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Pilots pick top 10 airport restaurants of 2019

It’s official, or at least, it’s published: a list of the 10 best U.S. fly-in restaurants of 2019, according to the subscribers of

Photo by Christopher Rose.

You’ll want to think outside the burger to get the flavor of this informational feast, despite our custom of referring to a food fly-out as a “$100 hamburger” adventure. From seafood to shining seafood, and sandwiched between the Great Lakes and the Gulf of Mexico, pilots will find that variety spices up life at the delicious destinations designated by the 54,000 pilots whose votes on victuals were vindicated with victory in the 2019 contest.

For an eatery to be eligible, it had to have no beef with the requirement of being reviewed in the current edition of The $100 Hamburger - A Pilots' Guide by John Purner. And the restaurant must have “steaked” its claim to a five-star rating from

Hungry to learn the winners? Here they are on a platter, alphabetically by state.

  • Gaston’s Restaurant at Gaston’s Airport in Lakeview, Arkansas. A fishing theme reels in the clientele—sesame grouper cheeks, anyone?—but the extensive menu ranges far from the banks of local waterways. Yes, there are burgers, and they come with your choice of “river chips” or fries.
  • Flo's Airport Café at the Chino, California, airport. Family-owned since 1975 and named for the original proprietor, Flora Slack, Flo’s is famous for chicken fried steak and biscuits with country gravy. There’s an in-house bakery that serves up “scratch pies, cobblers, dinner rolls, and their enormously popular cinnamon rolls.” There’s also another Flo’s location in town.
  • The Harris Ranch Restaurant at Harris Ranch Airport in Coalinga, California, serves up its own ranch-raised beef—think of oak-smoked prime rib, among other temptations—“with a snappy supporting cast of seasonal fruits and vegetables, many homegrown on Harris Ranch farmland.” Pair your plate with a Harris Ranch Reserve wine and leave room for dessert of homemade ice cream, cake, pie, or other creations from the ranch bakery.
  • For every leg of an airport traffic pattern there’s a restaurant waiting to be named, and the Downwind Café, offering American and Italian fare in a covered patio alongside the taxiways at the Spruce Creek Fly-in community in Daytona Beach, Florida, upholds the tradition.
  • If a World War II theme is your cup of tea, plan a trip to Atlanta’s Dekalb-Peachtree Airport and follow the troops as they advance on the 57th Fighter Group Restaurant. Classic American fare is dished up for lunches, dinners, and Sunday brunch, in a 1940s European farmhouse setting.
  • Pilot Pete’s Restaurant is where the adventure begins at a “Chicagoland Aviation-themed eatery” at Schaumburg Regional Airport in Schaumburg, Illinois. The nachos come adorned with lobster or chili, and the menu of signature soups, salads, sandwiches, and specials stretches to a series of savory pages.
  • Fly in, dine out: That’s the plan for pilots who fly to Eagle Creek Airpark in Indianapolis and make their way to Rick's Cafe Boatyard where the seafood is flown in from around the world daily, and other American entrees come your way in a high-ceilinged dining room with a panoramic view of Eagle Creek Reservoir.
  • The Beaumont Hotel and RV Park, in Beaumont, Kansas, is celebrating its 140th anniversary. The cafe was closed for the winter, but we just called to check and learned that it reopened in March on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Check the website for days and hours when a landing at Beaumont Hotel Airport can be complemented by enjoying breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
  • The historic terminal at Bowman Field in Louisville, Kentucky, is the aeronautical milieu of Bistro Le Relais, where you and your passengers can relax and enjoy an intimate dining experience within a “1940s art-deco interior reminiscent of the Café from the movie ‘Casablanca.’”
  • The food’s “fit for a king” at Jake’s Joint at the municipal airport in Ardmore, Oklahoma. Jerry Allan King-Echavarria (get it—the initials spell JAKE?) runs a maintenance business at the airport, and when other restaurants came and went, leaving lunch hours in the lurch, he took matters into his own hands. Lunch is now served from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

OK, that’s 10, but don’t call for the check just yet. Instead, freshen up your cup of coffee one last time and note the honorable mention given to the Southern Flyer Diner at the Brenham Municipal Airport in Brenham, Texas, where “quick perfection” is the name of the game. A visit to its webpage tempts you to click on icons of a milkshake and a burger to view the menus, and the hours are 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

If you are still hungry for more great restaurants, check out the favorites of AOPA staff members and pilots.

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz

Associate Editor Web
Associate Editor Web Dan Namowitz has been writing for AOPA in a variety of capacities since 1991. He has been a flight instructor since 1990 and is a 30-year AOPA member.
Topics: People, US Travel

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