Menu Please: Come to Airpark Cafe for the Views, Stay for the Food

You’re at the airport waiting for your flight. You feel a bit peckish, maybe a little anxious, and decide to throw caution to the wind and get something to eat. You think about comfort food: a stack of warm cookies, a cheeseburger, a triple gin and tonic – but when you actually start looking at the prices, the trip back down to earth nearly shatters your ankles.  Ten dollars for a bowl of soup? Thirteen bucks for an Irish coffee? Twenty-one for a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon? Even as you reluctantly fork over $9.75 for a sad cellophane-wrapped turkey sandwich, you already know what it tastes like: the lonely humiliation of being the last one chosen for the softball team.

Fortunately for those who fly in and out of Benton Airpark, the situation is much happier. You might not think of dining at the airport, but West Redding is fortunate to have the Airpark Cafe close at hand, open to the public and pilots alike. Taken over by new owners a few months ago, it’s a cheerful place to enjoy a leisurely breakfast or lunch while enjoying the views of the mountains and planes landing and taking off. The outdoor deck is pleasant even on hot days with canopies and misters. Service is friendly, though a bit on the slow side.

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Reuben sandwich, $7.99, with house-made potato salad; small house salad, $2.50

Grilled Reuben sandwich needed just a bit more sauerkraut – it was pretty thinly spread – but otherwise was tasty and a good value. House-made potato salad was much better than the stuff in industrial-packaged tubs you so often get in small cafes – creamy and slightly sweet. Femme de Joie was expecting a salad of bagged iceberg lettuce so it was a nice surprise to get this salad of dark greens and tomato instead – and at a good price.

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Chicken fried steak breakfast sandwich, $8.25, side of hash browns, $2.50

Whoever thought of putting chicken fried steak into sandwich form is one smart cookie. This isn’t diet food by any means, but it was tender and savory with a thin omelet, cheese, and smear of gravy inside the bread. Hash browns were crisp on the outside and tender inside.

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French toast combo, $8.25

Freshly made French toast was light and fluffy alongside crisp bacon, eggs cooked as requested, and hash browns. A very good deal for the money.

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Side order of two biscuits ($1.50 each) and gravy $1.50

The gravy was definitely made in-house, as evidenced by the swirl of sausage fat that hadn’t quite been incorporated. Great sausage flavor and not too salty, this went nicely on fresh biscuits and smeared on the hash browns.

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French dip supreme with mushrooms, onions, and Swiss cheese, $8.25, sweet potato fries on the side

Airpark Cafe had some very tender tri-tip available, and that smokey taste made this French dip rise above the ordinary, a juicy and messy combination. Sweet potato fries were out of a freezer bag but were crisp and non-greasy.

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Florentine Omelet, $8.99, home-style potatoes on the side

The Florentine Omelet was a special of the day, with spinach, tomatoes, and ham, covered in Hollandaise. Eggs were tender and filled with fresh ingredients; the lusciously rich Hollandaise was missing the requisite tang of lemon and was more like a thick eggy butter sauce. Home-style fries were a bit undercooked.

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Cobb salad, $7.99

Cobb salad included dried cranberries, feta cheese, fresh apple, red onion, tomato, candied walnuts, and strips of grilled chicken atop a mesclun mix – this would probably be called a half-salad portion in most restaurants, but the price fit the portion size. Light and refreshing, this made a good lunch.

Airpark Cafe is a little gem in an unlikely place above the tarmac, not far from the Dog Park – hence the dog bed and dog water bowl on the deck. The low prices and friendly atmosphere make up for the somewhat slow service. It’s quite small so is unsuited for a group of more than about eight people, and is up a flight of stairs (Femme de Joie assumes there is another access from within the building it’s housed in, but doesn’t know for certain). It’s a good value with tasty food in an area where restaurants are thin on the ground. Worth checking out.

Additional bonus: they are currently offering a tri-tip dinner and a movie on Saturday nights in the hangar; schedule at flyhillside.com

Airpark Cafe at Benton Airpark, 2600 Gold Street at Airpark Drive, Redding, CA 96001. 530-241-4204. Open daily, 7:00 AM to 3:00 PM. Cash and cards; no checks, Beer and wine. Vegetarian and vegan options. Parking lot.

Femme de Joie
Femme de Joie's first culinary masterpiece was at age 4, when she made the perfect fried bologna sandwich on white bread. Since then she has dined on horse Bourguignon in France, stir-fried eel in London, and mystery meat in her college cafeteria, but firmly draws the line at eating rattlesnake, peppermint and Hamburger Helper. She lives in Shasta County at her country estate, Butterscotch Acres West. She is nearly always hungry. Visit MenuPlease for more or send her an email at femmedejoiefood@yahoo.com.
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6 Responses

  1. Beverly Stafford says:

    We ate there not long before it closed a few years ago and haven’t returned since its second or perhaps third incarnation.  The Joe’s Special I had the time we were there was the best I’d ever had, even in San Francisco.  We’ll try it again.

  2. Jon Lewis says:

    I live nearby and try to support the place, but the service is pretty funky–especially considering you’re sitting about 5 feet from the kitchen at any given time. It is a decent breakfast at a reasonable price, but it shouldn’t take 25 minutes to scramble some eggs 😉 I must say service is snappier when the young waitresses are there. I’ve had the owner (I think anyway) and he is rather slow and forgetful and apparently more interested in discussing his love life with the cook than refilling coffee cups. He needs to keep in mind that he’s  in a small space…

    Watching planes take off and land is the best part 😉

    Thanks for the informative review!

  3. Frank Treadway says:

    I to have tried the Airpark Cafe several times, wait time was average, food is good-great, a little more friendliness from staff/owners will come in time, great panorama of the local hills, dog friendly, Saturday night flying-themed movies novel idea.  Please don’t compare this food establishment to other local dine-outs, they’re a cafe, not a fine eating palace.

  4. Lazlo57 says:

    I live close by and haven’t ate there in over a decade. I did love sitting on the deck and eating breakfast. I will have to try it again.

    The tri-tip and movie in a hanger sounds like a hoot. I will definitely take a second look at the café.

  5. JeffG says:

    Mirrors my experiences there — inexpensive, but tasty food with a quirky ambiance and sometimes slow service.

  6. Sally says:

    I just drove by there today and for the first time read the part of the sign that says “Dog Friendly”.  Perfect since it is next to the “Dog Park”.  I have put it on my “Try List”.

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