Layne's v. Cane's
I am a fan of Raising Cane's Chicken Fingers and was intrigued a few years ago to learn College Station had a similar restaurant called Layne's Chicken Fingers. Even more interesting, Layne’s first opened in 1994, two years before Cane’s opened their doors in 1996. Which of these eateries is actually the best?
This battle became even more entertaining for me since I graduated from Texas A&M University in 1994, just missing Layne’s arrival. Then my daughter began attending Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge (where Cane’s started).
A Layne’s location recently opened in Katy, Texas, and I set out to do a taste test. In learning more about Layne’s v. Cane’s, I found out that apparently both of those eateries took their menu idea from the OG chicken finger restaurant in Haleyville, Alabama – Guthrie’s.
Guthrie’s was founded in 1965. Originally Guthrie’s served a full Southern Cuisine menu but switched to a chicken finger-centered menu in 1978. Guthrie’s opened a second location in Auburn, Alabama, in 1982 and a third in Athens, Georgia in 1984. Guthrie’s Box, or sometimes called “Gut Box,” looks like the 4 Chicken Finger boxes/plates at Cane’s and Layne’s. However, Guthrie’s does serve coleslaw with their 4 Chicken Finger meal just like Cane’s.
This became a battle of the SEC! Because…Zaxby’s was also based on Guthrie’s and was founded in Statesboro, Georgia in 1990 before Layne’s or Cane’s. Zaxby’s is very open about their “copycat” version. One of the founders, Zach McLeroy, ate at Guthrie’s while attending the University of Georgia. More on Guthrie’s later.
Layne’s and Cane’s are almost exactly the same – in both businesses the chicken fingers are fried similarly with flaky, crisp crusts, both have similar original sauces, both have crinkle-cut fries, and both have Texas Toast. Although Layne’s 4 Finger Meal does not include coleslaw (in fact, Layne’s does not sell cole slaw), Cane’s does include the slaw – just like Guthrie’s does!
Honestly, except for the Texas Toast, which is shaped differently at both Layne’s and Cane’s (though both delicious and brushed with butter and garlic), I would not know if you were offering me Layne’s or Cane’s chicken, fries, lemonade, or the sauce. The sauce is a little more peppery at Layne’s, but both are heavenly! Everything at both restaurants was hot, fresh, and tasted made-to-order. The prices are comparable, too. Cane’s was about $1 more, but Cane’s includes the coleslaw.
Layne’s does offer more menu options, including grilled cheese, club sandwiches, potato salad, shakes, and several sauce choices. However, comparing chicken-finger-meal to chicken-finger-meal, these two establishments are fraternal twins.
Now, Zaxby’s disappointed. While they were the first to copy Guthrie’s, they were also the least enjoyable. The chicken fingers were smaller and not flakey or fresh-tasting like Layne’s and Cane’s. The fries, while crinkle, were boring. The Texas Toast was room temperature. The sauce is served in a pre-packaged container. The lemonade tasted as if it were from a powdered mix. I will say the coleslaw wasn’t too bad. But every other item felt unpleasant - not made-to-order, not fresh, not delicious.
The good news is that Layne's v. Cane's is a win-win scenario! Whether you opt for Layne’s or Cane’s, I genuinely think your decision is a good one. Now, I need to plan a trip to try Guthrie’s to taste the original goodness!