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Tuesday, February 20, 2001
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The Port Java Cafe
A Delicious Stop in Historic Winslow

story and photos by Laura Flood

A logbook signed by contented pilots from all over the world attests to the growing popularity of the Port Java Cafe at Winslow, Arizona’s Lindbergh Airport. Restaurant owners John and Gigi Cox started the logbook 2 1/2 years ago, when they opened Port Java in the airport terminal building. Since then, the log has filled with the signatures and glowing comments of pilots whose departure locations ranged from Germany to Alaska. I found more positive comments about the restaurant on, sparking our landing at Port Java.

According to Gigi, Port Java’s ‘coffee’ name took hold because “Airport Cafe seemed too generic, and besides, pilots drink a lot of coffee.” The Cox’s appreciate their pilot clientele. “Our reason for existence is the pilots,” John says. “We do not have commercial traffic. So, we have to offer service to our customers. For example, last night the Native Air Ambulance had to come back a half-hour after closing and we gladly fed them. Another group of 15 became stranded and we helped them find hotel rooms.”

Many pilots visit the Winslow Lindbergh Airport because of its historical significance. Aviation pioneer Charles Lindbergh designed the airport as part of TWA’s transcontinental route to serve as a stopover and fuel stop. The original 1928 TWA hanger and terminal building still stand today. The Winslow airport also served as a base for soldiers during WW II, and is now a summer base for US Forest Service slurry bombers battling raging hot forest fires. The airport was recently recognized as a historical site, deserving of a refurbished look, circa1929. “They will be taking down some ugly fencing and painting and restoring the outside terminal building,” Gigi said.

Aside from the airport’s strategic location as a refueling stop, today pilots enjoy flying in to visit the Port Java Cafe for the food. Pilot Tom Mattick, who arrived in his Piper Cherokee during our visit, said, “The cross runways here are good, allowing you take off and land in the best direction for the wind conditions. The self-serve aviation fuel is relatively inexpensive, and the food is fantastic!” Indeed, just for starters at lunch the Cox’s cook up big juicy hamburgers from lean ground chuck. Their daughter, Jessica bakes delicious pies for dessert.

The pies include tantalizing blackberry, red raspberry, peach, apple, and cherry. According to John, the real treasure of the pies is hidden in the crust. “Jessica spent a summer in up state New York with her grandparents,” he explains. “Her grandfather runs a country store and the Amish people shared their 100-year old pie crust recipe.” Two of the shared ingredients made a believer out of me, because they turned my piecrusts into a flaky and tasty consistency. The egg and vinegar are the main help, and the rest is a secret. Folks will have to visit the Port Java Cafe to see for themselves. “I’ve seen people leave filling and finish the crust,” John says of his satisfied customers.

The Port Java Café also has a gourmet menu for those seeking a more culinary, or romantic, dinner experience. For instance, the Tequila Lime Chicken that John makes is a chicken breast marinated in limejuice and tequila, with spices. It is flame grilled and served on a bed of Cal Rose rice and topped with a lime sauce with tequila and fresh garlic. A buttered and grilled crisp tortilla is included. There is a Thai Curry dish: stir fried Chinese vegetables and chicken breast, cooked with coconut milk and red curry, fresh ginger and served over rice, with homemade mango chutney and fresh basil. Prime Rib is also on the menu for less exotic, but hearty, appetites.

Also important to coffee-loving pilots is, of course, Port Java’s abundant gourmet coffee; served in the form of espresso, cappuccino, mocha latte’s, cafe Bohemian, or with numerous Italian syrups. While you are sipping coffee, or enjoying a dinner entree, John plays guitar and sings country and gospel songs, along with a few old-time 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s tunes.

With the Winslow winds picking up, thought not gusting yet, Tom Mattick boards his bright red and white Cherokee and taxis out towards the end of the runway. A few minutes later the plane reappears as it gains altitude above the tiny town. His flight path goes just north of the Port Java Cafe, with its old adobe outside, contrasting with the off-white TWA hanger. A few cars from town pull into the restaurant’s parking lot. One wonders if this spot might be transformed into an O’Hare or Kennedy type airport in the future. Time, great food, a joyful atmosphere, and moocho’ coffee will tell. The Port Java Cafe, located just a mile south of downtown Winslow, is open Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to - 8 p.m., Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and is closed on Mondays. Their number is 520-289-0850.

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