Thursday, December 5, 2013

It’s Been a Busy Day

We ate tacos at La Fortuna. We sampled olives at Granzella’s. And we observed large flocks of birds at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge. It should be time to head back south to home. But it’s not. We have one more stop to make. At Nancy’s Airport Café in Willows.
“Farmers, ranchers, hunters, big rig drivers and an occasional traveler fortunate enough to stumble on the place.... That’s who you’ll find at Nancy’s Airport Café in Willows CA. And befitting the crowd, the portions are hefty, the food is great and it’s served with a healthy dose of patriotism” (Larry Levine at

“The café is decorated with historical photographs of airplanes…. Pilots fly in from afar for the good food; we are known among travelers and truck transport drivers, who always know where to get a good meal. Frequent customers include racers from Thunderhill Raceway, local farmers, Department of Forestry Service workers, seasonal hunters as well as the local Willows residents who have been coming to Nancy's Airport Cafe for years…” (nancysairportcafe
And Nancy’s was one of the stops made by Josh Sens and his family as recounted in his article for Via Magazine. “…(I)n Willows…I informed our children that you can trust the lemon meringue pie at any truck stop where the clientele wear billed caps and the waitress calls you ‘Hon.’"

Nancy’s was one of the stops when Chuck’s cousin Barbara and her friend from San Francisco made their mini “eating I-5” road trip. And a friend of Barbara’s friend (Or was it a friend of a friend of Barbara’s friend?) relayed a story about eating there one day and watching a small plane land on the runway and someone from the kitchen running out and handing the pilot an order of food. This gives new meaning to the concept of “take out.”
We arrived at the time of the afternoon when it is too late for most to be eating lunch and too early for most to be eating dinner. Therefore, we had the place pretty much to ourselves.
The menu contained items that you would expect in a small town (population 6,128) diner—sandwiches, burgers, meatloaf, pot roast, and chicken fried steak. But the menu did not include a grilled cheese sandwich and Barbara was hungry for a grilled cheese sandwich. No problem. They would be happy to make her one. Try that at most of the national franchise restaurants. So she got her grilled cheese along with an order of curly fries.
Neither Chuck nor I could resist the cheeseburger special advertised on a banner just outside the entrance doors. A cheeseburger with fries for only $3.99 with the—as advertised--“prurchase” of a beverage?
And pie for only an additional $2.00? Sold. Except for me—big spender that I am—I upgraded to the bacon cheeseburger.

While we are waiting for our food to arrive, Chuck begins looking around the café for photo subjects.
He turns his head to the left and espies the large white menu board hanging over the kitchen pass-through. “Broasted chicken!” he exclaims. “I didn’t know they have broasted chicken!”
For those of who unfamiliar with broasted chicken, broasting “is a method of cooking chicken and other foods using a pressure fryer and condiments. The technique was invented by L.A.M. Phelan in the early 1950s and is marketed by the Broaster Company of Beloit, Wisconsin, which Phelan founded…. The method essentially combines pressure cooking with deep frying chicken that has been marinated and breaded. The company licenses the ‘broasted’ trademark to more than 5,510 purchasers of its equipment who follow its specifications and recipes and undertake a periodic certification process. The arrangement is not a traditional franchise in that the licensee does not owe ongoing royalty payments” (

We had our first broasted chicken shortly after moving to the Philadelphia area and during our two-year experiment in urban living. Down the corner and around the block was a small store-front broasted chicken take-out stand, and it was a regular Friday night dinner stop. To reach the store one had to pass by the truck from which a gentleman would be selling fruits and vegetables and, when sales slacked, preach the gospel through a bullhorn. (I am sure that I have told this story before, but I operate under no illusion that my words are forever etched in your memory.)

Anyway, how could Chuck not have realized the Nancy’s sells broasted chicken. There is a sign advertising it on the exterior of the building. There is a large poster just inside the doors. And, of course, the aforementioned large menu board. So while we are waiting, Chuck
is trying to estimate how long he would need to wait following his cheeseburger to be hungry again and could order chicken.
So was he (I) happy with the cheeseburger (above) (bacon cheeseburger, below)? Very much so. It came on a toasted bun (always a good touch) and had the flavor of having been cooked on a flat top seasoned by years of hamburgers. And I swapped my fries for a side of very good potato salad.
And since Nancy’s is known for pie, we had to end our meal by ordering a slice of apple for Barb. “With ice cream?” the server asked. Ice cream, this came with three scoops—large scoops—of ice cream.

Chuck and I decided to share a slice of very rich banana cream and, believe me, this was plenty for both of us.
So we settled back into the car for our return trip after this 4.5 Addie lunch. I was lucky. I was in the back seat by myself and could catch a brief nap. And Chuck’s broasted chicken will have to wait for another day.

To review the role of Adler, Kitty Humbug, and the Addie rating system, read the November 14, 2011 blog.