There is a quirky subset of New England restaurants which happen to be located in, or directly next to, small regional and private airports. In the July/August 2015 issue of Yankee, I chronicled one such place, Kimball Farm in Jaffrey, New Hampshire, where pilots fly in to the adjoining field and walk a few hundred yards for ice cream and fried seafood. These trips are partly practical—to legally fly with passengers, pilots must complete three landings every 90 days—and a nearby meal is the carrot on the stick. But for earthbound customers, these eateries offer tasty chow plus the thrill of watching the occasional takeoff and landing.
Most offer predictable comfort fare, though there is some diversity: Maine’s Augusta State Airport has Sweet Chili Thai Restaurant, and residents of Keene, New Hampshire, once enjoyed excellent chicken tikka masala at India Pavilion, now closed, in the Dillant-Hopkins Airport. But rarely do these places offer anything resembling high style or a chef with a culinary degree.
Except in Chatham, Massachusetts, one of the Cape’s most charming and exclusive towns. Of course there’s a private airport here (for summer people, aerial tours, and shark and fish spotters) and of course the food is great. This is Hangar B, named after Booker Erskine, son of owners Brian Erskine and Tracy Shields. You’ll meet Tracy the moment you climb up to the second floor deck to put your name on the waiting list (expect a wait and go with the flow). She’s an artist and restaurant veteran, and all of that training is evident in both the modern-retro decor andher steady, smiling presence at the door, salving any nascent attacks of hunger at the hangar with offers of coffee and pastry (go for the buttermilk potato doughnuts with homemade jam) from the makeshift stand located on the ground level. Asked how she keeps that smile, she laughs. “Some days are better than others,” she says. “August gets a little crispy sometimes.” Here’s the good news: like the Cessnas and Pipers on the tarmac, the line moves quickly. Also, since Chatham’s runway is too short for jets, the setting is relatively quiet, even out on the deck.
Even better is the quality of the food. Brian trained at the New England Culinary Institute and served as sous chef at the Chatham Bars Inn before going out on his own; summer produce from local farms is peppered through the menu. Challah French toast is really more of a griddled bread pudding (why aren’t they all?), lemon ricotta pancakes are light and tangy (though on this visit, the batter could’ve used a dash more salt). And good old red flannel hash is a heady mix of beets, bacon, sweet and Yukon Gold potatoes, served with poached eggs, sourdough toast and horseradish cream. The tomatillo salsa in the excellent huevos rancheros is homemade, as are those doughnuts. The ketchup is organic. Erskine and Shields set the breakfast bar higher.
This being Chatham, the crowd is much, though not exclusively, of a type. Little boys whose weekend wear consists of an unpressed Oxford, just like dad’s, climb on a handful of plastic slides and climbers in the front yard (as its name demands, it’s an overtly kid-friendly place). And the crowd is relaxed and happy to be there. You can hear pilots chatting on a speaker mounted above the deck and a swooping Cirrus always manages to replace the morning chatter with a moment of wonder.
Hangar B. 240 George Ryder Rd., Chatham, MA. 508-593-3655; hangarbcapecod.com.
Breakfast and lunch entrées from $12.