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: firstname.lastname@example.org. Pictures are always appreciated.
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.
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.