American cuisine

New Ocala Airport restaurant offers American cuisine, great views

With the aisle seat legroom and the window seat view, every chair and bar stool at Elevation 89, a new American cuisine restaurant at Ocala International Airport, is desirable.

Guests occupied tables overlooking the airport tarmac on October 15, watching with childlike fascination the plane take off onto the runway against a clear blue sky.

While some clients flew their own planes to the airport, others left Ocala for a meal. Restaurant and airport staff are hopeful that Elevation 89, whose name refers to the airport’s height above sea level, will provide an ‘elevated’ experience for locals and the community. aviation.

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“This is an opportunity to expand our downtown area,” said Chief Executive Officer and Director of Operations Jeremy Zajac. “Even though we’re far away, it’s something people can visit. He shows people Ocala. This is your first step if you are flying, selling horses, or just traveling etc.

The cornerstone of the new airport terminal

Although Ocala Airport does not have commercial airlines, many private planes and helicopters enter and exit it. It is also home to a car rental center and the Sheltair aviation consultant.

The new 17,500 square foot terminal at Ocala Airport was completed in February 2020, replacing a smaller, outdated terminal.

Elevation 89 is now open at Ocala International Airport.  The restaurant and bar are now open to the public and offer American cuisine.  Elevation 89 also offers take-out, catering, a full bar, and private meeting / dinner space.

“It is the cornerstone of our terminal project. It took a long time to prepare it, ”said airport manager Matt Grow. “It brings so many non-airport people here, and what better way to teach non-airport people about the airport than to feed them?”

“They see the planes coming, and maybe they have kids or grandchildren, and maybe that spurs their interest in aviation.”

Other Florida airports without commercial flights have established successful restaurants in the past, such as the Airport Restaurant & Gin Mill at DeLand Municipal Airport in Volusia County and the Highjackers Restaurant at the County Airport. by Flagler.

The city of Ocala, which operates the airport, paid Blackwater Construction Services more than $ 400,000 to build the restaurant space and asked for proposals to find a new occupant.

Offering unique versions of classic American cuisine

Marion County restaurant owners Chris Wilson, Rondo Fernandez and Darren Robinson are partners in the project, as is Joseph St. Pierre, a lawyer from South Carolina. They invested $ 150,000 in the equipment and furnishings of Elevation 89.

Fernandez operates four Mojo’s restaurants in the area, while Wilson and the band are known for County Line Smokehouse & Spirits in Weirsdale, The Anchor in Summerfield, The Pizza Joint in Summerfield, and the Jenkins Hyundai Cafe in Ocala.

“We bought places that didn’t even have food and turned them into restaurants,” Wilson said. “If you provide good food, people will find you. ”

Executive Chef and COO Jeremy Zajac prepared this Pescatore dish, accompanied by a white wine, for a customer at Elevation 89 at Ocala International Airport on Friday afternoon, October 15.

For breakfast, Elevation 89 offers classics like Egg Benedict and pancakes, as well as a Sunday breakfast buffet with omelet and waffle stations and a Bloody Mary and mimosa bar.

“We have unique perspectives on classic American items, but we give them our own twist,” Wilson said. “For example, our Egg Benedict has shrimp and Cajun aioli on a large cookie.”

Salads, wings, tacos, chicken, burgers and sandwiches are available for lunch and dinner. An additional menu, “The Flight Plan”, offers an even higher dining experience with options of steak, seafood and drinks.

Executive Chef and COO Jeremy Zajac prepares Pescatore for a client at Elevation 89 at Ocala International Airport.

Wilson says the Elevation 89 offers an “average” rate and an “extraordinary” value, noting the breakfast buffet at $ 16.95.

“We priced it so that it doesn’t cost you to pay for a car when you’re done with your family,” Wilson said. “This is how a lot of brunches are.”

An incredible view

The restaurant had a smooth opening period starting Friday, October 8, which the owners said had an “overwhelming” reception. A grand opening is scheduled for Thursday, October 21 at 4:30 p.m.

Wilson and Zajac say all of the articles have been successful so far, but the grouper is particularly popular.

“Everyone said everything went well,” Zajac said. “They loved the food.”

Between food and location, Zajac sees Elevation 89 becoming a place of destination.

“This will be the place where you want to take someone on a date,” he said. “You can go downtown, and it’s beautiful. The brickwork, designs, and culture there are phenomenal, but can you sit and watch the sunset on prom night and watch a bunch of planes come and go? For me, it’s one of a kind.

Chef Jeremiah Goodrich, left, and Executive Chef and COO Jeremy Zajac, right, pose in front of the restaurant's logo on Friday afternoon.

If watching the planes take off and land isn’t enough, guests can also admire aviation-themed decor, including blue taxiway lights as centerpieces and the orange batons of tarmac workers sitting on them. counters.

The restaurant, which also has a private meeting and catering room, has a capacity of 152 people.

Debbie Pando and Angie Williams first tried Elevation 89 recently and plan to return in an evening sunset.

“It was delicious,” Williams said of her mozzarella chicken. “I had the coleslaw, which was amazing, and it’s a beautiful place. We will definitely be back. ”

Pando has traveled to small airports often in the past and said the addition of the restaurant was “a great idea”.

Debbie Pando, left, and Angie Williams, right, enjoy their lunch Friday afternoon October 15 at Elevation 89 at Ocala International Airport. "I love landscapes," said Willams. "We are already thinking of coming back to sit by the window at sunset," Pando said.

“It brings people to the airport, and hopefully from there we could actually see real growth, an airline coming up, becoming a hub,” she said.

There is nothing quite like getting off and eating good food after traveling on a plane for hours, she added.

Make the “$ 100 hamburger” club

A group of pilots made a shorter trip on Friday to try out the restaurant, meeting for a meal while looking out over their Nanchang CJ-6 warbirds in green and arctic camouflage outdoors.

“I think it’s great,” said Michael Peters, who was from Leeward Air Ranch. “I think it’s great for us to have a place to fly, and I think it’s great to have an aviation themed restaurant in the area where the pilots can get together and have a good meal.”

“And one that’s open all the time,” Rich Langer added, also noting the bar. “Many airport restaurants only open for a few hours in the afternoon.”

Customers can purchase hats and shirts at the new restaurant, Elevation 89 at Ocala International Airport.  The restaurant and bar are now open to the public and offer American cuisine.  Elevation 89 also offers take-out, catering, a full bar, and private meeting / dinner space.

Jim Goolsby, who came from Eagles Nest in Crescent City to meet his friends, said they were waiting for the restaurant to open.

“This will make the ‘$ 100 hamburger’ club,” he said, referring to pilots flying a short distance to eat at an airport restaurant and return home. “Some planes cost around $ 100 an hour to operate, so you use a plane to go get a burger, so it’s a $ 100 burger.”

Peters, who worked as a concierge at Ocala Airport in the 1990s, said they plan to return for the buffet breakfast and dinner.

Community establishment at elevation 89

“We’re not really in the restaurant business,” Wilson said of the owners of Elevation 89. “We’re in the business of the community. We are really good at building a sense of community in our places around food and drink.

Chef Jeremiah Goodrich prepares a mixed vegetable for the braised short rib dish while working in the kitchen on Friday afternoon, October 15, at Elevation 89 at Ocala International Airport.  The restaurant and bar are now open to the public and offer American cuisine.  Elevation 89 also offers take-out, catering, a full bar, and private meeting / dinner space.

Wilson cited Elevation 89’s grand opening ceremony as an example of community engagement, as they will be donating up to $ 5,000 to the Kimberly Child Protection Center.

Elevation 89 is located at Ocala International Airport at 1770 SW 60th Ave. It is open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Thursday, from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday and from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday.

Contact reporter Danielle Johnson at [email protected]