Published on June 30th, 2011 | by Mark Chesnut
In-flight Dining on the Ground: Aviones Restaurant in Puerto Rico
|Now boarding: Aviones Restaurant in Puerto Rico serves food aboard vintage grounded airplanes.|
BY MARK CHESNUT
The seating wasn’t as comfortable as flying first class, but the meal service was a million times better than coach (and nearly the same price as buying a meal in economy class on Delta). Opened in 2009, the appropriately named Aviones is a restaurant centered around three vintage airplanes: two DC-3s and one Convair 440, all of which are fully intact (minus the engines) and look like they’re in the act of making an emergency landing in the hills of central Puerto Rico, with landing gear fully extended.
|Permanent holding pattern: The Convair 440 at Aviones is one of the most unique restaurants in Puerto Rico.|
Located in a valley outside the town of Barranquitas, Aviones is a novelty restaurant that makes the most of its gimmick as well as its beautiful natural setting. We stopped at the open-air bar first, sipping on icy frappe de parcha (passion fruit) and mango, served by a woman dressed as a pilot beneath a number of hanging airplane models made from beer cans. For lunch, we could have chosen to eat in an open-air, covered dining area, but we had traveled from San Juan with the goal of dining on board one of the planes — in this case, a Convair 440 built in 1956 that has been neatly transformed from its days as a cargo plane into a dining long, slim dining room, furnished with somewhat mod white booths as well as hanging lamps and wine bottles stored above the windows as if they were part of some emergency evacuation plan.
|Front of the cabin: The Convair 440 at Aviones Restaurant has booth seating.|
The menu is filled with appropriately named dishes. I ordered the Pista de Aterrizaje (Air Strip) — spare ribs with barbeque sauce and rice — although I actually liked my partner Angel’s choice more; he had the Aterrizaje Forzoso (Forced Landing), which was mofongo (mashed plantains) served with tasty shrimp. All the main courses that I saw were generously portioned and well presented, with dramatic shards of plantain seemingly flying out of each dish.
|Meal service: Aviones is surely the only restaurant in Puerto Rico to serve shrimp and mofongo next to a porthole.|
After lunch, which was attentively served by a young waiter dressed as a member of the flight crew, we visited the other aircraft — one DC-3 has a hard-wood floor and free-standing tables as well as a DJ stand, and the other has an outdoor bar (all of the planes can be rented for private events). We also walked along a suspension bridge that passes above a tiny creek, past lush greenery including soaring trees and naturally growing coffee plants.
|Final destination: It may look like this plane is stuck in the trees, but it’s peacefully — and permanently — ensconced in the hills of Puerto Rico, at Aviones restaurant.|
For special events and on Sundays, the female staff members dress as flight attendants, and the staff is more than happy to recount the story of how it took days — and created multiple traffic jams — to transport the planes in pieces from San Juan to their final home in the hills. Newspaper clippings in a large display document the restaurant’s history, as well as the history of San Juan’s Luís Muñoz Marín International Airport.
With multiple venues and places to wander, this unique restaurant in the center of Puerto Rico’s scenic hills is already a destination unto itself. And it may be even more of a draw, if the owner’s plans to build an airplane-themed hotel come to fruition.
|Economy class: The DC-3 aircraft at Aviones restaurant have smaller seats but more space to dance.|
GETTING THERE: Arriving at Aviones requires some dedication. While only about 30 miles away from San Juan, it can easily take over an hour and a half each way, thanks to the winding two-lane roads that lead into Puerto Rico’s central mountain range (we used the Mapquest app on my iPhone, which made it relatively easy to find our way.) Allow two hours each way and make a day of it, so you can enjoy the beautiful scenery and make stops on the way. Check out my suggestions for making a day trip to the hill towns of Puerto Rico.
Aviones, Carretera #143 KM 57.0, Barrio Helechal, Barranquitas, Puerto Rico
Tel. 787-857-8955 or 787-553-8976.
• Head for the Hills: Barranquitas and Comerío, Puerto Rican Hill Towns