- MORE THAN A LUNCH COUNTER: The Flight Deck's Philly Cheesesteak.
I love airplanes. Back when I was a kid, my dad would sometimes take us all out on hot summer nights and park at the end of the runway at Adams Field and we'd sit there and watch the big jets take off. I've never really lost that thrill. An airplane still looks like a magic carpet to me. That's part of the reason I found a lot to like at The Flight Deck, the on-the-tarmac restaurant at Central Flying Service in Little Rock. The food is great, but for a fan of wings, the view is terrific.
For most folks who have never had the experience of flying out of Central Flying Service, it might be news that The Flight Deck exists at all. Unless you're purposely going there to eat or jet off somewhere, you'd probably never find it. That said, it's a lot more than a lunch counter in a flying bus depot, and a far cry from the generic fare you're likely to find during a layover at most airports.
During a recent sunny lunchtime, we headed out to the airport to sample some of their grub. From the nice slate of appetizers, we tried two: the hot tamales ($6.25 for six; $10.95 for 12), and the cheese dip ($3.95 small; $4.50 for a bowl). We're happy to say that both were some of the best examples of each that we've tried in Little Rock. The tamales, though a bit petite, were just spicy enough to give them a little kick, with a finely textured filling and a nice bite of gentle heat. Though most tamales we've tried locally were nothing to write home about, we found ourselves wishing we'd ponied up for a dozen. The white cheese dip, meanwhile, was similarly fine, swimming with lots of herbs and spices that gave it a good bit of flavor. Also surprising was the size of the small order, which was easily enough for two people.
From the big menu of sandwiches and entrees, we tried The Greatest Cheeseburger in Aviation History ($6.50 … and yes, they call it that right on the menu), while our sidekick went for what we called the Ladies Who Lunch route and tried the chicken salad sandwich (6.50). We also kicked in an extra $2 for steak fries, while our companion tried the French fries ($1.25).
If you call your headlining cheeseburger “The Greatest Cheeseburger in Aviation History,” you'd better bring your A-game. Surprisingly, given that expectational nuke of a name, The Flight Deck's cheeseburger didn't disappoint either: a big, hand-formed burger with pepper jack cheese, served with lettuce, tomato, pickle, onion, mayo and mustard, all on a toasted bun. Perfectly spiced and juicy, the burger made an excellent companion to the giganto-order of steak fries. Very, very tasty. And while we've never been down with the chicken salad, our friend declared that the one at The Flight Deck might be the best one she's had in Little Rock since moving back to town seven years ago. Quoth she: No apples-and-grapes nonsense, just loads of creamy, white-meat crammed chicken salad, served on grilled toast.
If we had to complain about anything when it comes to The Flight Deck, it is about just how painfully obvious it is that the suit-and-tie crowd gets much better service than the rest of us. We've been back again since that first fine lunch there, just to make sure. Both times we visited, our glasses went unfilled for extended periods, with our waitress walking past our table like we weren't there — often while literally carrying pitchers of tea and water — in order to fawn over the briefcase brigade. Given how out of the way The Flight Deck is, however, we can understand if they want to butter up those who regularly catch a private plane or charter out of Central Flying. It's got to be a painfully limited clientele, and in these tough economic times, we know all about the need for repeat customers. Given that, our feelings weren't hurt too much. Let's just leave it at this: Keep serving up those kind cheeseburgers and hot tamales, and we'll learn to drink slower.
The Flight Deck
1501 Bond St.
For you prop jockeys on dawn patrol, The Flight Deck offers a nice spread of breakfast items, including omelets, pancakes and breakfast sandwiches. Sunrise over the control tower. What could be better?
7 a.m. to 2 p.m. seven days a week
Beer and wine available, credit cards accepted.