For an aviation buff, Colorado Springs is known for two great air museums, Peterson Air & Space Museum and National Museum of World War II Aviation. We visited both in one day and when it came to decide where to break for lunch between the two, the choice was obvious: Solo’s Restaurant, also commonly known as The Airplane Restaurant.
The main attraction of The Airplane Restaurant, which opened in 2002, is the option to dine inside of a converted Boeing KC-97G Stratofreighter, a piston engine strategic air tanker. The plane was originally built in 1953 and served many years with the 70th Air Refueling Squadron at Little Rock Air Force Base and later with the Texas Air National Guard. At one point it was converted to an L model with a two J47 turbojet engines on underwing pylons to help match the cruising speed of B-52s bombers and other jet aircraft of the era. Without the turbojets, KC-97 crews had to perform a tobogganing maneuver which was essentially a shallow dive to pickup some speed while refueling.
The restaurants’ tanker was withdrawn from service in 1975 and put on display at the Naval Air Station in Fort Worth, TX. In 2001 Steve Kanatzar, a managing partner of the Solo’s Restaurant and also a pilot himself, purchased the plane and had it transported to Colorado Springs in pieces using help and expertise of the Worldwide Aircraft Recovery team.
There are 42 seats available inside of the main fuselage that has been refitted with sitting booths. Over 200 seats are available in the main “terminal” room which was built around one of the KC-97’s wings with engine still attached to it. The room is also decorated with aircraft scale models, posters, photos and other aviation memorabilia. The menu itself is full of aviation history facts and is tempting you with dishes like a Philly Flyer, Runway Crunchy Chicken Strips, Flying Fortress Fajita Salad and Air Tower Nachos.
While waiting for you food you can visit the plane’s cockpit and pretend to fly a refueling mission in the 50s or peek into the tail section where a mannequin dressed in an aircrew uniform is lowering the refueling boom. The restaurant is located at the 1665 N. Newport Rd. in Colorado Springs, adjacent to the Radisson Hotel Colorado Springs, and is open 11:00 am – 9:00 pm daily. You can call 719-570-7656 to confirm the hours or make a reservation.