When I lived in Los Angeles, one of my favorite restaurants was the 94th Aero Squadron at Van Nuys airport. Yesterday, I learned through the Valley Relics group on Facebook that 94th Aero Squadron has closed its doors after 49 years in the community.
The restaurant was themed after Eddie Rickenbacker’s 94th Aero Squadron in the First World War. There were old airplanes on the outside. Inside was a rustic restaurant decorated in the fashion of the late 1910s with music of the era piped in. Best of all–for me–was that the restaurant looked out onto runway 16L of Van Nuys airport, one of the busiest general aviation airports in the country. I would sit by the window as a kid, watching the planes take off and land, and wishing that I was flying them.
I can’t remember the first time I ate at 94th Aero Squadron, but I know that I was not yet 13 years old. They had good food, and an amazing Sunday brunch that I recall attending on several occasions. 94th Aero Squadron had a banquet area, and both me and my brother’s bar mitzvah receptions were held at the restaurant.
I spent at least one Thanksgiving dinner at 94th Aero Squadron when my mom was out of town with my sister. My dad, my brother and I ate a turkey dinner there, and then went to see Rocky IV in the movie theater.
For either homecoming or prom, I went to 94th Aero Squadron for dinner with my date and some friends. On September 7, 1994–the day I interviewed at the company that I am still with today–I went to 94th Aero Squadron for dinner after a full day of interviews in Santa Monica.
But the single best meal I ever had at 94th Aero Squadron was on April 3, 2000. On that day, I passed my check ride, and received my license as a private pilot. To celebrate, I went flying for the first time as a licensed pilot, and then, retired to 94th Aero Squadron for dinner. Sitting at a table by the windows, watching planes take off and land, I could remember the times, fifteen years earlier, when I watched longingly from those windows, wishing I could be flying the planes. Now I finally was.
It is sad to see the restaurant closing, but I will always treasure the great times I had there. It was a one-of-kind place to be.
Written on May 19, 2022.
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