It's almost time for Slim Chickens to ring the dinner bell. The blues-inspired chicken eatery is set to open its doors tomorrow at 10:30 a.m.
After that, the regular operating hours will be from 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday. On Fridays and Saturdays, the dining room will close at 10 while the drive-thru will stay open until 11 p.m.
The restaurant is located on South U.S. 27, taking over the building where the former Bojangles' restaurant was. The building has been completely remodeled to be more in line with what one would expect from a place called "Slim Chickens."
While wintertime may seem like a dreary time to open a new restaurant, owner Ryan Dotson didn't seemed concerned at all.
"The weather has been very helpful," Dotson said. "I think the weather really is going to be a blessing for us."
Plus, the January start date means plenty of practice before warm weather and tourism season arrives.
"Opening at this time of the year helps us to normalize our operations going into the boating season and the lake season, so that by the time March rolls around, we're three months old at that point. We're more stable. Everyone's well trained," he said.
And the Somerset area is ready for a restaurant like this, Dotson said.
"I really like the market here. I really like the demographics. We've done our own little market study and found that, if we operate this correctly, this could be a high-volume store."
It's not hard to notice that Slim Chickens is one of several new restaurants lining U.S. 27 now, with Chili's and Popeye's recently opening and a Chick-fil-A in the works.
Dotson said there is a simple explanation for that.
"I believe they see the same thing I did. I think people see in their market studies, with Lake Cumberland being what it is and the draw that it is for this community, that there's a lot of potential. And I think those who run their best restaurants operationally will be the ones who remain. So, it gives us something to shoot for.
"We know we have a great product, but we've got to preform each and every day. Customer service is number one with us."
As for that product, Slim Chickens is primarily a chicken restaurant, as the name implies. Dotson explained that their food is unique in that it's never frozen.
It also has a double-marinade process, he said. It begins with a 24-hour saltwater brine that breaks down the connective tissues. Then, the chicken is allowed to soak in buttermilk before being battered and getting whatever other treatments it gets.
For the tenders and wings, that means the possibility of getting "shaken in one of 11 different sauces," Dotson said.
Those flavors run the gamut from mildly spicy to "Inferno," or getting Honey BBQ, Korean BBQ, Garlic Parmesan or even leaving them plain.
Then, the visitor can choose one of 17 different dipping sauces. Dotson's favorite is the Cayenne Ranch, but there are the general buffalo sauces, up to and including that "Inferno" again, or plain Ranch, Honey Mustard, Blue Cheese or the "Slim Sauce."
Dotson points out there is more than just chicken available. Sides include mac and cheese, coleslaw, potato salad, fries and others.
If the choices seem overwhelming at the start, first-time visitors should know that Dotson has been pushing out information onto social media and giving out menus.
"So when they come in, they have an idea of what they would like to try. And really, it's a hook to get folks back to try things they didn't get to try the first time. I think that's what's the unique thing about Slim Chickens."