While in college, students are on the constant hunt for cheap and/or easy meals — meals that can satisfy at any time of the day and only cost a few of their precious dollars. Whether it is at 1 p.m. or 1 a.m., as long as a meal hits the spot without making a dent in their wallet, students will be sure to constantly eat it for the sheer convenience. Often times, this meal becomes chicken tenders and fries.
Chicken tenders and fries is a pretty universal meal. Most restaurants have their own variety of the dish on their menu, and it is often relatively cheap. Here at the University of Nevada, Reno, the two main chicken/fries combo-connoisseurs are arguably Archie’s Giant Hamberger and Raising Cane’s.
Both restaurants support the university in some shape, way or form, and both are located mere steps from the campus, nearly in the same parking lot. And while Cane’s might have their famous recipes drawing in customers nationally, their chicken doesn’t hold a candle to Archie’s. Beyond chicken, Archie’s is the better place for fries, dipping sauce and ambiance.
The obvious place to start comparing these two restaurants is at the heart of the source — the chicken.
Cane’s sole purpose for existence is surrounded by their chicken. My sisters will literally drive out of their way on road trips in order to get some Cane’s, and I know I’m not the only one that knows someone like that. However, I just don’t think their chicken is THAT great.
Cane’s chicken is greasy to the point of soggy. By the time I am done eating them, I can feel the grease seeping through my pores and I feel the need to shower. Maybe this is pure coincidence, but every time I have eaten Cane’s, their chicken is very chewy to the point where I question whether it is actually chicken, and they attempt to cover this by overly-breading it. It just never quite hits the spot for me.
On the other hand, Archie’s chicken is the perfect balance between greasy, breaded and chewy. I don’t have to wipe the grease off my fingers every time I pick up an Archie’s chicken tender. The breading is a nice texture — just enough to cover the chicken but not overpowering it. The chicken is always at a comfortable chewiness so I’m not questioning whether I’m actually eating meat.
Perhaps one of the few categories Cane’s wins over Archie’s is price. A 4-piece combo box that includes chicken, fries, toast, coleslaw and a drink is only $7.75, whereas just the chicken and fries at Archie’s is $8.80. To college students who have limited funds, this could be a deciding factor. However, I will gladly pay the few extra bucks to receive quality food.
This isn’t even a contest in my book. Once again, Cane’s comes in as soggy. Their crinkle-cut fries always taste like they’ve been sitting in the to-go box for hours, just waiting for their turn to be bought. The condensation within the box plays a huge role and often leaves the fries limp.
I have never had this experience at Archie’s. Maybe it’s because I go at good times, but I have never been served fries that I have felt were sitting out for hours. Usually, they’re so hot from coming out of the oven that I have to let them cool off a little. Their fries mix between crunchy and soft — never too much of each, but just enough to satisfy all fry lovers.
Obviously, fries are nothing without a great sauce to dip it into. These two restaurants serve phenomenal sauces with their chicken and fries. Honestly, most of the time when I order fries, they’re just a vehicle to put sauce in my mouth.
Cane’s is known for their famous sauce that people can’t get enough of. Even I, someone who rarely eats Cane’s, love their sauce. I don’t know exactly what is in the sauce, but I know the peppery flavor does a great job of masking their soggy food.
Archie’s makes their own ranch sauce every day, and you can taste the difference between homemade and store bought. I love Archie’s ranch so much that I will sometimes order just a basket of fries as an excuse to have their ranch. I am not usually a ranch fan, but Archie’s concoction is out of this world. It pairs perfectly with their piping-hot fries.
Drinks and Sides
I can’t even argue this one too much — Cane’s has the better drinks and sides, with the exception of their coleslaw. They serve Texas toast with every meal, and it is just down-right delicious. If I have to eat at Cane’s, that’s usually what I fill up on. They’re also one of the few places that sell sweet tea, which is enough to get me through the door.
However, if you are of-age, Archie’s has a full bar, and that’s something Cane’s can’t compete with.
I will argue all day long that Archie’s has the better environment between the two restaurants. Cane’s is a fast-food restaurant designed to get people in and out quickly. Their location next to campus is minuscule, barely bigger than their parking lot. Going there is a pain, especially to park. Often times people will park in the Archie’s parking lot next door because it is more convenient than the actual Cane’s parking lot. Don’t be that jerk that parks in one restaurant’s space and goes into another.
Cane’s tries to imitate the college-town diner by inheriting the history and spirit of a university, and kudos to them for trying, but the reality of the situation is that they are a national chain and do this wherever they are located. The lack of authenticity is always there.
Archie’s doesn’t try to mimic this culture because they are part of the culture that is our college town. They have authentically gained the reputation of being the restaurant that defines the campus culture. Other than The Wal, they have the most cultural presence of UNR — it is THE college diner. Also, where else are college students supposed to go when university athletics are playing away and the game is on CBS? Not Cane’s, that’s for sure.
Both restaurants support the university greatly financially and in other ways, and the students surely appreciate that. Whether it is the free Cane’s at basketball games or the perfect hangover meal at Archie’s, both do their service to the student population. However, as a UNR student, I would give my money to the people who are actually part of our community, not a corporate imitation. If I had to be choosy — and I am — I would pick Archie’s any day.
Opinions expressed in The Nevada Sagebrush are solely those of the author and do not necessarily express the views of The Sagebrush or of its staff. Madeline Purdue can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @madelinepurdue.