So in Part 1 of the Holy Grail of… Fried Chicken, I alluded to one of my quick-dine fried chicken mainstays. For those of you who have spent time in or around Baton Rouge, I suspect you know exactly which chain I’m talking about (and no, it’s not Bailey’s). Since I may have artificially inflated its stature, I figured I’d start my quest by paying this spot that I so often frequent another visit, only this time dining with a much more objective palate.
What spot do I speak of? None other than Raising Cane’s, of course.
Before I begin, I’d like to propose a rating system (out of 5) to establish a consistent basis for my quest, measuring what I believe to be the most important aspects of amazing fried chicken. Paramount to fried chicken are a crispy crust and moist chicken, but there are so many other variables that make each piece of fried chicken unique… the batter, seasoning, freshness, cut, accompaniments, sauce, price, and the list could go on. In addition to ranking the fried chicken on the qualities above, I’ll also rate the general ambiance of the establishment itself.
Let’s begin! If you’ve never seen a Raising Cane’s, it decidedly looks like a fast food restaurant, and by definition, it probably is. But don’t necessarily dismiss it as your run-of-the-mill “over xxx-billion served”. When you enter, you’ll notice the modern, exposed architecture, which is actually rather inviting. You’ll notice Cane, and Cane II (the dogs). You’ll probably also notice the menu, front and center over the registers. No, there’s no mistake… you can choose between chicken fingers and chicken fingers, and you can order any number you’d like–3, 4, or 6, and they’ll even put them on a bun. And if you wander a bit farther, you’ll notice what may arguably be the coolest thing in the shop: the ketchup spigot… yup, ketchup on tap. No question what their focus and passion is. Ambiance: 4 of 5… though I’d qualify this by comparing it to other quick-dine spots. On to the rest of the ratings.
Crispiness: 3 of 5. While I’ve had crispier chicken, there’s always nice crunch to their tenders. And no matter which location you go to, it will be consistent (one of the perks of being a chain). Better to eat it there though, cuz it’s just not the same if you take it to go.
Juiciness and Freshness: 4 of 5. I’ve never had a piece of dried out chicken from Cane’s. Attribute that to the fact that it’s marinated for 24 hours, or the fact that their tenders are never frozen… It doesn’t drip down your chin, but it will never feel like your chewing Bubblicious.
Batter and Seasoning: 4 of 5. Sometimes batter can be overwhelming (batter to chicken ratio needs to be right). The amount of batter is good for the amount of chicken. Though not incredibly seasoned, I’d never call it bland. You don’t get all the chicken flavor since you can only get tenders here.
Cut: 4 of 5. If you’re in the mood for a drumstick, you’re better off heading to Popeye’s or Frenchy’s. If you just want to devour what’s set in front of you without worrying about choking on a wishbone, this is the spot. Their tenders are real chicken (not pink slime), and they’re perfect for dipping. Which brings me to sauce.
Sauce: 5 of 5. I’m not sure where they found unicorn tears, but they did, and they make every batch with it. No matter how many fingers you order, get extra sauce. You’ll want to put it on everything but the lemonade. It’s salty, spicy, mayonnaise-y, ketchup-y goodness. Don’t ask what’s in it though… they’ll never tell. For those interested, they also make a honey mustard… who knew??
Accompaniments: 5 of 5. This may be excessive, but between the crinkle cut fries (plenty of surface area for the never ending ketchup fountain), the perfectly buttered and toasted Texas toast, and the lemonade with pellet ice, it’s hard to find flaw with the simple sides. Oh yeah, they offer made-fresh-daily slaw too, but if you order a “box combo, no slaw, extra toast, extra Cane’s sauce”, you can double up on the addicting toast at no extra charge (there’s a nominal fee for that second sauce, but it’d be worth twice what they charge).
Price and Value: 4 of 5. I don’t think I’ve found a better quick fix meal for under $8. Fried chicken certainly isn’t the “$$$$” on a menu, so I won’t say it’s the best fried chicken I could get for $8 (I’ll leave that determination until the end of the quest), but it’s a darn good economical meal.
And it’s one that I often find myself craving. The only other menu items I crave from another fried chicken joint (at the moment) that I can grab on the run are the biscuits and red beans & rice from Popeye’s.
I’ve tried my best to remove my bias, but as everyone knows, there’s always that nostalgia about things that feel like home from days past. There are many Raising Cane’s across the city now… I can honestly say that even if you don’t love it, you likely won’t be disappointed. So if you see one in passing, make a mental note and swing in one day. Let me know what you think about Raising Cane’s, Houston.
Thanks for the suggestions on the Quest so far; keep ’em comin’… I’m off to my next spot to find the Holy Grail of Fried Chicken in Houston!