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SW Aviator Feb/Mar 2001
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The 94th Aero Squadron
San Diego, California

Story and photos by Don Mickey

I like to go out to eat. In fact, I do so quite often. Like most people, I often use a meal as an excuse for an activity that I’d like to do anyway. And, like many pilots, I can always manage to make a perfectly reasonable justification to fly three or four hundred miles for a late breakfast. I’ve been known to add a hundred or two more miles for a late lunch every once in a while too. Lately though, I’ve become a bit bored with the routine. Sure, the flying part is great, but it seems to me that most airport restaurants serve only slightly different variations of the same standard meals, with slightly different variations of the same standard decor. Don’t get me wrong. I like a steaming plate of hotcakes as much as the next guy. Sometimes, though, a little departure from the norm is refreshing.

On Wednesday, I got a call from a customer in San Diego. They had a project that they wanted to get started on right away. The customer wasn’t a terribly big customer, and the project didn’t sound too complicated. A little time on the phone, maybe a few e-mails, and a fax or two, and I’d be able to handle the project. I knew right away what I had to do. I told the customer in my most convincing, “I want to make sure we’re all on the same page on this one. I’ll fly out on Friday so we can go over the details in person.” After a long moment of silence, the voice on the other end of the phone replied, “Okay, that’d be great. Uh, you sure?”

“No problem,” I said, “some clients deserve a little extra.”

The plan was simple. I’d call my customer from the airport when I arrived. His office was only a few minutes away, so he’d drive over and we’d discuss the project over a late lunch at a restaurant near the airport.

Touching down on Montgomery Field’s runway 23, a unique structure just off the runway to my right caught my eye. I turned off, and called the tower. “Clear… uh, hey what’s that building just north of the tower… the one with the biplanes in front?”

“That’s a restaurant. Taxi to parking.”

“Uh, hey are they open for lunch… can I park there?”

“Taxi to the 94th Aero Squadron.”

The 94th Aero Squadron was one of the first American fighter squadrons to see combat service. The unit scored more victories than any other American squadron during the First World War, and became the most famous air unit of the era. Men such as Rickenbacker, Lufbery, and James Norman Hall flew with the 94th during a time when honor and valor was respected by both sides, and the victor toasted the vanquished.

Located inside a replica of a World War I French farmhouse, the 94th Aero Squadron Restaurant awakens the spirit of this bygone era. Aircraft replicas and an assortment of wartime artifacts set the mood as you approach the restaurant. It’s easy to imagine yourself a WW I flying ace, complete with a silk scarf and waxed mustache, returning to the unit headquarters. Inside, the themed décor continues with huge stone fireplaces, stucco walls, dark wood paneling, beamed ceilings, sandbags, and old airplane wings hanging over the dining area. Military memorabilia, aviation relics, and era music add to the fantasy.

I found a table overlooking the patio, with an open view of the active runway. Waiting for my client, I browsed the menu. The décor alone set this airport eatery apart, but with choices such as ‘Hot Crab and Artichoke Sandwich’ and ‘Fresh Swordfish Macadamia,’ the appeal of this airport eatery became clear. I continued browsing – ‘Steak Rickenbacker,’ ‘Grilled Vegetable Stack on Foccacia,’ ‘Sesame Almond Won Ton Salad’ – too many appealing choices to decide.

When my client arrived, he said “Hey did you see that buffet? Forget the menu. I’m getting that.” I had to see for myself. In the next room an enormous spread of food was laid out. Chicken Marsala, Roast Beef, Fish, a variety of pastas, rice pilaf, and and array of desserts were among the selections. I couldn’t resist. With a buffet like that, why bother with the menu?

We weren’t disappointed. The food was great. A good buffet is always a winner in my book; no need to make a irreversible decision, no small talk waiting for the food to arrive, and all the desert you can eat.

We finished our meals before we’d had a chance to discuss business. Luckily, the lunch crowd had cleared and we had free reign. We talked about the details of my client’s project while poking our heads in booths and wandering around the restaurant, taking in as many of the thousands of pieces of memoribalia as we could.

Finishing our conversation outside, next to a full-size replica of a Fokker Triplane, we agreed that the next time a project as important as this one came up, we’d meet at the 94th Aero Squadron again.

The 94th Aero Squadron is open for lunch and dinner Monday through Thursday from 11am until 10pm, and Friday until 11pm. On Saturdays, the restaurant is open for dinner from 4:30pm until 11pm. Sunday, brunch is served, starting at 9am, with lunch and dinner served until 10pm.
In addition to the San Diego location, there are a number of 94th Aero Squadron restaurants throughout the United States. All share the same WWI air squadron theme.

94th Aero Squadron Locations
Montgomery Field
8885 Balboa Avenue
San Diego, CA 92123

Van Nuys Airport
16320 Raymer Avenue
Van Nuys, CA 91406

Palwaukee Airport
1070 S. Milwaukee Avenue
Wheeling, IL 60090

Lambert Airport
5933 McDonnell Blvd.
Berkeley, MO 63134
Port Columbus Int'l Airport
5030 Sawyer Road
Columbus, OH 43219

Miami Int'l Airport
1395 N.W. 57th Avenue
Miami, FL 33126

College Park Airport
5240 Paint Branch Parkway
College Park, MD 20740
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The material in this publication is for advisory information only and should not be relied upon for navigation, maintenance or flight techniques. SW Regional Publications and the staff neither assume any responsibility for the accuracy of this publication's content nor any liability arising fom it
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