Friday, May 28, 2010

A Dog and His Chicken

As travels take one around the country there is the inevitable encounter with a previously unheard of chain of fast food restaurants that intrigue, entice and excite. Aw, c'mon, you say to yourself, it's fast foot for crying out loud. What's to get excited about? Ask anyone from California who hasn't had an In-N-Out burger in a while and stand back for the reaction is all I can tell you. Now imagine my own delight when a co-worker and I stumbled across a place called "Raising Cane's" while on business in Louisiana.

Founded in the mid-90s by a college guy out of LSU in Baton Rouge who named it for his beloved pet dog, it has since grown to numerous locations over 13 states from Nevada to Virginia, strategically near college campuses where customers the founder understands are plentiful with budgets he also is very familiar with. The concept is chicken fingers, pure and simple and nothing else. Chicken fingers, fries and drinks. In-N-Out would be so proud.
We decide to dine in and enter the bright and cheerful dining area with a smallish serving counter to the left; just two register stations but a manageable line of only three or four patrons in line while most of the business was happening at the drive thru. The menu is fairly straight many do you want, from two for a kid's meal to 100 for a tailgate party, and what do you want with it which, in its simplicity is astoundingly astute in helping customers avoid that amazingly annoying question of "Let's see...jeez, I haven't even looked to see what I want!"

I went with the standard "Box" lunch, four fingers, slaw, a dipping sauce reminiscent of Thousand Island dressing and a humongous slice of warm, buttered Texas toast along with a regular sized drink. Orders are taken and a numbered receipt returned to you after which you pour your own drink and choose a table in the dining area. If they don't have time to bring your meal to you they'll call out your name over the public address system within a few minutes.
I was surprised that there was any wait at all considering how easy chicken fingers are to prepare: there's no shortage of customers during the lunch rush and none of those customers come with complicated special orders since there are no toppings to choose from. I expect fresh and hot food at all times from restaurants but can easily see speeding up the process that much more with a well-trained crew that knows how many fingers to "cook up" ahead of the busiest two hours of the day.

When our order came it was indeed hot, fresh and plentiful. The fingers were hefty and clearly from whole breast strips instead of processed parts. The mildly seasoned flavor is not as compelling as KFC's Original Recipe, Chik-Fil-A or even McDonald's Southern Style but I guess that was deliberate to allow the dipping sauce a free hand in the overall taste combination. The crinkle cut fries were right out of a 50's style diner, hot and crisp with plenty of ketchup for dipping.

Having driven all the way to Monroe, Louisiana before seeing my first Raising Cane's I have since happily discovered that there are four outlets in Dallas/Ft. Worth for me to choose from. Of course, that's not saying much at the moment; for an area of 6.5 million people that's only two more than all of Monroe!

Gotta go!

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