26801 Aliso Creek Road
Aliso Viejo, CA 92656
There's a new chicken restaurant invading Southern California. This one has a lot of people excited, especially people from the southern part of the US. I have to admit that I hadn't heard of them before they opened up their first OC location in Costa Mesa late last year. I went to their soft opening, and liked it, but wondered if a chicken finger restaurant would make it here in OC. I've been to their newer location in Aliso Viejo a couple of times now, and judging by the crowds, it appears that Southern California has embraced Raising Cane's.
The story of how Raising Cane's has come to be is a good one. Started by CEO Todd Graves, he started this restaurant by writing up his business plan in college. His professor was less than impressed with it, gave him a bad grade on it, and told him a chicken finger restaurant would never work. Undeterred, he raised the money to open his first restaurant by working in a Southern California refinery, and then working long hours up in Alaska on the salmon boats. He came back to his beloved Louisiana with just enough money to open up his first restaurant, and people loved it. They were open almost around the clock, and people still could not get enough of their chicken fingers.
Back in October, when they opened their first California restaurant in Costa Mesa, they had similar lines. People were clogging up Harbor Boulevard while getting into the lot, the drive-thru line was long, and the inside of the restaurant was bustling as well. When Aliso Viejo opened it was a little more controlled chaos, with the drive-thru line being staged in another part of this large shopping center, and the big dining space of this former Burger King spot, which was torn down and rebuilt, was busy, but there was plenty of seating.
One thing I've noticed about where they have placed their restaurants is that they appear to be coming after Chick-fil-A. Just like the Costa Mesa spot where Chick-fil-A is right across the street, at the Cane's in Aliso, there's a Chick-fil-A right in this same shopping center. Even their new Cane's location, which is yet to open in Orange, is only a block away from their chicken competitor. A very aggressive business strategy in a competitive marketplace. Of course they'll clean up on Sunday's when Chick-fil-A is closed, and people want some poultry. Let's see what's got a lot of people all excited, the chicken at Raising Cane's.
The menu at Raising Cane's is not going to amaze you with its diversity. They do one thing here, and it's chicken fingers. Just like In-N-Out Burger, the folks at Cane's are reluctant to change their menu. In fact, their menu has not changed since they opened over twenty years ago. They have four items available on their menu, a 3, 4, or 6 chicken finger meal, and a chicken sandwich made up of, you guessed it, three chicken fingers. There's also their sides, which include; crinkle cut fries, coleslaw, and Texas toast. Let's take a look at what made up my Box Combo ($7.29) at Raising Cane's.
Of course we have to start things off with what they are most famous for, their Chicken Fingers. On their own, these chicken fingers are a little on the bland side, like a lot of chicken tends to be. Yes, they are freshly made, and tender, but without the Cane's Sauce, they would be kind of boring. The sauce is kind of a peppery version of thousand island dressing, without the pickles. It's made even better with the addition of a packet of hot sauce, that you have to ask from the workers behind the counter. Mixing this in the Cane's Sauce gives it an extra kick, which turns the sauce up a notch. Some might lament the absence of ranch dressing at Cane's, but this sauce goes well with the chicken here, and I haven't even missed my favorite condiment. They do offer honey mustard or ketchup for those of you that are not a fan of the Cane's sauce, but those are your only other options for dipping here at Raising Cane's.
Now on to the sides that are included in the Box Combo, like this Coleslaw. I wasn't really a big fan of this slaw. It's got a kind of soupy texture to it, which is fine with me, but other than that, it's kind of bland. Maybe if they would have made it with their Cane's Sauce it would be better. You should know that if you are not a fan of one of the sides here, you can swap it out for one that you do like. Not a fan of the coleslaw, have extra fries or an extra slice of Texas toast. I'd probably swap out this coleslaw on my next trip to Raising Cane's.
The Fries here are pretty average. I liked the crinkle cut they featured, but they are under seasoned and kind of boring. Only made better when dipped into the Cane's sauce, or maybe if you ask for them well done. I'm also not really a fan of the Texas Toast, but I might be in the minority when it comes to this opinion. My friend Richard, who has accompanied me on most of my trips to Raising Cane's, is in love with this toast. He always skips the coleslaw and gets an extra piece of toast, and I always end up giving him mine as well.
These reviews go pretty quick when the menu is this limited. If you are not a chicken finger person, not in the mood for chicken fingers, or are dining with people that don't like such a restricted menu, you might want to skip Raising Cane's. Even though I said that the chicken is boring on its own, the sauce here makes it worth while to try Cane's. I'm not really a big fan of chicken, but I have found myself craving a trip to Raising Cane's for their chicken fingers, and I never thought that was going to happen. It's something about the freshness of the chicken, the light batter, and most importantly, the sauce. I have a theory about why people from the south are so crazy about this place. It's a little piece of home, here in Southern California. It'd be like In-N-Out putting a restaurant in Boston or Miami, (not that I'm a big fan of In-N-Out, but that's a story for another day). Service has been really good on all of our visits to Raising Cane's. Employees here really seem to care about their customers, and make routine sweeps through the dining area frequently. I'm also a fan that they do a lot of work with local charities, and tailor their restaurants decor to correspond with each city they are located in. A nice touch, and it helps me understand why people are so crazy over this restaurant, even if I'm just moderately excited by it.
Out of five red sticks, (because this restaurant was founded in the capital of Louisiana, Baton Rouge, which translates to red stick in French), five being best to zero being worst, Raising Cane's gets 2.5 red sticks.
For more information about Raising Cane's, go to their website here: http://raisingcanes.com/