More and more towns and cities are filling up with chain restaurants and, often, these eateries cut costs by using canned, pre-made and processed ingredients for their dishes. That’s not the case at family-owned Road Runner Express Espresso & Café in Yelm, Washington. At this modest café, they not only make everything from scratch, using real ingredients, they make some of the best broasted chicken you’ll ever find. In fact, Puget Sound radio station KVI awarded them the title of “Best Fried Chicken in the Seattle Area.”
Some people may not be familiar with broasted chicken. Essentially, it’s pressure frying chicken so that it’s not only crisp on the outside, it’s tender and uber-juicy on the inside. Broasting was invented in the 1950s by American inventor L.A.M. Phelan who founded the Broaster Company of Beloit, Wisconsin. Broasting was very popular in 1950’s-1970s, but, today, it’s tough to find restaurants that use Broasting machines. Fortunately for foodies, Yelm’s Road Runner Express Espresso & Café invested $10,000 in a Broaster pressure fryer and the result is amazing fried chicken.
The story of this little café goes back to 2006 when realtors Ed & Kathy Neiburger purchased a small espresso café called Screamin’ Chicken. (At the time, the café did not sell chicken.) They renamed the café and, after operating it for a few years, sold the business to their daughter, Kathy Dawn Brollier. Meanwhile Ed had tasted broasted chicken and convinced Kathy that this delectable chicken would put their business on the map. Kathy purchased a Broaster pressure fryer and, as they say, the rest is delicious history.
The café specializes in home made comfort food like fried chicken, mashed potatoes, chicken fried steak, biscuits and gravy, and macaroni and cheese. All of it is made onsite with no shortcuts.
We visited Road Runner Express Espresso & Café on a weekday for lunch, drawn in by the “Best Fried Chicken in Seattle” sign and RFT Editor Anne Weaver’s childhood memories of eating broasted chicken. I’d never experienced broasted chicken.
The café was filled with regulars, some who eat here every day. The waitresses know customers by name, something that’s unusual in a place like Yelm that’s grown to be an Olympia suburb filled with chain businesses.
We ordered four broasted chicken thighs and one combo that included JoJo’s, a biscuit, and an additional side (we followed the waitresses suggestion and ordered a side of mac and cheese). This isn’t fast food because every broasted chicken order is cooked fresh and that takes 12 minutes. Owner Kathy Brollier told us they use fat, 3.5 lb chickens that they marinate in seasonings for eight hours before cutting up them up by hand. Then the chicken is floured and broasted to order.
And the chicken is wonderful—crisp, juicy, and so delectable we couldn’t stop eating it. The thighs were big, really big (we ended up taking two pieces home). So were the two giant JoJo’s, each a quarter of a giant russet potato that was lightly breaded and served with flavorful, creamy ranch dressing.
The macaroni and cheese was a real highlight—super creamy and cheesy with nice wide noodles. This is the kind of mac and cheese you’d make for yourself at home. Only the biscuit, which was slightly dense and gummy, wasn’t over-the-top fabulous. However, we suspect these hardy biscuits hold up well to the café’s house-made sausage gravy (they grind their own pork butt to make the sausage).
Kathy makes all the desserts too. On the day we visited, she had coconut and banana cream pies, peach cobbler, and chocolate cake. We opted to split a piece of the coconut cream and it was a giant wedge, plenty for two, filled with coconut creaminess, plenty of real whipped cream, and crunchy toasted coconut on top.
At Road Runner Express Espresso & Café, they offer breakfast, lunch, and dinner seven days a week. Breakfast is served all day (pancakes and French toast until 2 p.m.). For those who love a big breakfast, they offer the Hungry Man—three eggs, three strips of bacon, potatoes, and sausage and gravy—for the same price as a regular breakfast.
They also specialize in BBQ—from ribs to brisket and pulled pork—and I’m drying to try it. However, I’ve tasted the broasted chicken, and it’s some of the best fried chicken I’ve ever eaten. Maybe next time (and I’m sure they’re will be a next time), I’ll order broasted chicken, JoJo’s, mac and cheese, and some BBQ. Now that sounds perfect.
— Story by Bobbie Hasselbring, Photos by Anne Weaver.
Road Runner Express Espresso & Café
203 W Yelm Ave, Yelm, WA 98597
8 am- 8 pm daily