People have blown Duck Commander calls millions of times, but none have been more effective than when CEO Willie Robertson blew the feed call to open the season for Willie’s Duck Diner Friday.
Folks from around the south locked wings and soared down on the diner like mallards eyeing a pair of mojo duck decoys. But instead hearing the “boom boom” of a shotgun going off, Willie and friend and partner, Bucky Newell, heard another familiar sound, “Cha-Ching“.
An hour before the ribbon cutting Friday morning, there were people already at the West Monroe location eager to eat and be part of this day. They were from Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Texas, Kansas and I saw one car each from Idaho, Florida and Kentucky parked close by the front door. Willie had warned the staff to keep cool and calm because it was going to be a long, hectic day. It was. No reservations were taken. Not even for Phil (Yes, I asked. And, no, he would never have been in this crazy crowd anyway). The owners said if people had to wait to get in, they would just have to wait. It wouldn’t be fair to do it any other way. That’s the Duck Dynasty way.
My wife and I went back for supper and gave the diner a shot. Hey, Jack, I was locked in on the feed call. We went early, and I’m glad. I expected to have to stand in line out in the cold night air and hoped I wouldn’t catch a Si nus infection. I really expected it to look like an LSU football game was going on or south Louisiana had been evacuated for a hurricane. But it wasn’t that bad. I think a lot of people waited to come another day because they thought the same thing. We got in and were seated fairly quickly.
I asked our waitress how the day had gone. When she took a deep breath before answering, I kinda knew the answer. “It hasn’t let up all day. In fact, we haven’t had many open tables since 3 o’clock,” she said. And this is not a small restaurant, folks.
That was good news and bad news. The good news was the day was a successful opening. The bad news was, menu items were slowly starting to disappear like ducks falling helplessly from the sky and there was still shooting light left! The worse news is, by the time we were about ready to leave, the restaurant was wing shot late on opening day. They had to close the doors two hours early because they were running out of many menu items. And no, it was not just because I was there, thank you very much.
We were fortunate. We got to try a sampler of fried duck strips (the waitress said Phil shot them/the owner said “no”), alligator, boudin, frog legs (the waitress swore Jase caught them/the owner again said “no”), fried crawfish, oysters, jambalaya, homemade biscuits, cornbread, hushpuppies, turnip greens and Ms. Kay’s famous banana pudding. I will say this — the food was really good. It was a fun atmosphere, decorated in duck decor as you would expect. I will go back. The menu features lots of Louisiana dishes with an outdoor flair, but it is still in a state of development. There are also country entrees like meatloaf, chicken fried steak, smothered pork chops with sides like mac & cheese, white peans, mashed potatoes and gravy and fried okra. At some point, they will identify signature dishes, but it’s too early for that, or maybe they will wait for help from Johnny Manziel, an expert in the area of signatures.
Toward the early ending of opening night, Bucky sat down at our table and said, “I’m just going to have to lock the doors. I hate it, but I don’t want people coming in to just half a menu. It’s the only professional thing to do.” He was right. But it wasn’t what people who kept coming to the door wanted to hear. It was just part of the growing pains of a new restaurant.
What actually happened is that the staff figured the lunch crowd would hit the po-boys, burgers, sandwiches and salads pretty hard, then customers would take aim at the heavier entries at night. Nope. They blasted away at the good stuff — duck and andouille sausage gumbo, dirty rice plates, crawfish etouffee and seafood platters from legal eating hours. Even the gift shop took heavy fire as t-shirts, coffee mugs and camo caps with Willie’s likeness headed out the door by the decoy bag full.
If you are planning on going today, Bucky said rest assured there is a new delivery of food already on the way for special delivery Saturday morning and they will be better prepared for the whole day. I’d give them a thumbs up on that.
He also said at some point, they will probably go to a shorter lunch menu and separate the evening menu to keep that from happening again. One thing I’ll bet on. They will make it work. They are off to a good start. Willie did say on the TV news that his passion for cooking and eating were just like his passion for duck hunting. In that case, there’s nothing but good ahead. And to add to that magic formula, his own passion has been overtaken only by that of rabid Duck Commander and Duck Dynasty fans. He built it and they will come. From here, there and beyond.