Smile Politely

BEST new restaurants of the decade: #7, Watson’s Shack & Rail

From our BEST new restaurants of the decade feature:

In a different decade, Watson’s Shack & Rail probably hits a Top 5 entry here. As you will read below and what we wrote above, there are just so many excellent choices this year. When it opened in early 2016, it was truly anticipated. The high profile location on Neil St., next to the new Hyatt Place, and inside the old Boltini, was under renovation for months, with those familiar brown paper covered windows teasing us along the way.

When we got our hands on the menu, and posted it to this very site, the response was massive. In fact, it was one of the most viewed articles of the decade, and for good reason. It was everything we all wanted it to be: Nashville meets Shelbyville. New Orleans meets Chicago. Champaign meets Urbana: a place for everyone to enjoy.

Led behind Alec Gillespie and Sean Baird, two townies who knew what pulse to take at the right time, the fried chicken coming out of the kitchen was certainly the star of the show, but was only a part of what everyone loved. Chicharrones served in a popcorn bucket, dusted with cheeto-like powder. House made pickles, along with pimento cheese on plain saltine crackers. Steaming bowls of gumbo. Expertly crafted cocktails, and with slushie machines to make it that much more fun.

Let it be known that Watson’s was not the first in the world to serve boozie slushies, but here in C-U, they certainly set the trend. And I think that sort of says it all: Watson’s has been influential on our dining scene here in this city, and you can see that on display all the time. It’s a busy place, and for good reason. (Seth Fein)

Photo by Anna Longworth

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