I've been somewhat enamored with John Purner's book - The $100 Dollar Hamburger - that chronicles restaurants and cafes that are at or near small municipal and private airfields across the nation. (The $100 Dollar Hamburger denotes the fact that in order to fly somewhere to get a burger at one of these places, pilots usually use up to - and above - $100 in aviation fuel getting there and back.) I've made notes of some of the ones that are listed in the Midwest and there was a place in Columbus, IN, south of Indianapolis that caught my interest. On a recent trip between Indianapolis and Louisville, I took the time to get off Interstate 65 and go to Blackerby's Hanger 5 at the Columbus Municipal Airport.
Sharon and Wayne Blackerby were high school sweethearts who just happened to get into the restaurant business. They opened their first restaurant, Broad Acres, in North Vernon, IN south and east of Columbus. In 1988, the Blackerby's opened the Hanger 5 at the Columbus airport. It became known as a place where the pilots and the locals would come to eat breakfast and lunch. Sadly, cancer took Sharon's life in 2009. Wayne Blackerby and his son, Caleb, continue to run Blackerby's Hanger 5 restaurant.
The Columbus Municipal Airport is located on the far north side of Columbus on Ray Boll Drive. (see map) The street is named after Charles Raymond "Ray" Boll, a Columbus native who worked closely with General Douglas MacArthur as a radio and radar intelligence specialist in the Pacific Theater of World War II. After the war, he returned to Columbus and eventually became an executive for Cummins Engines. Boll was also a long time commissioner on the local aviation board.
The terminal at the airport in Columbus is a modern, but nondescript building. You go through the front door of the terminal, take a hard right and you'll find yourself standing in front of the main entrance to Blackerby's Hanger 5. The dining room is spacious, open and well-lit - thanks primarily to the large windows that look out onto the tarmac and beyond.
I took a seat at a table and immediately opened a menu that was given to me by my server, Brittany. Blackerby's Hanger 5 is only open for breakfast and lunch, closing at 2 p.m. daily. They have an extensive breakfast menu including omelets, pancakes, French toast, Eggs Benedict, and a number of specialty breakfasts that are skillet-style offerings.
Their lunch menu includes soups, salads, sandwiches, burgers, wraps and entrees such as a housemade meatloaf platter, country fried steak, traditional pot roast, and a battered whitefish dinner. On Sunday's at Blackerby's Hanger 5, they serve their famous pressure cooked chicken.
Believe it or not, I hadn't had a burger for quite awhile and I went with the mushroom/Swiss cheese burger. I asked Brittany if they could throw some bacon on it and she said it would be no problem. Fries came with the burger. And, of course, since it was a restaurant at an airport, they don't serve alcohol at Blackerby's Hanger 5. And that was fine - I went with water.
I had some time to return e-mails thanks to the free wi-fi they had at Blackerby's. About the time I was finished and packing up my computer, Brittany brought out my burger plate.
The burger was flat-grilled and slathered with a thick slice of Swiss cheese covering the sautéed mushrooms and bacon slices on top of the burger patty. The burger also came with sliced red onions and dill pickles. The first bite yielded a great taste of a medium grilled burger complete with the pungent Swiss cheese, crispy bacon, and the wonderful earthy tasting sautéed mushrooms. The sliced red onion was very fresh and really forward in taste. Everything tasted so great, it was a really good burger.
The fries were also very good. They were sort of the battered style of French fries - crispy on the outside, yet moist and flaky on the inside. This was a very good lunch.
And it was a very good value. While it tasted like a $100 burger, it was only a shade over $8 bucks for the price. With tax and tip, I got out of Blackerby's Hanger 5 spending about $12 bucks. The burger was excellent, the restaurant was clean and comfortable, Brittany's service was prompt and efficient, and it was kind of a nice treat to eat at a small municipal airport watching the small planes take off and land. Blackerby's Hanger 5 is a good destination for breakfast or lunch - even if you aren't a pilot. It's sort of tough to find, but I'm certain you'll be happy you did find the place.