Restaurant of the Week: Raising Cane’s, Upland

Raising Cane’s, 183 E. Foothill Blvd. (at 2nd), Upland; open 9 a.m. to 1 a.m. Sunday to Thursday and until 3:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday

Founded in 1996 and based in New Orleans, Raising Cane’s is a rapidly expanding quick-service chain of chicken finger restaurants. Ontario has two and Fontana, San Bernardino and Upland have one each. Upland’s opened back in January and, after months of meaning to go and forgetting, I went there on my lunch break recently.

When I got there after 1 p.m., there was a line out the door (thankfully it wasn’t raining), and a majority of the seating was taken. However, the first register is angled toward the entry, close enough to the door that it takes only five or six people to make a line out the door. Very canny.

The menu is of course flat against the wall and begins a little beyond the first register. You can’t really see it in its entirety unless you’re ordering from the second register.

(I’m a little put off by their chirpy “One Love” motto, seen above. Bob Marley’s shade must be shaking his dreadlocked head at his song being used by a corporation. On the other hand, maybe the expression of unity and inclusion is a subtle jab at the Chick-fil-A founder’s retrograde social views, in which case, carry on.)

I got the three-finger combo with fries, toast and drink ($7.42). A four-finger combo that also had slaw was a little under a buck more, but I didn’t see it on the distant menu board until picking up my order directly under it. Oh well.

The chicken was fine, perhaps more heavily battered than is strictly necessary. The skinny crinkle-cut fries were crisp. It was a decent cheap meal.

The music was cranked up too loud for comfort for my tastes. Employees were hustling. It’s a high-energy place. As when Lou Grant told Mary Richards that she had spunk, and he hates spunk, I’m not really a fan of high-energy places. There’s an expansive patio outside that was quieter, but also colder. That would be my preferred seating on a warm day.

As must be obvious, after all the hype about Cane’s, the experience was a slight letdown. Expectations adjusted, perhaps a second visit will be more to my liking. Food-wise and ambience-wise, I’d prefer to eat at Chick-fil-A. Although Cane’s is better on Sunday (rim shot).

One neat local touch on the wall inside the entry: a framed 1978 issue of Skateboard World magazine. The cover promotes not only a feature on the Cal Jam II concert in Ontario, but one on the “Upland finale” of a skating event, presumably at the old Pipeline skate park.

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  • DebB

    I was wondering if you’d review RC’s, since you don’t usually do chains. But they’re pretty new around here, and they’re worth mentioning. I’ve eaten at this restaurant and also the one at Ontario Mills. I expected a line, since they seem to be trending right now, but I guess I’ve managed to get there at off times and it hasn’t been a problem.

    Like you, I was just slightly let down the first time, after having heard rave reviews. But I like them enough to go back on occasion. For me, their food is about equivalent to Chick-fil-A, although I like Cane’s dipping sauce better. Chick’s menu is more expansive, and I’m one of those who mostly agrees with their “retrograde social views”. But I like and eat at both places.

    • davidallen909

      I kind of like reviewing a chain when it’s new here, like the Habit in La Verne or Five Guys in RC, since there’s curiosity about it. Thanks for your support!

      I’m more of a Chick sandwich guy than a Cane’s fingers guy. (The concept that Cane’s sandwiches are made up of chicken fingers strikes me as weird, even if it’s simpler for them.) And more of a Donahoo’s fingers guy than either of the above.

  • Another commenter

    My anterior descending aorta gave a little spasm when I saw your serving of food. That stuff would have to be Michelin star quality for me to eat that much fried batter. I hope you really like it if you go back, but don’t go back too often, we need you at the DB.

    • davidallen909

      Funny, a reader on Twitter said he thought the Cane’s that he’d had didn’t have enough batter. It takes all kinds, right? Either way, I won’t go back often, if at all.