Kid Hit Menu Items: EVERYTHING. Because what you order at the 94th Aero Squadron Restaurant at the Van Nuys Airport doesn’t matter, really. But as if this site isn’t astonishingly great enough, there’s the “Jr. Pilots” menu, drinks served in colorful covered plastic cups, and complimentary easy-to-assemble paper plane kits.
Warning: This post deviates from the food-focused Taster Tots mission, because sometimes general experience trumps all.
Adult Perks: Tons of historical intrigue. Full liquor license, including many fruity tropical cocktails which I skipped; a Sam Adams felt more appropriate for a warm January Saturday afternoon. The menu is pretty much what you’d expect for military-themed Hollywood stage set meets Marie Callender’s. At least a few pieces of mesculin come with the Cobb salad, and the kitchen does TRY to catch up with the times in that “hey, we have chicken papaya salad with soy ginger vinaigrette!” kind of way. But if you want shrimp & crab Louie, iceberg wedge salad, fish & chips, and prime rib, then enjoy them you may. And come Sunday, it’s full-on, discounted-for-kids brunch buffet time!
Pros: Where to start? Keep driving behind the Bud plant off the 405 by Roscoe, cross over the train tracks, pass through the unglamorous light industrial office district until you find the vine-covered faux French country style house, surrounded by WWII-era props. And for the modest price of a kids’ meal, there’s so much to look at that the afternoon (or morning or evening) will fly by — so to speak. Eat indoors with a view of the runways, or sit on the outdoor patio where the usual rules of sitting still and being quiet need not apply. And this is certainly a chance to relax any strict food rules, because the emphasis on the WWII-era past here doesn’t always jibe with current organic/locavore/etc. trends.
Cons: The planes and helicopters can get so close that the noise is intense. But in this case what’s annoying to some is awesome to others.
Changing Station: No
High Chairs: Yes
Parking and Access: Parking lot surrounded by a lovely grove of mature pepper, sycamore, birch and elm trees.
Other Tidbits: Leave it to my friend Gianna, an avid collector of all things crazy fascinating and lover of Southern California arcana, to bring us to this place. Describing the 94th Aero Squadron Restaurant at the Van Nuys Airport as the Ultimate Transportation Paradise is not an exaggeration, since the constant display of airplane and helicopter take offs and landings at the country’s busiest private airport is accompanied by a parade of other vehicles. Why hello, street sweeper chugging along the landing strip! What’s up, police SUV? And where are you headed, front-end loader? You might even spot a Metrolink train off in the distance.
Transportation nirvana hit such a near-surreal level, I wouldn’t have been surprised to see a mouse cruise by in a pickle car, or a plucky rabbit flying a monoplane. Richard Scarry hallucinations aside, our first afternoon at 94th Aero Squadron was memorable, and it definitely won’t be our last. The boys had the time of their lives running around and exploring the property, from the landing strip-front live duck pond (!!), to the faux bombed out room, to seeing the open kitchen — perfect for a certain someone’s current Ratatouille obsession. Booths are outfitted with headphones to listen in on the air traffic control tower transmission.
The 94th Aero Squadron Restaurant is Hollywood set decoration cum-legit history at its absolute best where the amazement never ceases. I could go on, but you really MUST go and check it out for yourself, with or without kids. You’ll eat better elsewhere, but that’s completely besides the point.
16320 Raymer St., Van Nuys
Hours: Monday – Saturday, 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.; Sunday – Thursday, 4 – 9 p.m.; Friday – Saturday 4 – 10 p.m.
(Plus Happy Hour Monday – Friday 4-7 p.m.; $16.95 Early Bird Dinner 4 – 6:30 p.m.; Sunday Champagne Brunch 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.)