BY D’ARCY PATRICK EGAN
PORT CLINTON — Appetites kick right in when people walk into the Tin Goose Diner at the Liberty Aviation Museum at the crack of dawn and are greeted by the succulent scent of freshly-baked cinnamon rolls wafting through the iconic restaurant.
Chef Ben Staples has developed the welcoming sights, sounds and fragrant scents of what a breakfast menu should be, from fluffy pancakes, omelets, fried potatoes and thick cut, hardwood-smoked bacon to a delightful City of Port Clinton corned beef hash created with the freshest of ingredients.
“We serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, but we like to think of The Tin Goose Diner as the area’s very best breakfast and lunch ‘greasy spoon,’ and I mean that in a very good way,” said Edward Patrick, the CEO of the operation. “It’s that old-time restaurant where the food is fresh and delicious, and there is plenty of it.”
Many of the menu selections have aeronautical names, from the basic Aviator, an inexpensive combination of a couple of eggs, toast and breakfast potatoes, to the 50 Mission Crush, which combines just about everything on the breakfast menu on one huge platter. It would seemingly take two men and a boy to consume it.
“Well, we did serve 26 of the 50 Mission Crush breakfasts last Sunday morning,” said Bob Fujita, Director of Operations, with a laugh. “Order it and you won’t leave hungry.”
The lunch menu features house-made “smash burgers” that are never frozen, including the Georgie’s Girl, a double burger named after the museum’s B-25 Bomber, three-egg Flyover Omelets, the Rickenbacker country fried steak named after the Ohio flying ace, and good, old-fashioned S.O.S., a military specialty of chipped beef on toast.
Staples was charging with bringing a new look and taste to The Tin Goose Diner menu, said Fujita.
“Ben grew up in the Bellevue area, and knows the Lake Erie region. He has attended culinary academies, had a sabbatical at a fine restaurant in Italy and has worked with some of the top restaurants in this area.”
There are challenges, from training staff to acquiring some foods and ingredients, because of pandemic shortages.
“This is a really cool experience, being able to create the styles of food that will be appreciated,” Staples said. “We’re sourcing the freshest local ingredients available and cooking all of our meals from scratch.
“There’s no skimping, whether it’s something as basic as biscuits and our whole hog sausage gravy, or our lobster bisque, French onion and tomato soups. As a result, we’ve been asked to make quarts of the lobster bisque for customers serve at home.”
The diner is on the grounds of the Erie-Ottawa International Airport. In the old days visitors flying in to the airport in private planes and corporate jets would have slim pickings for local meals. The culinary scene has blossomed in recent years, and Patrick says the Tin Goose Diner is becoming the restaurant of choice for many who land in Port Clinton.
“We’ve always had good food at The Tin Goose,” Patrick said. “Our objective in hiring Ben Staples and upgrading our operation is to serve really great meals.”
The sole purpose of The Tin Goose Diner is to fund the Liberty Aviation Museum, and its antique aircraft and vehicles, including the Ford Tri-Motor, or Tin Goose, which long ago provided the first airline passenger service to the Lake Erie Islands and beyond.
“When we build a new display or offer rides on vintage aircraft that brings people to the Liberty Aviation Museum, the profits don’t go to investors,” said Patrick. “It goes to fund our facility, to bring back the iconic military aircraft and display items like the Ford Galaxy 500 that Andy Griffith drove on patrol around Mayberry.”
On their list for 2022 is a catering service that will utilize the museum’s 12,000-square foot building for weddings and other social events, now that it is fully air-conditioned. With more commercial jets coming to Port Clinton, thanks to a full-service U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility at the airport, Patrick is planning a quality food catering service for airline passengers.
“We want it to be at a 5-star level, from French cuisine to lobster and steak, if that’s what the passengers want,” said Patrick. “We had a family fly from England just the other day, and expect to see more domestic and international travel. It’s great for the airport, our museum and the local economy when we can fuel up the big jets and provide outstanding cuisine.”