Let me say out the outset that the food at Outlanders Southern Chicken is marvelous. Judging by the cars parked in front of the restaurant on Nolensville Road, it’s obvious that I haven’t gone out on a limb here.
The Outlanders name is a bit curious, though. Outlander means stranger. If you’ve met the eatery’s owner, Brian Summers, the first impression you’re likely to get of this friendly gentleman is that this guy has never met a stranger, let alone been one.
It’s true, he wasn’t born and raised in Middle Tennessee, but he’s embraced the area like a longtime resident. Summers and his wife have lived in the Nashville area for 14 years now. They opened for business in Nolensville in June of 2015.
As for the name, Summers says: “Our employees picked the name. I gave them a list with 15 names and asked them to pick three. Outlanders was on every list.”
While I waited for him to complete customer orders, I took in the décor. The walls are lined with license plates from Michigan to Delaware and beyond. There are several wide screen TVs, a couple of guitars and an angry looking barracuda. The ceilings are filled with a collection of eclectic artifacts, from a life-size sailfish, to a surfboard, to model airplanes that once graced the skies.
Customers provided most of the items.
“People enjoy being part of our little community,” Summers said.
Summers had been in the restaurant business before, having owned four Domino’s Pizza locations in southern New Jersey. When he decided to plunge back into the industry, he wanted to focus on fresh foods he could prepare daily. Everything on the menu is fresh. “Every chicken tender is jumbo in size. We lightly bread and marinate them for 24 hours. When you bite into one of our tenders, you get chicken,” he said “We don’t use freezers, microwaves or ovens. We cook everything to order, fried, grilled and tossed in one of our sauces.”
The sauces are an interesting mixture of traditional options like blue cheese, ranch and honey mustard. There are also nine unique choices with interesting names like Freebird, and Key West Conch sauce, that invite you to check out their ingredients.
If you guessed fried is the most popular choice for how people like their chicken tenders, you are correct. Most popular sauces? Ranch and Honey Boom-Boom, a combination of honey and cayenne peppers with a hint of wildflowers and citrus. Outlanders most popular side dish is fried buffalo mac and cheese with hickory smoked bacon paired with farmhouse and habanero ranch sauces.
Coping with the COVID-19 crisis was a challenge, of course. Summers closed the restaurant for two weeks. Then, they went “Coop side to Car side,” exclusively. Summers was so proud of his creative description of their takeout service that he registered it. “We did extremely well during that period,” he said. “We offered on line ordering and the option of using a phone app. We still do.”
Summers grew animated when I asked him how he contributes to the community.
“We help with fundraisers, especially school related events. When it’s done in our restaurant, we donate 20 percent of the proceeds to the cause.”
Outlanders also provides food to the Nolensville Police and Fire Departments.
“I also feed the staff at each Nolensville school once a year, a full spread of whatever they choose," Summers said.
Summers chose to open his business in Nolensville because he is "community oriented" and loves the location.
"I’m very happy I chose Nolensville," he said. "We have a fantastic and dedicated staff here.”
“From the beginning, the town’s residents have been very supportive. Even with COVID, we have grown our business every year.”