Flight 126 Cafe
at the Santa Paula Airport
824 E. Santa Maria St.
Rarely is an airport restaurant a go-to destination. But Evie and Ken Kramer are attempting to be just that with the grand opening of their Flight 126 Cafe at the Santa Paula airport. Having served many satisfied diners for the last four years at their Café 126 on Wells Road (midway between Foothill and Telephone), the Kramers have now opened a sister restaurant in Santa Paula (in the space that used to be Logsdon’s). Having added an outdoor seating area astride the parking area/runway for the resident aircraft, this deck is a tremendous location to eat, socialize and watch the many activities constantly ongoing at the small and busy airport.
The cafe is not going to win any awards for originality, trendiness, or nouveau fusion experimentation. This place is down-home, fresh, handmade and abundant comfort food. The servings are huge, and the staff is very accommodating in providing a needed take-home box. My favorite item on the menu is the chicken-fried steak, served with two eggs, potatoes (any style) or fruit, toast, biscuit or muffin, and looks like enough to feed a small army. The lightness of the batter on the just-pounded and tenderized giant cube steak, perfectly pan-fried and presented piping hot is a masterpiece of breakfast gluttony.
For the less robust eater, a “small” serving of two homemade flaky biscuits with crumbled sausage gravy would suffice, and the creamy texture of the gravy is just as I remember from hearty childhood breakfasts in my Southern grandmother’s kitchen. Another reminder of those days is the Flight 126 corned beef hash and eggs. Using large crumbled pieces from freshly cooked corned beef brisket, and combined with cubed bits of potatoes, this hash is certainly not from a can, and has all the taste and memories of home cooking.
Lunch also demonstrates a fresh and familiar approach to many old favorites. My companion ordered the “126,” a triple-decker toasted BLT also with ham and turkey (and avocado if requested). All flavors blended beautifully, and the homemade potato salad was a terrific addition. I began lunch that day with a cup of the special soup of the day: lima bean. This vegetarian version could not have been simpler: a vegetable broth with onions and celery, and laden with fresh lima beans and diced carrots. No extra spices or herbs, just a fresh picked taste that was the ideal starter for my patty melt. The burger was prepared in a familiar fashion and served with purple Bermuda onions and a mild melted Swiss cheese. Nothing special, but just what I wanted.
As previously mentioned, many of the offerings at Flight Café 126 are very familiar and are presented in a traditional way. What makes the meal stand out is the very friendly and attentive service, and the staff’s seemingly genuine desire that your eating experience be satisfying and your time at the cafe well-spent and remembered.
The menu is quite vast, and there are many items I will try on subsequent visits. For example, the grilled vegetarian melt is teasingly described thusly: “fresh spinach, cucumbers, tomato, red onion, mushroom, and Swiss on grilled Parmesan sourdough.” Yum! Interestingly, there are also different daily specials, both at breakfast and lunch that appeal, such as apple French toast, tuna-stuffed tomato salad; smoked sausage and eggs; halibut fish and chips; ham, bacon, sausage and cheddar cheese omelet. Each time I’ve visited the restaurant, several of these specials (plus others) have been offered.
The décor is utilitarian green carpeting with beige booths, brown wooden chairs and lots of historic airport photos, planes and pilots, and is a good accompaniment for the flight museum next door. As stated, the food at the cafe is abundant and satisfying, but what really makes one want to return again and again is the friendly serving staff and at- home feel of familiar comfort-food dining.