UPDATE: The Barnstormer and its successor Barnstormers Grill have closed. The restaurant is now Jack & Benny’s Barnstormer Diner. [2/26/14]
Date of Visit: Wednesday, August 5, 2009 at 7:00 a.m.
IMPRESSIONS: A breakfast joint in an airport? That’s right! It’s The Barnstormer (or Barnstormers – all the signs are different), a small diner in Ohio State’s Don Scott Airport that’s about as hole-in-the-wall as you can get. I heard about this a few years ago, but am just venturing out now. I drove in to meet a friend for breakfast at 7:00 a.m.; I arrived at 6:45 to find the doors open, only to be told to wait while they set up the kitchen. Oh well. I was early.
The Barnstormer is located in Hangar #1 of the airport. Follow the signs off W. Case Road – see the tiny one in the grass in the picture above. It took me a moment to find the diner – it’s not terribly obvious from the road or the parking lot – but you should be able to narrow it down. Look for the sandwich board (see below).
ATMOSPHERE: The interior continues the obvious airplane theme, with a dash of Ohio State Buckeyes thrown in. Kind of a no-duh given this is the OSU Airport. The restaurant is only one and a half rooms. I counted a whopping total of 12 tables, plus a couple more seats at the counter. Decor is simple: OSU memorabilia with some photos and descriptions of airport history. I’m sure it’s a great place if you’re into aviation. A side door looks into the hangar itself; one of the servers ducked out there to grab some supplies during our meal. With low ceilings and dim lighting, it’s a pretty quiet hole-in-the-wall breakfast getaway.
FOOD: Barnstormer features all the breakfast basics, served all day. You’ve got your egg combos, omelets, pancakes, all of your standard sides, plus juice and coffee. Prices are on the cheap side, too. (FYI: they also serve lunch).
I picked the 2 Eggs, with home fries, bacon, and coffee. All of the food tasted just fine – enough seasoning to keep it from being bland. The eggs were a little overcooked to be over-easy, but they tasted good. Potatoes were browned appropriately, and bacon… well, it’s bacon, so I can’t say anything bad about it. But honestly, I was disappointed with the portions. Maybe it’s my totally American expectation to go out to eat and get a heaping mound of food for $3, but I’ve been to many other breakfast joints that offer so much more food for the same price or cheaper than Barnstormer.
SERVICE: I got shooed out of the restaurant for arriving early, even though the signs were out, the door was open, and the lights were on, but I won’t complain about that. They were setting up some equipment that was accidentally dismantled for some renovations. The whole operation is run by two middle-aged folks, including the host and owner, Jennine Graham. She was a straight-shooter, but very friendly. A few minutes after we arrived, a group of three older gentlemen entered, slid in to their regular table, got their coffee, and began poking fun of Jennine. She gave it right back. At one point she asked one of them, “Do you want toast?” “Sure,” the guy replied. “Turn around and do it yourself,” she shot back, then laughed. These three guys were clearly regulars at the airport. I caught one snippet of their conversation that went, “the ceiling’s 1006, it’s nip and tuck, but it’s legal.” Pilots – translate, please?
OVERALL: At the risk of calling Barnstormer a gimmick, it does seem a little gimmicky to have a diner in the airport. It’s a little difficult to reach, and while airports are always fun places to visit, I have to wonder how the business stays alive in such a secluded spot. That being said, don’t let it deter you from visiting. Jennine told me the place has been around for years, so there’s clearly enough support for it. Give it a try yourself!