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Feb/Mar 2000

The $100 Hamburger

Pilot Travel Guide

83,000 Miles: Kansas Day Trips

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The $100 Hamburger
Hutchinson, Kansas
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SW Aviator Magazine
3909 Central NE
Albuquerque, NM 87108
Phone: 505.256.7031
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The Airport Steakhouse: Hutchinson, KS
by Johnny International

I held open the door to the FBO lounge for a couple of women who’s gaining Falcon Jet had a few minutes earlier inspired the tower controller to request that we expedite our final approach to Hutchinson Municipal Airport. After convincing the women that I didn’t actually work there and that I'd love to know where the restrooms were located too, I hurried through the lounge and into the terminal building, eager to catch up to my companions for this lunchtime outing.

I couldn't help but notice the familiar bright yellow empanage of a Piper Cub sticking out of the wall above a double doorway across the room. My grumbling stomach made sure I didn’t hang around to ask how the plane “really” got there, and we eagerly swung open the doors to the Airport Steakhouse.

Weary airmen have notoriously low tolerances when it comes to mealtime, so we were pleased when we were seated promptly amid glorious oak appointments and across from a massive copper-hooded brick BBQ pit. The décor was just our first hint that this was no greasy spoon, end-of-the-runway culinary mediocrity. A quick survey of the patrons saw a healthy mix of locals, airport visitors, and pilots. This is another good sign that the food has a wider appeal than just for a pilot looking for a sloppy burger to fuel him or her through another flight.

We delved into the lunch menus and found a generous sampling of lunchtime sandwiches, from the basic hamburger to “Continental Chicken.” There was even a section of lighter fare entitled “Amelia’s Favorite,” implying that it disappears quickly never too be seen again. In addition to the regular menu, the Airport Steakhouse offers a lunch buffet and a daily special. My two companions settled on the daily special–sirloin tips served with a side of mashed potatoes, roll, and salad–while I opted for the buffet.

Each day, the choices at the lunch buffet change, providing variety for the regular patron. Today's choices included the traditional salad bar fare, but also contained a main dish section including meatloaf and fried chicken. The side dishes were mashed potatoes, corn, green beans and baby potatoes with peas in a cream gravy. I made my way to the buffet table and started stacking my plate with meatloaf and a sampling of each of the sides. I got back to the table just as our waitress appeared with two large plates. The meals had arrived as quickly as my dash through the buffet line, no easy task considering that several large tables of patrons demanded the attention of our efficient waitress.

We dug in and, between mouthfuls, discussed the selection of model planes hanging from the ceiling and the variety of propellers on the walls. Occasionally, our concentration was diverted by the sound of aircraft just outside. Almost the entire expanse of the airport was visible from our table, providing plenty of topics for shoptalk as a variety of aircraft landed and departed throughout our meal.

Inevitably, the conversation turned towards the meal. One friend found her medium cooked sirloin thick, juicy, and tender. The other, who had ordered his medium well, commented that the cut was slightly thin, but that he was impressed with the flavor of the meat. My meatloaf contained bell peppers and onions, and was topped off with a delicious rich red sauce. I made quick work of the red sauce, unwisely leaving my meatloaf proportionally bare. I radioed to the tower for another helping of the delightful meat-topper, only to have the waitress appear with a bottle that would be the brunt of the jokes for our return flight–Heinz 57 Ketchup. I quickly recovered from my condiment blunder and cleaned my plate. We topped off our meal with a slice of cherry pie–not homemade, but tart and tasty enough to satisfy our sweet tooth.

On the way to the cash register, we noticed that the line of folk that continuously circled the buffet’s sneeze guard in a holding pattern looked like locals, so we tracked down the manager for some insight. He informed us that around 95% of his business comes from natives looking to eat a quick lunch at the buffet or enjoy a relaxed dinner at one of the best steakhouses in the region. The dinner menu includes a complete selection of steakhouse fare, including several different cuts of meat nestled up against lobster and shrimp. Chicken livers, trout, and spaghetti offered additional options. Lunch prices range from $2.50 for a hamburger with chips and a pickle to a whopping $4.95 for the daily special. Dinner is similarly budget priced, with the 16-ounce prime rib topping off the prices at $13.45.

Thanking the management for our Hutchinson Airport Steakhouse experience, we ambled out for our departure, wing tanks fueled and bellies full. Our total damage for the meal was $17.50 including meals, drinks, dessert and tip.

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