Up, Up and Away 

Airplane food taken to new heights at Solo's Restaurant

It's a bird! It's a plane! It's a ... restaurant in a plane!

Think of all the jokes, horror stories and plain old bad experiences you heard about airplane food. Now forget them, because airline food has absolutely nothing in common with your experience at Solo's.

First of all, this really is a restaurant in a plane. A gigantic Boeing KC-97 has been refitted with booths, and it's been grafted to the side of a building, which houses the rest of the restaurant. It's a sight you won't soon forget.

The restaurant building is spacious, airy and inviting, but you have to try eating on the airplane itself at least once. There's a row of two-person booths and a row of four-person booths, so large parties necessarily get split up a bit -- unless they want to get really cozy.

The interior of Solo's is great for aviation buffs, as well as anyone just looking for something different. Airplane models and memorabilia are displayed everywhere, but the overall effect is fascinating rather than cluttered. (The only detail that might be considered overdone is the revving engine in the bathroom. The sound is piped in at a decibel level that makes you think you've stopped to wee directly under an airplane that's trying to take off. It's not a pretty noise, and I've noticed that it frightens small children.)

But what about the food? I would say that Solo's is off to a very good start, considering it hasn't been in business very long, and it should only improve with a little tweaking here and there.

As a starter, the Just In Quesadilla ($7.99) is large enough to be an entre. A chipotle flour tortilla is filled with tender chicken, tomatoes, mild chilis and pepper jack cheese, and served with sour cream and a pretty good guacamole. It's very tasty without being too spicy.

The Air Tower Nachos ($6.75) weren't bad, but were nothing to write home about. The chips were loaded with pepper jack cheese, as promised, but the diced tomato, onion, jalapenos and chilis were scattered thinly on top like an afterthought.

The Creamy Artichoke Dip ($6.25) is some of the very best I've ever tasted. It's a creamy and robust blend of artichokes, spinach and Parmesan cheese, without the cloying richness that sometimes makes you feel bogged down after eating this type of dip. It comes with garlic cheese bread, tortilla chips, celery and carrot sticks, and I would happily order this on every visit.

There are several inviting salads. I tried the Cobb ($7.95) and I'm pleased to report that, unlike most restaurants in town, Solo's has sense enough to put a large plate under a large salad, so you aren't showering the table with bits of lettuce and grated cheese every time you stick your fork in.

On my next visit, I plan to try the Asian Chicken Salad, with crunchy noodles, broccoli, red peppers, corn, pineapple, chicken and almonds in a sesame dressing -- or the Air Port-Obello Salad, with grilled mushrooms, zucchini and yellow squash, with tomato, red onion and roasted sweet peppers in a balsamic vinaigrette.

The Clam and Shrimp Linguine ($11.99) is a nice trip into the pasta section, with plenty of clams and pan-seared shrimp with fresh garlic, herbs and white wine. The portion is pretty big, and you can get it in a mild white Alfredo sauce, or a spicy red sauce that will tingle your taste buds.

Southwestern Chicken Breast ($8.85) deserves its spot under "Favorites." They stuff and top a grilled chicken breast with a combination of sauted peppers, onions, corn and jack cheese, serve it on a bed of Southwestern rice that actually has some kick to it, alongside fresh grilled vegetables. It was more than I could finish in one sitting, and the melted jack cheese served to hold everything together rather than overpowering it.

My only disappointment was my cheeseburger ($6.75). The menu touts Colorado-grown "V" Bar Beef, which is free-range, grass-fed and steroid- and antibiotic-free. While the meat on it's own tasted great, it was the driest burger I have ever eaten. The bun was soft and fresh, the lettuce and onion were perfectly adequate, but it just added up to one dry burger. Interestingly, my daughter ordered a cheeseburger from the children's menu, and the only discernible difference between the two was that mine came with lettuce and tomato, and I did have a few more french fries.

The burger won't stop me from going back. This is an excellent restaurant for kids, aviation buffs, out-of-town visitors or those who just want something different in the way of atmosphere. Besides, they've got a Snickers Cheesecake that you just wouldn't believe.


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