Listen, I don’t need any sort of special reason to drop into Watson’s Shack & Rail for dinner. It’s a McClure family staple. It’s difficult to conjure a miss in any of the too-many-to-count times we’ve either dined there or brought it home. Their approach to Restaurant Week only endears me to the establishment more. I appreciate that they took the opportunity to try something that’s not typically on their menu. Last year, it was this massive saucy breaded chicken cutlet atop spaghetti.
This year, they expanded the Restaurant Week menu to a full slate of new items, including an app, main, dessert, and special cocktail. And by golly, we were determined to try them all.
First up, the rye-tai. Beyond the Sazerac rye and a couple of flavors (almond, pineapple) listed on the menu, the full scope of the concoction was otherwise a mystery. Appropriately outfitted with a little umbrella and pineapple-adorned straw, this sweet, beachy cocktail was a nice little escape from the dreary weather outside. It was actually a little sweeter than I anticipated, with the rye replacing the rum usually found in a traditional mai tai. It was also sneakily strong — so just be aware of that and proceed accordingly.
The drink was the only item my husband and I did not share. From the photos I’d seen, it seemed wise to go halfsies on the rest.
I’m going to be honest, I was not particularly excited about the corn ribs. Don’t get me wrong, I was raised in the Midwest. I love corn on the cob. I just went into it a bit unenthused. The “ribs” were placed in front of us, and my mind was already beginning to change. I obviously had not carefully read the description that clearly stated the sections of corn on the cob were crusted, but indeed they were. They were incredibly seasoned with Watson’s house seasoning and were wonderful. The seasoning was quite salty, which I thought was just fine, but something to note if that’s not your vibe. The black pepper ranch was the perfect dip accompaniment. Though is ranch ever not the perfect dip for things? Again, Midwesterner.
The real reason I wanted to do this review was the main dish: beef short ribs, Pappy Van Winkle honey bourbon glaze, mashed potatoes, and green beans. Comfort food on a plate. I remarked to my husband as we dug in that it was a sort of genius menu decision for a restaurant week that happens in the dead of winter. While the rye-tai made me long for summer, this was a reminder of the good things we have to soothe ourselves during this trying time.
The beef was tender and pulled apart easily, and was just perfect with a forkful of the warm and garlicky mashed potatoes. As a young adult, I had a green bean phobia of sorts. I’d never had a bean that wasn’t from a can (no offense if that’s how you like them…I just can’t). I even refused to consider them when selecting the menu for my wedding reception, even though they were recommended as the complement to my chosen main. Why would I want to make such a ridiculous choice? Oh because green beans are actually really good. I now choose them from all the menus, and these green beans were stupendous. Not too firm, not too mushy, perfectly seasoned. Tying all of these hearty foods together was a slightly sweet, slightly tangy, super flavorful bourbon sauce made with a bourbon that certainly does not come from the bottom shelf.
I was very glad that we’d chosen to split this dish, though if you are feelin’ hungry, you just live your best comfort food life and keep it all to yourself.
Last up was dessert, which was a full waffle separated into four sections, each with a different topping. This item would be a kid pleaser for sure. My kid, who is actually a teenager, orders Chelsea’s Shameless Plea literally every single time we get Watson’s because of the waffle. This dish was my least favorite part of the lineup. That’s not to say it was not good. The waffles were light and fluffy, and were tasty, and I liked the creativity of doing a variety of toppings. I think I want more liquid involved when I eat waffles. If there’s no syrup, then the toppings need to compensate for that. With that in mind, here are my rankings for the waffle toppings:
- Dutch chocolate drizzle. Of course, it was the best. It’s chocolate. I kind of wish there was more of it.
- Strawberry bourbon jam. It covered the waffle nicely and was delicious.
- Fruity pebbles. Fun and nostalgic, but didn’t add much flavor-wise.
- Candied pecans. I love candied pecans, and these were really good, but I ate them separately. Maybe they would work better if they were crushed up, and there was syrup.
Bottom line, you don’t want to miss out on Watson’s Restaurant Week specials. The good news is that you have through Saturday, February 3nd to take advantage of them.
Watson’s Shack & Rail
211 N Neil Street
M-T 4 to 9 p.m.
W-Th 4 to 10 p.m.
F-Sa 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Su 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. + 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.