I’ve always had a certain fascination for airports and airplanes of all shapes and sizes. The big, modern ones are full of great stores and restaurants not to mention fun people watching. Smaller commuter airports like McClellan-Palomar Airport in Carlsbad are big on convenience and charm, and in this case, have a really fun restaurant that has developed a strong following among locals and travelers.
The Landings at Carlsbad, as it’s called, is an airport-adjacent eatery with an eclectic American menu, a modern space and a patio with amazing runway views and regular live music that draws big crowds.
Owner Michele Slattery was a flight attendant for many years so this restaurant made perfect sense for her. I had a conversation with her recently to learn more about this local gem.
You and your ex-husband have a long history of restaurants at airports and different locations in California. How did the airport connection get started, and tell me about some of the others.
We were partners in six other restaurants with four located at regional airports plus a steakhouse and a bar. The airport connection started with my former husband who has an accounting practice. One of his clients asked him if he was interested in partnering in the restaurant business at an airport location. This parleyed into six restaurants, four of which are airport locations. The McClellan-Palomar Airport restaurant site became available with the renovation of the airport. In March of 2008, they broke ground to open a new terminal. At this time, we put in our bid to occupy and own the restaurant. They accepted our bid and our grand opening was December 2009. It was our first restaurant that we were full owners. As of November 2010, I became the sole owner of The Landings at Carlsbad.
With the renovations, you had a chance to put your mark on your new airport restaurant renovations as the designer. What where your inspirations for the new space?
The theme of the new airport was “Land and Sea,” so I took that theme and created many different aspects of the interior to create the ambiance. One of those aspects consists of a full scale Banyan Tree located in the dining area. Another cool design element is the bar, which is made out of quartzite. The name of the quartzite is called Swepei, which is named after a beach in Brazil replicating the ocean. Another aspect is the stone tile floor replicating a creek, which runs from the entrance of the restaurant to the farthest corner. The restaurant also consists of a large patio area with beautiful lighting above and around the parameter. The most important feature of the restaurant is that it is located right on the tarmac and the aircraft pass right in front of the windows. Because of the large windows and patio area, all customers have a view of the airplanes as they pass by the restaurant, you can even observe them taking off and landing.
Did you have a hand in designing the current menu or did you leave that up to your chef?
Originally the menu was duplicated from one of our previous airport locations. When I became sole owner, I decided to revise the menu and make it my own. You will still find some of the original items on the menu, as they are very popular with my customers.
What are some of the more popular items on the menu?
I wanted to accommodate everyone’s taste with a variety of recipes. I also offer a beef, turkey, seafood and vegetarian burger. One of our specialties is our peanut butter, bacon and Swiss cheese burger…believe me, it works! Three of my favorite dishes are the gourmet burger, the shrimp and crab burger and the ahi salad. We make our soup daily in-house and also offer a lunch special every day and a pasta special every evening.
Live entertainment is a big part of the experience at The Landings…besides the very cool location of course. Tell me about your music offerings.
I offer a high caliber of top live entertainment on Fridays and Saturdays consisting of primarily fun cover bands. Some of them include The Greg Douglas Band (Steve Miller), Santana Ways (Santana), Custard Pie (Led Zeppelin), Clapton Hook (Eric Clapton) and Baja Bugs (Beatles). We are also offering Wednesday night solo artist Jim Gibson whose following is increasing every week. These are just some of the examples I offer but there is much more.
Back in the day, I got engaged on biplane out of Palomar Airport and it was an amazing experience. Being around aircraft all the time, do you have any favorite types of planes?
As a flight attendant for 30 years, I have flown on many different commercial aircraft. My favorite being the Lockheed Martin L-1011, which was a beautiful aircraft. At the Palomar Airport, I love the private jets and dream of owning any one of them some day.
I’m a big fan of anything aviation related and think you have such a cool location. Do you have a mix of airline employee’s and local customer base?
Much of my clientele consists of local aviation enthusiasts including a diverse group of businessmen & women, families, retiree’s, and young professionals. We get a lot of local businesses coming in for lunch and after work.
The Landings at Carlsbad is open seven days a week and is located at 2198 Palomar Airport Road, Carlsbad. Call (760) 929-0200 or visit online carlsbadlandings.com
David Boylan is the founder of Artichoke Creative an Encinitas based integrated marketing firm. He also hosts Lick the Plate Radio that airs Monday through Friday at 7 p.m. on FM94/9, Easy 98.1, and KSON. Reach him at email@example.com or (858) 395-6905.