Maniac-Mikes Café is a classic diner located “above ground level” at the historic Cable Airport in Upland. It also happens to be directly connected to the control tower near the entrance of the airport. The menu offers both breakfast (egg dishes such as omelets, pancakes, French Toast) and lunch items (hamburgers, sandwiches, salads and desserts). And of course, the menu ponies up le booze.
The café is intimately small but not over-cramped, with about seven tables comprising the dining area, each seating between four to six people. Large model airplanes hang from the ceiling, older aviation memorabilia hang on the walls, and on a good day the traffic control radio can be heard over the kitchen clatter. Speaking of clatter, there’s one thing you should know about Mikes—this place is seriously noisy. The constant clanging of dishes from the kitchen, the chatter from other tables, and the “touch ‘n’ goes” from air traffic make the café a bit boisterous.
I had the pleasure of trying the Spanish omelet, which was concocted of tomatoes, cheese, Ortega chilies, onions and salsa. My food was brought out in prompt fashion; the cheese on my omelet was still melting as I ‘landed’ it into my mouth, and the country fries and toast that came as sides were each hot and fresh. When you order an orange juice, you get a very large glass of orange juice, not the thimblefuls you get at some cafés. And the service is all you would hope for when at a diner with inherent charms—the waitresses are short but sweet and not particularly chatty. Yet if you need something, you holler and they get it for you without dilly-dallying.
Of course, the obvious appeal to this café is the unique location. Mikes, now in its seventh year of operation, is literally situated right next to the airport runway so that you can watch airplanes taking off and landing right there beside you. It’s an intense experience for any aviation buff, as the smaller aircraft come and go and the loud zoom goes right through the walls, windows shaking and dishes rattling under the rumble. On any given day people from Claremont and Upland flock to the café to see Cessna’s and Bell 47 helicopters making their final approaches to the historic runway.
Just make sure you get there early and snatch a good spot, as your seat can make all the difference. The chairs outside on the patio are coveted, but there are some next to the window facing the runway that make for a good observational post as well. Securing a good vantage point at Mikes can sometimes cost a costumer 45 minutes of ‘layover’ time, depending on the day—but it’s well worth it.
Nobody will feel left out at Mikes either, as everyone from bikers to young families to elderly enthusiasts and hobbyists make up the patronage. In fact, the café has a loyal group of regulars. It’s very common for people to recognize one another while enjoying their meal, to the point that owner Mike Stewart says that he has about a 100-person base that he sees every other day.
The appeal of a comfortable niche café such as this makes sense. Aviation extraordinaire Jeff Boyer says the reason he’s a frequent guest is because he really likes the renowned atmosphere (made to look as it did in the 1940s, when the Cable airport was built) and the active roll Mike Stewart takes with his business. Stewart’s not only a third generation Cable whose grandfather helped build the airport, but he’s also the vice president of the airport and takes great pride in his work. It’s not uncommon to see Mike with his bushy mustache and friendly smile, milling about the café, visiting the tables to make sure the food is up to snuff.
Maniac-Mikes Café is a pleasurable place to dine at on a clear weekend morning, when visibility is good and planes and helicopters can be seen touching down and lifting off. But the friendly service and excellent food is an equally fine reason to put Mikes into your logbook.
Maniac-Mikes Café, 1739 West 13th Street, Upland (909) 982-9886; www.maniac-mikes.com. Open every day 7AM-3PM. AE, MC, V