Three weeks into the job, the new owners of the Kenai Municipal Airport restaurant are busier than they expected.
“Our clientele has been awesome,” said Teea McBride, who took over operation of the airport diner with her mother, Sherry McBride. The two had been managing the K-Beach Diner on Kalifornsky Beach Road until the airport location came open.
“Our Kasilof clientele is coming at least three times a week,” she said.
When the mother and daughter first told their K-Beach customers of their plans to move to the airport, the customers expressed disappointment.
“They said the airport was so much farther and it was a bad idea,” Teea McBride said. “Now some of them are coming every day.”
Although the prices at the Kenai Cafe are the same or slightly higher than they were when the airport eatery was named Wings, McBride said everything they make is homemade and they use all top grade meats and other products.
“We hand press our burgers,” she said. “Nothing is machine-pressed.”
The meat for the 6-ounce patties comes directly from the IGA butcher in Kenai.
“They’re the only butcher around that would do the cut the way we wanted it,” McBride said.
Besides the customary plain hamburger, the restaurant offers cheeseburgers, bacon cheeseburgers and a jalapeno burger.
“Only a hungry guy tries our chili burger,” McBride said.
The 6-ounce patty is covered with 1 1/2 cups of homemade chili made from scratch.
“Oh, it’s a meal,” she said.
The hand-breaded fresh halibut fish-and-chips and shrimp baskets were popular at the K-Beach Diner, but McBride said club sandwiches and BLTs are selling best at the airport.
“People seem to be looking for easy, fast items,” she said.
One menu offering that has not lost favor is the McBrides’ chicken-fried steak.
“People still really like that,” McBride said.
The cafe also offers an extensive breakfast menu, and even has one selection named for one of the McBrides’ regular customers.
“Mr. Slater’s on the menu,” said McBride.
The Mr. Slater two pancakes or slices of French toast, two eggs and two strips of bacon or sausage links is something the locally famous fisherman always ordered when he visited the K-Beach Diner, she said.
Homemade apple, blueberry or cherry turnovers and homemade brownies also tempt from the diner’s counter.
Starting Monday, the new restaurant will extend its hours to 7 p.m. on weekdays. The new hours will be 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
As planned when the McBrides signed their five-year operating agreement with the city, the airport cafe is decorated with photos and memorabilia of celebrities including Marilyn Monroe, John Wayne, Elvis Presley, James Dean, The Three Stooges, Lucille Ball, and Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack.
Special wall sections also honor John F. Kennedy and feature Betty Boop and the “Wizard of Oz.”
Old vinyl 33 rpm records and 45s adorn the restaurant’s pillars and one window sports a collage of postcards.
“That started when I was in third grade,” said McBride.
“My dad traveled a lot for his job, and he would always send me a postcard. I started collecting them, and when I look at them now, they’re really interesting.
“I started putting them on the window (of the restaurant) and customers started sending cards to me from all around the world.
“I’d like to have the whole window covered with postcards,” she said.
With a smile, McBride also said she will point out her favorite postcard to inquisitive customers.
To mark their first month at the airport location, the McBrides are planning a grand opening Feb. 12.
“We’ll probably run breakfast and lunch specials all day long,” McBride said.
Phil Hermanek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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