Steam rose off of the new Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchen in Lodi Sunday evening, like a piece of Cajun chicken fresh from the fryer.
Bright, shiny and new on the corner of Kettleman and Cherokee lanes, Popeye’s popped up in the blink of an eye on the former site of Carrows. After approximately three months of construction, the restaurant opened its doors for the first time Sunday to long lines of hungry customers.
Families and groups of friends were piled into the many seats inside.
“It’s good. I’d never had it before. I came in because I had heard it was good,” said Brianna McGrath from Galt.
Popeye’s is a chain restaurant founded by Alvin Copeland in 1972 in New Orleans. It now has more than 2,000 restaurants all across the United States and Canada, and in other countries such as Malaysia, Poland and Ecuador.
The nearest locations had been in Stockton, Manteca and Modesto. Now one has come to Lodi.
“It’s a great location, there was no Popeye’s here, and we thought Lodi needed some really good chicken,” said Jerome Patterson, district manager of Popeye’s.
Items on the menu include the Bonafide chicken, sandwiches, chicken tenders, popcorn shrimp, jambalaya, mashed potatoes and macaroni and cheese.
The food is infused with Louisiana-style spices and herbs, reminiscent of the founder’s Cajun recipes, Patterson said, although there are also mild items as well.
Many of those same spices, peppers and herbs are displayed in large glass jars near the front of the dining area.
In a nod to Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans, visitors on opening day were greeted at the door by one of the 50 new employees handing out plastic beads.
By 4 p.m., Patterson said the restaurant had already served more than 1,000 people, and a steady stream of people continued to either walk in or order through the drive-thru.
“People were waiting for it. When we would go out into the community wearing our (Popeye’s) shirts, we would get asked all the time when it would be open. There’s been a lot of excitement,” Patterson said.
The restaurant will hold more festive grand opening celebrations in a couple of months, but no dates are set yet.
A few things are still in the works, such as installing the sound system to play jazz music both in the restaurant and out on the patio, and the landscaping which hasn’t been planted yet.
Overall the feel of the restaurant is more modern than southern, despite the Cajun flavor in the food.
“Our theme is different from what people would expect a Popeye’s to be. It’s changed and is much nicer with new decor. It’s not what you’re going to see in a different geographical area.”
Even with updated decor, the restaurant provides nostalgia for one college student, Phillip Krus who was home for the holidays.
“I’ve moved around a lot and there’s always been a Popeye’s wherever I went. I like it a lot better than KFC,” Krus said.
He ate with his friend Connor Young who had never been to a Popeye’s before.
“My sister lives in Louisiana, so I was expecting good Louisianan food. It’s good for Lodi to have a good chicken place,” Young said.
Contact reporter Christina Cornejo at firstname.lastname@example.org.