It might not be quite like Proust and his madeleines, but the memory of a special restaurant can easily transport one back to childhood. One such place for me is an airplane—not airplane food, but food in an airplane, in this case one stuck on pillars near a small airfield between Boulder and Denver, Colorado.
Formerly N5601 (and OD-AFJ), a well-travelled Convair CV-990-30A-5 Coronado, this passenger plane became, as well as I can remember, B.J. Strawberries at the Convair, a restaurant more renowned for being in an airplane than for its cuisine, but as a ten year old, the food was certainly secondary to the sight of a plane perched on stilts. Diners were given boarding passes to their seats, and I think the wait staff dressed in airline pilot and stewardess uniforms for that extra bit of authenticity. Lost to time is whether or not the menu items were airplane-themed.
(Check out Steve Nelson’s comments for updated information on this restaurant, including menu items, waitstaff uniforms, and the source of the restaurant’s name. Also in the comments is a link to a site with some history and photos of the Erie Air Park, including a scan of a newspaper article about the Convair’s demolition.)
I can find almost no information about this restaurant beyond suggestions that it closed in 1991. There’s a brief mention, sans name, of the restaurant in the September 14, 1981 Time Magazine:
At Colorado’s 40-home Erie Air Park, near Boulder, the local restaurant is in a converted Convair 990 jetliner, and the “parking lot” out front is actually a taxiway where customers can roll up in their small planes.
Quite a few converted airliners have served as restaurants. A search at civilian jet database site rzjets.net provides 48 mentions of such conversions around the world, though how many are still in operation is unclear. The concept is interesting, since many people have eaten airline food (or used to, given the airlines’ current woes and progressive in-flight service cutbacks), so the chance to eat “real” food in an airline setting is a novelty.
If anyone has any information or recollections about this lost restaurant in Erie, Colorado, please leave a comment below. I’m still trying to find my boarding pass from some twenty-seven years ago . . .
(Image courtesy of Steve Nelson from Modeling Madness)