The Hungry Pilot: Airport Cafe, Urbana, Ohio

With this article we are launching our latest feature, called simply “The Hungry Pilot.” We’ll highlight the best airport restaurants, from small town diners right on the runway to five star establishments within walking distance of an airport. As usual with Air Facts, we want to hear from you, too. To share your favorite $100 hamburger spot, follow the format below and email us: editor@airfactsjournal.com. Pictures are always appreciated.

Airport Cafe
The Airport Cafe is right on the ramp at Grimes Field.

Restaurant name: The Airport Cafe

Airport: Grimes Field, Urbana, Ohio (I74)

Famous for: Homemade pies and small town charm.

Restaurant tips: The Airport Cafe is just what you’d expect from a classic airport diner. The modest building is right on the ramp, with picnic tables and rocking chairs out front. It’s a fun place to simply relax and watch airplanes on a pretty Saturday. If you sit for longer than 60 seconds, you’re guaranteed to meet a new friend. Once inside, choose a booth by the windows so you can watch the activity on the ramp and judge other pilots’ landing skills. Service is fast and friendly, and after you’ve been a few times you are sure to be recognized as a regular.

The cafe is open Tuesday through Sunday, from 7am to 8pm, so it’s a great place for both a fly-out breakfast and a Saturday afternoon $100 hamburger. The menu features classic diner fare, from big breakfast omelets and pancakes to biscuits and gravy. For lunch, sandwiches and burgers dominate, and the patty melt is a particular favorite, with great rye bread and plenty of onions. But there’s more here than just bar food–try the perch in season and the hearty chopped steak is good as well. And of course, be sure to save room for dessert. The Airport Cafe’s homemade pies are worth the flight alone, especially the black raspberry and meringue. Prices are very affordable, seemingly in step with the airport’s old fashioned feel–a couple can easily eat for under $10.

I74 ramp
Grimes Field in Urbana, Ohio is a picturesque general aviation airport

Airport tips: Grimes Field is an airport right out of a Norman Rockwell picture, with World War II hangars, a grass runway and plenty of small town charm. The airport was founded by Warren Grimes, who practically invented the aircraft lighting industry in the 1930s, and whose company was based at the airport for decades. Today, the airport features a 4,400′ long paved runway, plus an excellent grass strip. In addition to The Airport Cafe, I74 features a large EMS helicopter hangar, the Grimes Flying Lab (a beautifully restored Beech C-45H airplane that was used to test Grimes aircraft lighting systems) and the Champaign Aviation Museum. This World War II museum features an A-26 Invader, a B-25 Mitchell and a Douglas C-47, and is in the process of restoring a B-17. After lunch at the restaurant, stroll down the ramp to this hangar and take a look.

Grimes Field is simply a great way to spend an afternoon. From food to camaraderie to history, it has everything pilots love about aviation.

14 Comments

  • A great place. We volunteer at the Champaign Aviation Museum and have lunch here every Saturday. Great food and people. It can get very, very crowded during the lunch rush…we’ll be there tomorrow with our crew and usually a veteran from World War II. See you there!! OMT, definitely closed on Monday and I think they close early on Sunday…the owner is in the process of getting his pilot’s license, so you can rest assured you’ll find air minded people there!

  • A great place I stopped at the other day was the Barnstormers airport restaurant and lounge located in Norfolk, Nebraska. Very cool little place right on the airport and the whole place is aviation themed and very unique. Burgers are fantastic and you can taxi right up to the restaurant no problem. They even have cool shirts and other apparel to show off your $100 hamburger! Highly recommended!

  • Great on field place at tri-county regional in lone rock Wisconsin. Fresh home made, cakes, pies. Hearty inexpensive breakfast and lunches.
    Definitely need to try Picadilly Lilly 608-583-3318, call ahead to make sure they are open.

  • Good feature! Restuarant on field or within easy walking distance make a difference in where the wife & I stop.

    2 of the best that I’ve found are the Jet Room at Madison, WI, and CJ’s at Decatur, IL.
    The airport cafe at Janesville, WI is decent too.
    All 3 are on the airport, you can taxi right up and park next to them, reasonable prices, and big glass windows so you can look out and watch the traffic as you eat.
    All 3 happen to be towered fields (but the Decatur & Janesville will be closed soon), and have multiple wide/long runways.

    Quincy, IL had an on-field restuarant too but think it’s closed now… multiple wide/long runways there too.

  • have eaten at Grimm’s several times and the service and food are great. Try the Airport Inn at Grosse Ile (KONZ).The pizza and burgers are excellent.

  • I’m a long time employee at Grimes (now Honeywell), and new pilot (~100hrs). I completed some of my flight training out of Grimes Field; it’s a classic place, in an aviation rich city – do check out the museum and restored aircraft. Restaurant is as described above, it makes a great stop for lunch.

  • Urbana Ohio is a special place and the food is excellent. We take friends after church for lunch at Urbana when weather is nice. They all tell what a good time they have had and encourage others to ask us for a flight.

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