Before living in Charlottesville, I had never eaten at Raising Cane’s. When I finally tried it three years ago after hearing people sing its praises, I was not exactly disappointed by my meal, but it wasn’t love at first bite. I still didn’t understand the hype — until today. After attending the grand opening of Cane’s on the Corner this morning, however, I’ll admit that its superfans are onto something — the restaurant’s friendly atmosphere, high quality of service and tasty food make it a great spot for a quick and accessible meal on the Corner.
Before this week, I had gotten Cane’s takeout a couple of times, but never quite bought into the hype. Was the chicken good? Yes. Did I think it was worth trekking up 29 and waiting in the traffic? Not so much. When I heard about the new location on the Corner, however, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity for this skeptic to give the famed Southern chicken chain another chance.
Conveniently located at 1519 University Ave, Charlottesville’s second Raising Cane’s location has officially opened its doors after more than two years of vacancy. This is the same location where Sheetz used to reside before being shuttered in 2021 to many students’ dismay. At first glance, Cane’s stands out with its familiar chain branding among other locally-owned establishments. Looking inside, however, I could see the steps the restaurant is taking to integrate into the quintessential Corner scene. Outfitted with navy and orange booths and University memorabilia, the chain’s latest outpost looks the part.
The restaurant’s opening day festivities — which started at 8 a.m. and culminated in the official opening at 10 a.m. — included a raffle to win free Cane’s for a year, a ribbon cutting ceremony and an appearance from Cav-Man. When I first arrived around 8:30 a.m, there was a small line but not quite a crowd. Some students were aware of the grand opening and had planned to attend, such as third-year Engineering student Carson Peters.
“I intended to wake up and be here at 5:45, but I did not hear my alarms and so I woke up around 8:40, and I biked over here as fast as I could,” Peters said.
Conversely, others in attendance had come on a whim in the last few minutes before the drawing.
“I didn’t even know this was happening till 8:30 this morning,” said fourth-year Engineering student Sam Harless, who decided to attend the grand opening after learning about it through his roommate’s friend.
As the raffle announcement drew closer, the crowd swelled. University cheerleaders and Cane’s staff encouraged the crowd to make noise and shouted call-and-response chants. The air began to buzz with excitement. The restaurant’s management narrated the chain’s history and emphasized its commitment to the community by presenting a check to Madison House. All in all, it was a feel-good event.
Much to my surprise, I was one of 20 lucky winners of the raffle, which means I can get up to three Cane’s meals for free each month — a perk that ensures I’ll be making somewhat frequent Cane’s runs. A fellow raffle winner — fourth-year College student Stecia Howard — described her newfound enthusiasm for the chicken chain.
“Oh my gosh, I’m so excited,” Howard said. “I really did not think I was going to [win the raffle]. I kind of just entered because my friend really wanted it. [I’m] looking forward to a year full of Cane’s.”
Now, for the food. I ordered a Box Combo, which included four chicken fingers, crinkle-cut fries, Texas toast, coleslaw, a serving of Cane’s Sauce and a drink — I got lemonade. This time around, I can say confidently that I think the chicken, which was still hot from the fryer, lives up to the hype, especially alongside the famous Cane’s Sauce.
The sides — particularly the warm and buttery Texas toast — paired well with the chicken, though they certainly weren’t the stars of the show. The lemonade, meanwhile, provided a crisp and refreshing way to wash down the otherwise heavy meal. Even if I had to pay the $11.39, I’d say the Box Combo is worth it — it’s very filling and delivers on flavor. If you find yourself with an incredibly empty stomach on the corner, the Box Combo is a good way to satisfy your hunger.
While I ate, smiling staff members came by to check on me and congratulated me on my raffle win. I sensed that the commitment to customer service was strong and clear.
Though only time will tell, I have a good feeling that the restaurant will keep up its opening day momentum. Speaking as someone who wasn’t a huge Cane’s fan before, I’ll be eating here a good deal more than I used to. The friendly atmosphere and location make it a great spot for a quick meal.
Moreover, I think that the store’s late hours — it’s open from 10:00 a.m. to 12 a.m. Sunday through Wednesday and 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m. Thursday through Saturday — will be sure to make it a convenient food stop during a night out on the Corner. All to say — it looks like the Corner has a new staple.