Mary Tutwiler

Playing chicken: Otter's opens Saturday

by Mary Tutwiler

Otter’s, Lafayette’s brand new fried chicken finger restaurant, is taking it to Raising Cane’s. While owner Talbott Ottinger swears the location of his restaurant, directly across the street from Cane’s on the corner of Pinhook and Kaliste Saloom is purely coincidental, we find that explanation hard to swallow. However, everything else at Otter’s goes down easy.

The Ind dropped in for lunch at the soft opening yesterday. The restaurant, which has a drive-thru window for call-ins but doesn’t take orders outside, “we’re not a fast food restaurant,” says Ottinger, was slammed even though it don’t officially open until Saturday. It’s a pretty straightforward chicken menu: fingers in a box, fingers in a sandwich, fingers (fried, grilled or buffalo) in a wrap, chicken salad. The twist? Beer. “I’m down,” says a blogger named “Louisiana State Tiger” on the TigerDroppings website, in a lively chat about the Cane’s vs Otter’s showdown.

Three of the four founders are Lafayette bred. Ottinger and Charlie Fitzgeraldl went to the Episcopal School of Acadiana. Stuart Ottinger went to STM, and their fourth partner, Steve Logan, grew up in Kentucky.  About a decade after graduation, Talbott Ottinger was living in Nashville and dreamed of an easier way to earn a living than law. So he took his love of fried chicken, crossed it with another south Louisiana product, seasoning from Konriko, (thanks to classmate Rusty Davis), and started cooking. Three Otter’s restaurants are frying in Nashville, the Lafayette location is number four in the chain, and a franchise is open in Murfreesboro, Tenn. Otter sauce is spiked with the Konriko trademark seasoning as well.

There is a sports bar element to Otter’s. A private room, dubbed the Bull Pen, is game ready, and there are TVs all over the restaurant as well. Hanging on the wall is a signed jersey from Otter’s most famous silent partner, UL grad and Denver Broncos’s wide receiver Brandon Stokley. As soon as that beer license arrives, Otter’s will be serving up Coors Lite, Miller Lite and Bud Lite, along with its fingers and Zapp's chips. Let there be beer.