Giving Layne’s Chicken Fingers the benefit of the doubt

Howdy folks, and welcome back to Houston Historic Retail! Today, we’re doing something I generally try to avoid by rehashing an old topic, Layne’s Chicken Fingers, or the A&M Version of Raising Canes. To make it a bit unique, we are visiting the “Layne’s Express” on Ella. To make a long story short, Layne’s was the first “chicken finger restaurant” to open up in Texas. The history of chicken finger chains is pretty deep; it really goes back to the 70s and an Alabama restaurant named Guthrie’s. While Guthrie’s was originally a traditional Southern restaurant, the family quickly realized that chicken fingers and a homemade Worcestershire-based dipping sauce were the biggest sellers. The Guthrie family pared down the menu to chicken fingers, french fries, cole slaw, Texas toast, and their sauce. They also started locating their restaurants near college campuses. Sound familiar yet? This was the prototype of which both Layne’s and Cane’s based themselves. Despite Layne being the first to open, Cane’s was the first to expand, leaving the Aggie Chicken joint trying to make up ground. The restaurants in Houston are franchised by the same group that does The Halal Guys here, and this is their second co-located restaurant. While my first impression of Layne’s left me with little desire to return, it wasn’t bad either. Mainly, I wanted to go back because of the building!

I used to work along the North Loop, and during this time, Ella was a go-to spot for lunch. It was a “fast food alley” and even expanded in my years there. With a set of apartments demolished for a new Carl’s Jr. and Raising Cane’s and a car wash torn down for an El Pollo Loco, when I saw permits filed for a new Halal Guys, I figured the former pawn shop the building inhabited would be demolished, and lamented the loss of the “OPEN TONITE” neon signage! However, to my surprise, the new owners renovated the rear parking lot, reused the building, and re-lit the neon! So, when I was quite confused about where Layne’s would end up. Well, lo and behold, one day, while I was zipping down Ella to get some Donuts, I saw that a drive-thru had been punched out of the remaining building, and Layne’s was close to opening. I decided to give them the benefit of the doubt, to check out at least Houston’s first Layne’s Express. There is a small bit of patio dining, but for the most part, this is a takeout restaurant only. The food was remarkably better than my last visit to Layne’s. Perhaps it was opting to get the spicy chicken tenders, or maybe the food was just fresher, but it was better overall. Since I visited this location, Layne’s has since opened a new location on Shepherd in the former KFC, which I documented years ago.

One comment

  1. When I ate at Layne’s second restaurant ever back in 2006, they had a chicken pack of 1,876 fingers, to celebrate the opening of Texas A&M University. I don’t think anyone ever bought it.