Flights Of Fancy
Monterey Airport's eatery is so out of it step with modern restaurant reality that it's ultra cool and in again.
Thursday, January 25, 2001
For some reason, maybe because flying is such a relatively modern phenomenon, airports possess a certain mystery. Watching giant mechanical birds filled with humans take flight and land is mind-boggling. And being close enough to hear the roar of the engines and feel the rumbling of everything around you is always exciting.
Giant, big-city airports are too overwhelming, blotting out all intimacy and understanding while bludgeoning travelers and visitors with ceaseless noise, unbreathable air and unrelenting stress. Friendly, small town, almost backward airports like Monterey''s are like a slice of American pie, presenting a downhome flavor profile of the particular area''s people and lifestyle.
I love the Monterey Airport. One of my favorite views of our heavenly place on Earth is from the top of Franklin, just outside the Monterey Presidio. Day or night provides a stunning, long view of the airport''s runways. I love to watch a plane pass overhead and then try to track it all the way to the runway. Sometimes I can hear the plane rev the reverse thrusters--or whatever they do when they pull that quick, slowdown maneuver.
So it was with great anticipation that I and the ever-magnificent Chickie Boom--who happened to be celebrating a birthday that night--headed over to the airport to dine at the Golden Tee Restaurant.
It was as cold a night as I have ever felt in Monterey. People--all smarter than we--were in their homes snuggling under throws, watching their favorite prime time shows, and sipping hot toddies. Me and the Sweet Thing were entering the magical Monterey Airport, pulling into short-term parking and digging the whimsical blue lights bordering the runway.
Plentiful parking places provided practically perfect placement for our land craft.
The side door leading from the rooftop parking area into the terminal takes you down a corridor presently decorated with great works of art by local school children. The theme is peace. Only children can express feelings and emotions so purely and profoundly.
Now, considering how small Monterey Airport really is, it absolutely makes no sense that an actual restaurant and cocktail lounge is there in the first place. But there it is, serving locals and travelers alike for about a quarter century now.
Transported in Time
Walking into the Golden Tee is stumbling upon a world that time forgot, where everything is as it was once, is now and always will be. And that''s a good thing.
Happy-go-lucky waitresses with beehive hairdos who have logged a few hours on planet Earth greet and welcome you to their lair. Me and Chickie Boom arrived just a half hour before closing time and the enthusiastic workers made us feel like we were visiting our own private dining room.
Sitting in the center booth, looking out over the dreamy airstrip, sipping a martini and holding my Sweet Thing''s delicate hand--are you kidding me, what could be bad about that?
Jennie Evans, who has been working at the Golden Tee on and off during the whole run of the place, deftly moved us through the ordering process without rushing us. But her attitude toward us was very professional and she did keep us from lollygagging (what exactly is "lollygagging"?).
[Editor''s note: Lollygagging is "to waste time by puttering aimlessly"--sorta like what you''re doing right now. Get to the point, Raymond, for cryin'' out loud!]
The menu offers what you would expect to find in a fine restaurant on the Monterey Peninsula circa 1965. There are plenty of local fish dishes, a few Italian-style meals and the requisite meat dishes. Prime rib is a favorite, so I figured I''d go with that. Sweet Thing got the sand dabs and calamari combo.
Soup or fresh, very crisp, old-style salad comes with dinner. We both went for the generous salad. I was transported back 20 years to every dinner house in every small town in America. The nostalgic value alone is worth the price of admission to the Golden Tee.
And don''t forget the view. Muffled roars of small to mid-sized planes occasionally broke the soft sounds of the near-empty restaurant. A total of four planes landed or took off during our stay.
Our entrees followed suit. Traditional prime rib with au jus, horseradish sauce (very pungent and zippy), medley of local vegetables and a double-baked potato had me looking around for the bride and groom''s table and the three-piece combo playing "The Way You Look Tonight."
My partner''s sand dabs and calamari--also accompanied by a medley of local vegetables and a double baked potato-- was breaded and pan-fried, just like they must have done it back in the ''60s and ''70s.
To critique the food here would be to completely miss the whole point of the experience of dining at Golden Tee. This restaurant is all about nostalgia, yet without trying to be. It is a genuine glimpse back to a time before nouvelle cuisine, Pan-Asian-California cooking, superstar chefs and book-length wine lists. And that''s a good thing.
This restaurant is about a time when eating out, for most Americans, meant dressing up in your nice clothes, driving down to whatever the fancy restaurant was in town, and having this type of food cooked this way. It is so out of touch with modern restaurant reality as to render it ultra cool. It''s so out, it''s in.The Golden Tee, located at the Monterey Airport, is open daily from 8:30am-9pm. For reservations or more info, call 373-1232.