The Chicken Run, which is expected to open as early as Thursday in Middleton, is a spin-off of a restaurant in Sterling, Illinois, which has been in business for 50 years and is famous for its chicken.

The mostly take-out and delivery restaurant in the former Crandall's Carryout & Catering, 6401 University Ave., will only offer seating for 12 to 15 inside. Delivery won't start until after the new year, said Melissa Ryan-Bergstrom, the restaurant's marketing director.

The space was in "pretty poor shape" and needed a lot of work, Ryan-Bergstrom said.

The Middleton restaurant is the first to be named Chicken Run. The other three restaurants owned by the same family are called the Candlelight Inn. Besides the Sterling restaurant, which moved from its original location, there are Candlelight Inns in Rock Falls, Illinois, and in Clinton, Iowa, overlooking the Mississippi River.

The signature item at Candlelight Inn is its Chicken George, chicken breast tenders that will be the focus of the Chicken Run.

According to the Candlelight Inn website, in the early 1970s, one his regular customers asked founder Bob Prescott for “something different.” Prescott asked his fry cook George to make a dish that he'd been making for himself, that had him de-boning and cutting up chicken breasts and lightly battering and frying them.

"The rest is history," the website says about the dish that Prescott quickly dubbed “Chicken George.”

According to the website, the three Candlelight Inn restaurants now serve an average of 6,000 pounds of Chicken George each week.

Ryan-Bergstrom said the Candlelight Inn is more of a fine-dining, sit-down restaurant. The Chicken Run will serve a limited menu beyond the Chicken George: hand-cut french fries, cheese curds and fried Oreos.

The Chicken Run will offer sauces with the Chicken George, including Jan's sauce, named after Prescott's late wife, who ran the restaurants with him. Now the business is owned by the Prescott sons, Matt and Bobby Prescott, Ryan-Bergstrom said.

Jan's sauce, served at the Candlelight Inn, is a sweet-tangy, secret-recipe sauce, Ryan-Bergstrom said. "Anyone who we mention Jan's sauce to who knows the Candlelight Inn, is so excited that sauce is going to be coming there."

The Middleton location is the first Wisconsin venture for the Prescotts and if everything goes well it might be "the start of something that could be great," she said.

Chicken Run, which will have a drive-thru, will be open daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Bob Prescott is still making daily deliveries for the business he started in 1967, Ryan-Bergstrom said.

"Matt and Bobby are obviously following in their dad's footsteps, being entrepreneurs and going into areas where they think their business can be successful," she said.

"It's a very family-oriented business. So they are good to their employees, they are good to the community. It's really going to be an asset to Middleton."

Read more restaurant news at go.madison.com/restaurantnews.

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Wisconsin State Journal food writer Samara Kalk Derby brings you the latest news on the Madison area's eclectic restaurant scene.