Chicken Shack and Bar coming to downtown Champaign!

watson shack

Watson’s Shack & Rail, LLC plans to open a fine-casual chicken shack in the previous Boltini location at 211 N. Neil Street in downtown Champaign, with an expected open date this upcoming fall.


The core menu at Watson’s Shack & Rail will offer fried and rotisserie chicken (in dinner platter and sandwich formats), supplemented by house made biscuits and pie, seasonal sides, and chefdriven appetizers and specials. Signature dishes will include Nashville Hot chicken, tomato pudding, and broasted potatoes smothered with house made gravy. Watson’s will be keeping full bar services, offering a selection of curated craft beers, small producer wines, and micro spirits along with custom cocktails and frozen beverages.


Watson’s is led by a team of local talent including former Cracked Truck partner Sean Baird, Roland Realty’s Alec Gillespie, and chef Mark “Shades” Hartstein. The concept requires a build out of a new kitchen in the rear of the former Boltini space as well as a thorough makeover of the dining and bar featuring work by local wood, metal, and glass artists.


Following the national food trend towards a more sustainable and transparent food system, Watson’s hopes to contribute to its local food ways by supporting regional agricultures, educating consumers about sustainable farm practices, and providing an example by which affordable food can be made with higher standards of integrity.


Shades quotes a turn of phrase by Laura Higgins (ribelle, Ma) as Watson’s culinary standard: “Your idea of cooking connects someone’s idea of farming to someone’s idea of eating. Never be the unjust messenger.” He continues, “Thematically, we’re looking to combine a rustic atmosphere with a restless culinary spirit, comfort food with an inquisitive mind, Appalachia with induction.”


CONTACT: Watson’s Management