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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.