Weekly Dining Round-up

2009 September 6
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by Chuck Shotton

The $100 Hamburger is a well-known staple in aviation circles. Almost every private pilot has eaten more than their fair share. It refers to the weekend ritual of hopping in a plane, flying to some exotic place like Culpeper or Tangier Island (exotic meaning more than 25 miles from home), and grabbing a sandwich from a restaurant on or near the airport. By the time you add the cost of flying the plane, fuel, etc. to the meal, it usually works out to be about $100 for the dining experience.

When we lived in Houston, we’d regularly fly to meet friends from Austin at a little grass airstrip in the Hill Country, park the plane, dial a phone number written in Sharpie on the wall of the phone booth, and be met at the gate to the airport by a rusted out 1958 Ford pick-up truck for a ride to some of the best burgers and fried catfish west of the Mississippi. But after moving back to Virginia, the $100 hamburger runs gave way to local outings in the car and after 9/11 and all of the restrictions on general aviation around DC, our casual aviation outings for a $100 hamburger faded away.

But I had the opportunity to revisit the joy of a fly-in burger this week on a short “business” trip, flying from Leesburg to Gaithersburg in a friend’s Piper Comanche. While the 12 minute flight across the river stretches the definition of a legitimate $100 hamburger run, the results are worth bending the rules a bit. The Montgomery Co. Airpark is close enough to Leesburg to make this outing in a car and definitely worth the drive for a visit to the Airpark Café in the terminal building there. The menu is classic diner fare with a Greek/Mediterranean twist.

After our meeting was over, we retired to the Café for a quick bite before the grueling flight back to Leesburg. I ordered the cheeseburger while the pilot-in-command selected the Chicken Cordon Bleu sandwich. The service is lightning fast, but you can amuse yourself while you wait by watching the aircraft take off and land just out the window. There’s also a nice deck for outdoor dining if the weather permits. Given that both plates were cleaned in a matter of minutes, I have to give the Airpark Café two thumbs up for a classic $100 hamburger experience. And they get an extra gold star for being a real on-site airport restaurant.

Lunch for two was about $20, plus 20 gallons of avgas and an hour of tach time. So if you’re looking for something to do this Labor Day weekend, it’s worth the 30 minute car ride (or 12 minute flight through the Air Defense Intercept Zone, dodging black helicopters) for a visit!

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