 quarts (24 cups) potatoes, cubed

4 1/2 cups carrots, diced

1 1/2 cups flour

4 1/2 cups celery, chopped

8 cups cheddar cheese

2 tablespoons basil

8 cups processed cheese, cubed

2 tablespoons thyme

1 1/2 cups sour cream

2 tablespoons pepper

1 1/2 cups (10 ounces) butter

2 tablespoons salt

9 cups milk

1 tablespoons garlic

3 tablespoons veggie base

Cook the ground beef until brown and drain off the excess grease.

In a stock pot, melt half the butter over medium heat. Stir in veggies, beef and all the spices and saute together for approximately 10-15 minutes.

Heat veggie broth (4.5 quarts water and veggie base) and add potatoes. Bring to a boil.

Add broth and potatoes to beef and veggies and let it simmer over medium heat.

Melt the remainder of the butter in a saucepan and then stir in flour.

Add milk and stir until smooth, keep stirring until thick.

Stir milk and flour mixture into soup thoroughly. Stir in cheddar and processed cheese until melted and mixed in.

Heat sour cream in microwave for 30 seconds, mix in soup and heat through over low heat to 165 degrees.

Makes four gallons.

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