Barnstormer Diner at OSU Airport
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Barnstormer Diner at OSU Airport

Eat hearty breakfast, watch airplanes come and go


My kids love pancakes, and they love going to airports. After a recent adventure, they now have a newfound love for the Ohio State University Airport, where they can devour blueberry pancakes inside an aviation-themed diner and watch from an observation tower as planes take off and land.

The small airport, seven miles north of the OSU campus, also offers free popcorn and coloring books, making it a fun family destination, especially on weekend mornings. That’s when Jack and Benny’s Barnstormer Diner opens at 7 a.m. for breakfast served with a Spanish flair. Think huevos rancheros with spicy sausage.

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The restaurant is operated by Geno and Hilda Garcia-Mandriotti, owners of the popular Jack and Benny’s in Clintonville. Geno graduated from Ohio State with a bachelor’s degree in aviation management and obtained his pilot’s license from the university’s training program – making the location for his newest restaurant rather fitting.

Framed pictures of aircraft and famed pilots such as Eddie Rickenbacker adorn the eatery’s walls, and guests can peek into the airplane hangar to check out several single-engine planes.

The airport terminal is adjacent to the restaurant. Serve yourself some popcorn and browse merchandise in the Pilot Shop, a display case with OSU and aviation-themed merchandise.

Climb several flights of steps into the observation tower for a 360-degree view of the airport, ramp and runways. Listen to pilots communicate over the radio and sign the guestbook, too.

The airport was established in 1942 as the site of the university’s first pilot training program. It was named Don Scott Field a year later in honor of the acclaimed football player who died in a bomber crash in England that same year.

Housing 200 aircraft, the airport ranks fourth in Ohio for the number of takeoffs and landings – about 75,000 per year, according to its website. Those using the airport include students, corporations and pleasure flyers, and even manatees being transferred to and from the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.

Free tours are available by appointment.

The Ohio State University Airport is located at 2160 W. Case Rd., Columbus. Jack and Benny’s Barnstormer Diner is open 7 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The observation tower is open daily 7 a.m.-11 p.m.

For more information, visit www.osuairport.org.

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Airport Cafe at Grimes Field

Runway restaurant in Urbana serves up aerial delights and delectable pies


After visiting the Cedar Bog Nature Preserve in Urbana, we headed to a place that I had read about on the Web: Doug and Michele’s Airport Cafe at Grimes Field in Urbana.

It was recommended as the only place to eat in Urbana on a Sunday. I also read that it’s always crowded. Sure enough, when we arrived, the cafe was open and crowded.

It’s not the fanciest joint, just a lackluster building off Main Street. But it’s near the airport runway, and the full parking lot at this time of day meant that it was the real deal.

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Grimes Field is Urbana’s municipal airport. It’s named for Warren Grimes, who is described as “father of the aircraft lighting industry.” As the story goes, Grimes was working as a lighting contractor in Detroit with his brother when Henry Ford approached him to create a light for the Ford Tri-Motor airplane, aka “The Tin Goose.”

Two days later, Ford adopted his design, and Grimes eventually employed 1,300 to produce the lights at a factory in Urbana.

This success led the city to name the airfield after Grimes when it opened in 1943. It remains operational and also houses the Champaign Aviation Museum. You can take flying lessons there, or just sit and watch the small planes take off and land.

The restaurant menu is an interesting mix of salads, burgers, omelets and dinners with surprising specials including bison and ostrich meat, which come from a nearby farm.

We sat outside and ordered mac and cheese and chocolate milk for Max, who especially enjoyed watching a steady stream of small planes taxiing the runway.

Michele, one of the owners, waited on us and said that people regularly fly in from all over the country to eat their homemade pies, made with local berries and apples. Like the restaurant, the black raspberry pie and butterscotch pie, at $2.79 a hearty slice, were the real deal.

The Airport Cafe is located at 1636 N. Main St., Urbana, Ohio. Hours are listed on the menu as 7 a.m.-7 p.m., Tuesday-Saturday; and 8 a.m.-2:30 p.m., Sunday. It’s closed on Monday.

For more information, call 937-652-2010 or visit www.urbanaohio.com/grimes-field/airport-cafe.html.

Learn about our trip to the Cedar Bog Nature Preserve.