The Chicken Runnner

After a tip from a caller to the Mail Tribune who said there was good Mexican fare at the food trailer sitting next to New Stage Collision on Rossanley Drive, my boyfriend Rob and I checked it out for a late lunch on a Saturday.

The Chicken Runnner offers Mexican fast food and touts "the best smoked chicken in town." We couldn't say for sure, but we thought the chicken was pretty tasty.

According to proprietors Alex and Frank Valdez, the two wanted to do something different with their menu when they opened The Chicken Runner a couple of months ago. Their chicken is marinated the night before, then smoked each morning for the day's trade. The smoker sits under an awning next to the food trailer, along with piles of cut wood.

Another awning covers a long picnic table for customer seating, but one of the best things The Chicken Runnner has got going is its "to go" service. We watched at least a half dozen customers stop in and pick up orders while we sat and munched on some chicken and carne asada tacos.

A whole smoked chicken dinner with rice and beans is $16. There's also a smoked chicken combo with rice and beans or an enchilada combo with two pieces of smoked chicken available for $5. A carne asada combo with rice and beans is available for $5.50.

There's also burritos (with or without the salsa, cheese and sour cream topping), tostadas, huaraches, quesadillas, tortas and — my favorite — tacos. These tacos were made simply of white corn tortillas filled with bites of tender meat topped with a little salsa. I prefer this authentic style to others that are stuffed with lettuce, cheese or sour cream. And at $1.25 each, you could afford to eat a plateful of them.

We also tried the smoked chicken combo, because the combos are served with fresh, handmade tortillas. Steamed and served hot, these tortillas were plump and delicious. But, the ones used to make the tacos also were good.

There's also a torta Cubano on the menu, a sandwich made of pork roasted in adobo seasoning, lettuce, tomato, onions and sour cream. Frank said it's like the Cubano women of the Valdez' hometown of Mexico City because "it's got everything."

Alex treated us to samples of her champurrado while we were there. It's a sweet beverage that she makes with chocolate, milk, cinnamon and corn mesa. It's a traditional drink served around the holidays in Mexico, she said.

During the summer, the diner offers fresh, handmade tamales. Large orders of them can be called in and picked up.

I'm going to add The Chicken Runnner's phone number to my call list as a good place to pick up dinner on the way home or to grab a quick lunch. If you go for dinner, don't wait until it's late. Because the chicken is smoked each morning, the diner can be sold out by closing time.

I wondered about the spelling of Runnner myself, but when I asked Alex about it, she said it was to make the name stand out. The Chicken Runnner is near the intersection of Sage Road and Rossanley Drive. Look for the sign with a little chicken wearing huaraches painted on it.

— Laurie Heuston

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