By Rick Davenport,
Texas A&M Transportation Institute
It was easy for non-aviation enthusiasts of Washington County to grow up without ever knowing where the Brenham Municipal Airport was located. They may have heard that race car driver A.J. Foyt houses two of his planes at the airport, but chances are they couldn’t tell you how to get there. After all, it’s nestled in the trees off a once seldom-traveled county road that intersects Highway 105 about 5 miles north of the city’s historic downtown. That rural highway intersection is home to an expansive and visible junk yard that almost begs you not to turn there. But in October of 2002, something changed all that.
The grand opening of the Southern Flyer Diner put the Brenham Municipal Airport on the map, not only for the residents of Washington County, but for pilots across the country too. In fact, it was the pilots who helped first spread the word about the good food and the 1950s atmosphere, complete with a checkerboard floor, jukebox, old fashioned malts and the young waitresses who wear authentic, colorful poodle skirts. An elevated, airy dining deck that seats 80 overlooks both a section of the runway and a tranquil pond, dubbed Lake Brenham by the poodle girls.
The Southern Flyer Diner became an instant hit with the pilots, who already have a romantic spirit embedded in their DNA. Many of the flyers who attended the restaurant’s grand opening regularly make the flight from their home base to sample the homemade Brenham wings, cheeseburgers, onion rings, chicken fried or hamburger steaks, numerous dinner selections (the chicken parmigiana and fried catfish are among the favorites) and made-from-scratch sides.
Pilots, who have long flown to airport restaurants to eat, call their lunch or dinner excursions “$100 hamburgers.” They have voted the Southern Flyer Diner the #1 “$100 Hamburger” fly-in location in the country six years in a row. The top ranking is courtesy of “The $100 Hamburger” website subscribers, who have propelled the Brenham Airport diner into the top-ten list every year since the survey began in 2006. That’s a pretty tall order, considering all 1,675 airport restaurants are in the running. (For more on “The $100 Hamburger website, see http://www.100dollarhamburger.com/.)
Before the restaurant came along, Washington County residents had little reason to travel to the airport. Now, starting around 11:00 a.m. every day, cars begin turning off Highway 50 at the junk yard, down Airport Road and onto Aviation Way. They travel past the A.J. Foyt hangers on the left, hoping to beat the crowd to the Southern Flyer Diner.
For more information on the Southern Flyer Diner, visit their website at http://www.brenhammunicipalairport.com/index_files/page0003.htm.