Cleared For Takeoff

dining propsporkAt Props, you’ll find American and international flavors, whether you’re ready to snack or dine

Familiar faces from Santa Cruz’s downtown restaurant scene have landed at the Watsonville Airport, opening Props Restaurant and Lounge serving “classic American cuisine with a modern flair.”

The menu and ambiance are quite different from Andrew Crocker’s previous restaurant of almost 20 years, 99 Bottles. The interior is bright, even on a foggy day, thanks to the glass façade that faces the airport. A semi-circular array of upholstered bench seating in the lounge faces the small, tethered planes and a wind-protected patio with gas heaters. The tables each wore royal blue cloths topped with white butcher paper, blue paper placemats, and cloth napkins. Decoration includes numerous stained glass images of biplanes as well as model planes and worn propellers.

Most of the menu is available all day, including appetizers, sandwiches or burgers and fries and salads.

A selection of fries is available as appetizers ($4 to $9), as are fried calamari, artichoke hearts, onion rings and buffalo wings.

The burgers and sandwiches ($8 to $10) are cutely identified by three letter airport codes. There’s the Texas Burger (HOU) with bacon, Cheddar, an onion ring and barbecue sauce, Honolulu Burger (HNL) with grilled teriyaki pineapple and bacon and the Santa Cruz Veggie Burger (SCZ).

The servers we encountered were undeniably charming. When we ordered a Garlic Prawn Caesar Salad ($12) to share, she said, “I’ll have it put onto two plates.” Even when split, the servings were large. Crisp hearts of romaine were topped with six pieces of smoky grilled shrimp, garlic-spiced croutons, and wonderfully sharp shredded Parmesan, and then lightly drizzled with the house anchovy-rich dressing.

Then came the two sandwiches. BLAT ($8) which had no home city, was a delectable combination of apple wood-smoked bacon, ruffle-edged lettuce, thin slices of tomato and creamy avocado between slices of griddled sourdough bread. It was served with Prop’s signature fries; the garlic-parmesan variety. Soft thin fries were seasoned with a touch of garlic and rich, melted Parmesan.

The Pulled Pork Sandwich (MEM) ($9) was served on a plump sesame-seeded bun. Lovely, long strips of dining propstender pork (in which I did find some clumps of fat) were coated in a pleasantly sweet, multidimensional house-made chipotle adobo sauce. The centers of the thick spears of sweet potato fries ($2) were tender.

After 5 p.m., a small plates menu appears ($10 to $13). Maui short ribs are coated with ginger-sesame-honey barbecue sauce, and pork wontons are served with soy wasabi and sweet and sour sauces. Enjoy them at the lounge with friends and a glass of local wine, or take advantage of the free wi-fi.

There is plenty of variety in the dinner menu that ranges from a nightly pasta special to braised lamb shank, fried chicken with jalapeno cornbread and grilled, fresh Pacific King Salmon.

Props Restaurant and Lounge, at the Watsonville Airport, 100 Aviation Way, Watsonville, 724-7767. Full bar. Serving lunch and dinner daily from 11 a.m., until 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and until 9:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. The lounge is open until 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and until 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Visit propsrestaurant.com.

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