Fly-in dining: Rick's Cafe Boatyard

May 14, 2014

Editor's Note: To give you some ideas for airports to visit when you attend the AOPA Fly-In at Indianapolis on May 31, we asked the GA travel experts at Pilot Getaways to share some of their favorite nearby fly-out destinations. This article originally appeared in the Pilot Getaways magazine. Want more? We've secured exclusive AOPA member-only discount pricing for a subscription.

The exterior of Rick's Cafe Boatyard. Photo by Shauna J. McKenzie.

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Rick’s Cafe Boatyard provides a great lakeside escape from the city, just steps away from your tiedown. Perched on an overlook at the southeast shore of Eagle Creek Reservoir, the restaurant serves great seafood and other specialties. The outdoor deck seating and interior window-front tables afford panoramic views of the lake and the surrounding forest of Eagle Creek Park, one of the country’s largest municipal parks, spanning over 3,900 acres of land and almost 1,400 acres of water. On evenings and weekends, diners can listen to live jazz while enjoying the scenery. A cozy gazebo on the reservoir bluff completes the scene, and a licensed captain waits dockside to take you for a complimentary cruise after dinner. It’s hard to believe that a setting befitting a coastal retreat can be found only ten miles west of busy downtown Indianapolis.

Flying there

Eagle Creek Airpark (EYE) is about 7 nm north of Indianapolis International (IND), underneath Class C airspace. From most directions, you can remain clear of Class C airspace by flying below the 2,100-foot MSL floor. From directly south, you’ll need to either detour around the Class C or contact Indianapolis (“Indy”) Approach for a transition on 127.15 MHz east of the active runway, or 124.65 MHz west of the active runway.

To get to Rick’s Cafe Boatyard, walk through the FBO and cross the street. Photo by Shauna J. McKenzie.

Approaching the airport, you can listen for weather on the Eagle Creek Airpark ASOS, 121.575 MHz. Runway 3 is the calm-wind runway, and both runways use left traffic. If you use Runway 21, keep in mind the left traffic pattern is southeast of the airport, so be careful to avoid entering Class C airspace, which starts less than 2 nm south of the airport. If you approach from the northeast, watch out for a few 1,000-foot towers (1,866 feet MSL) near I-465, about 5–8 nm from the airport. Aircraft departing from Runway 3 are requested to climb on runway heading to 1,500 feet MSL prior to making any turns.

After landing, park at Eagle Creek Aviation Services at the southwest corner of the airfield. Once you tie down, walk through the FBO and across the street (west) to Rick’s Cafe Boatyard. The ramp fee of $8 for singles and $15 for piston twins is waived if fuel is purchased; there is no ramp fee if you’re just going to Rick’s for a meal. Overnight tiedowns start at $15 for a single and $25 for a piston twin (first night waived with fuel purchase). The full-service FBO has a flight planning area, pilot lounges, a courtesy car, and rental cars. Eagle Creek Aviation Services touts themselves as the world’s largest Twin Commander sales and service center, so you’ll likely see many Twin Commanders on the ramp. Customers fly in from as far away as the West Coast for maintenance, upgrades, or a total overhaul that results in a better-than-new airplane, the Grand Renaissance Commander, 317-293-6935 or 800-4-TPE331.

Rick’s Cafe Boatyard

Diners enjoy lake views from the deck or inside the nautically-themed restaurant. Photo by George A. Kounis.

Diners sail, drive, and fly to Rick’s Cafe Boatyard for incredibly tasty meals and the cool breeze off Eagle Creek Reservoir. The restaurant has a white wood exterior and a sloped burgundy roof topped with a lantern-style cupola. The wrap-around deck balcony overlooks the boat docks. Rick’s resembles a boathouse in an East Coast lighthouse town, its exterior hinting at the seafood selections offered inside.

You will have a difficult time choosing between the outside deck’s impressive dockside views and the interior’s sophisticated nautical design. When you enter the dining room, your eyes will most likely be drawn to the windsurfing board suspended from the restaurant’s pitched ceiling. Wooden tables with bamboo chairs rest beneath green umbrella tops also suspended from the ceiling. The raised horseshoe-shaped bar is the dining room’s centerpiece. Florida palms in large terracotta pots sit on pedestals throughout the room.

Lunch and Sunday brunch cater to corporate and family diners. For dinner, the lights are dimmed and candles are lit. A local jazz band sets up inside the hook of the bar, while patrons claim front row seats on barstools or opt for a bit more privacy at the nearby high tables. Balcony seating offers a more casual atmosphere; heaters keep diners warm enough on fall days to enjoy the breeze off the water.

The bar’s abbreviated dinner menu complements the music, and its mix of pub options and seafood offers somethng for every diet, from Paleo to gluten-free. Try the Sake Seared Scallops appetizer, served with calamari salad, blue nori relish, enoki mushrooms, and sriracha, $15. For a heartier bar-side meal, try one of Rick’s signature ten-inch wood-fired pizzas. The Italian Grilled Vegetable is baked with grilled zucchini, yellow and red peppers, eggplant, mozzarella, parmesan, goat cheese, pine nuts, and pistachio pesto, $12. The Porterhouse Pork Chop is a recent addition to the menu that is popular; the 10-ounce chops are marinated in olive oil, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, and rosemary before being mesquite grilled with roasted garlic butter, $18–$26. To accompany your meal, bartenders mix specialty martinis like the Citrus Martini, a potent mix of Grey Goose Le Citron vodka, triple sec, and lemonade, shaken and served in a sugar rimmed glass, $12.

Large windows and the deck balcony offer front-row seats to another nightly attraction: spectacular sunsets over Eagle Creek Reservoir. Watch sailboats glide by in the orange glow of a drooping sun while you start your meal with an appetizer big enough to share. The Chef’s Combination is a great way to start, with portions of tempura fried calamari and ancho chili aoli, jumbo fried shrimp, and chicken cordon bleu fingers, $20.

The bar offers front-row seats to live jazz. Photo by Shauna J. McKenzie.

The main course takes dining enjoyment to another level. Rick’s Café Boatyard scours the globe for fresh seafood, and its signature menu offers options ranging from Florida mahi-mahi and Idaho rainbow trout to rainforest tilapia and Scottish Atlantic salmon. The South American lobster tails are prepared in a wood oven and served with clarified butter and garlic-chive roasted new potato blend, $28–$45, while the Scottish Atlantic Salmon, naturally raised in the waters off the Shetland Islands, can either be mesquite grilled with lemon herb butter or barbequed with charred corn salsa (both are served with couscous primavera), $30. Though the entrée selection is seafood dominated, “landlubbers” need not worry: Rick’s prepares several beef, poultry, and pasta options like the Raspberry Chicken, sautéed with onions, tomatoes, mushrooms, Chambord cream, and fresh raspberries, then served with sun-dried tomato rice, $16.

On weekends, jazz starts at 11:30 a.m., so you can fly in for live music with lunch or Sunday brunch. The Mediterranean Tuna Melt is enveloped in a toasted pita bread with Roma tomatoes and mozzarella, and served with fresh fruit, $10. On Sundays, the regular menu is expanded to include brunch items like Eggs Chesapeake, poached eggs stacked on a Dungeness crab cake with hollandaise sauce served with potatoes, fresh fruit, and a muffin.

Don’t let your boatyard experience end without dessert. Rick’s Mudd Pie is a wedge built for at least two. Made in-house, this indulgence has a chocolate cookie crust, four inches of coffee ice cream layered with peanuts, an inch of chocolate fudge, and at least another inch of whipped cream, all drizzled with chocolate sauce, $6. You may just mistake this decadent dessert for a mainsail. If an after-dinner drink sounds better, then indulge in a chocolate martini: Absolut Vanilia vodka is mixed with Godiva White and Dark Chocolate Liqueurs, Kahlua, and Frangelico, then served in a martini glass decorated with a chocolate swirl, $8.50.

After your meal, take a walk down to the reservoir to enjoy the active waterway from the gazebo at the edge of the bluff. If you don’t have time to take in the complete experience at Rick’s Cafe Boatyard, you can order menu items to go (the menu is posted on their website). Live jazz is featured nightly, 7–11 p.m. The restaurant’s kitchen is open daily 11 a.m.–11 p.m. (Saturdays until midnight), 317-290-9300, 4050 Dandy Trail.

Where to stay

The mini-suites at the Ramada Limited, about 1 1/2 miles east of the FBO, are a convenient place to stay after a night of jazz and martinis. Relax in your mini-suite equipped with high-speed Internet access, a refrigerator, and a microwave. Private outdoor entrances cater to four-legged visitors, welcome for an additional $15 per night, 3851 Shore Dr., 317-297-1848 or 800-854-9517.

Transportation

There’s no need to worry about transportation if you’re just flying in for a good meal at Rick’s. The restaurant is directly across the street. If you want a vehicle, Eagle Creek Aviation offers a courtesy car on a first-come, first-served basis. The FBO also arranges rental cars through National with prices starting at $50 for a mid-size, 4101 Dandy Trail, 317-293-6935.

Indiana is perfectly stuck in the middle…of the country that is. So when you’re looking for coastal flavor without a flight plan to the East Coast, fly to Eagle Creek Airpark for Rick’s lighthouse-inspired boatyard. It is more than just a place to stop and eat, it’s a culinary experience that will have you planning your next visit on the walk back to your plane. So kick back and relax with the breeze off the reservoir, the sounds of jazz guitar, and tasty seaside cuisine.

From the archives of Pilot Getaways magazine. Details such as frequencies and prices have been recently updated to reflect current information.

Aerial view of Eagle Creek Airpark (EYE) facing north. Photo by George A. Kounis.