What about piña coladas inside this plane in Costa Rica? (photograph by Jesús Rodríguez Martínez)

Forget the peanuts. Forget the cheap yet expensive snacks you can get on any old jetliner at 30,000 feet. If you want to experience a true gourmet dining or drinking experience on aircraft, you have to go to the planes on the ground.

How about some killer Ghanaian duck groundnut soup with fufu on an earthbound DC-10? Would you like some Costa Rican fried calamari on a Fairchild C-123? What about a Big Mac on a DC-3, or some salmon neptune on a KC-97 transport plane that will never fly again?

For some reason, the world over, restaurateurs have looked at old and dead aircraft and thought: “Now this would be a fine restaurant.” Aircraft of all types — but predominantly airliners — have started their new lives as restaurants and bars at points all over the globe. Some restaurants play up the aircraft as a home for a good meal or drink. Other aircraft restaurant owners seem to treat the formerly flight-worthy shells of their aircraft as nothing but unromantic, durable containers for their culinary dreams, parked around the world like downed birds stripped of wings.

La Tante DC 10 Restaurant
McDonnell Douglas DC-10
Accra, Ghana

The La Tante DC 10 Restaurant may seem out of place next to this building, but it’s not far from the Accra, Ghana, airport (photograph by Jeffery A. Adjei)

Climb aboard this garishly painted former DC-10 which was used by Ghana Airways before the company went bankrupt in 2005. Colorful patterns top the airliner seats, and the restaurant serves West African and Ghanaian food, such as the fish palava sauce with eba and tilapia with banku. Yes, there might be a flashing neon strip down the side of the center aisle in the jet, but that’s only to help direct the restaurant’s full cargo of 118 guests.

Over a period of several years, a private-partner venture restored the DC-10 and converted it into a restaurant, sporting the colors of its sponsor, Club Premium Lager. The drink is an American-style lager made in Ghana. The jet has certainly gotten plenty of press, and it’s certainly hard to miss. The novelty is something Ghanaians still seem to enjoy — it’s known locally as the Green Plane. A Chinese news crew even made a trip to tell the jet’s story.

Club Premium Lager, made in Ghana, is trumpeted by the La Tante DC 10 Restaurant’s outside paint and is prominently on tap inside. (photography by Jeffery A. Adjei)

The Airplane Restaurant
Boeing KC-97
Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA

This KC-97 Stratotanker was formerly a air-to-air refueler for the Texas Air National Guard (photograph by Xnatedawgx)

This Boeing KC-97 is still dressed in the U.S. Air Force paint in which it spent its life after it rolled off the assembly line in 1953. In 2002, it started its second life as a restaurant in Colorado Springs, Colorado — the home of the U.S. Air Force Academy — right next to a Radisson Hotel. The KC-97 is one of the largest piston-engine aircrafts ever built by Boeing, and now, as The Airplane Restaurant, seats up to 275 diners and hold numerous photos and artifacts.

The aircraft restaurant’s entryway and main dining area sit outside the plane, and include an arched ceiling vaulting over the plane’s left wing. Inside, two-person seating strings along both sides of a central aisle. And yes, the Airplane Restaurant caters, serving crab and shrimp stuffed mushrooms, Italian penne, chicken marsala, and “BurgerTrays,” which are exactly what you’d imagine.

El Avión Restaurant
Fairchild C-123
Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

It seems likely that when the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency sent this plane to Central America to covertly transport arms, it never expected it would end up as a bar (photograph by David Berkowitz)

It’s safe to say the Reagan Administration’s convoluted attempt to supply arms to the Contra rebels in Nicaragua in the 1980s was an unmitigated disaster — one that ended when a U.S. plane crashed, revealing the scheme. The plane, a Fairchild C-123, is the sister aircraft of this plane now tucked away in Costa Rica as El Avión Restaurant. After the scandal, the plane was abandoned in the San Jose, Costa Rica, airport, before it was purchased in 2000 for $3,000 and split into sections, shipped via ocean ferry and transported on old railroad bridges to its current resting spot atop a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

The restaurant’s chairs are sheltered by the aircraft’s wings and a roof extends behind the plane, underneath lazily turning fans and wooden chandeliers. Want food? Think seafood, steaks, nachos, salads, and French onion soup. Inside the Fairchild’s cargo hold, a small bar will keep you properly lubricated with piña coladas and batidos — essentially fruit smoothies you can get with alcohol in them. Take the time to examine all the stickers covering the fuselage, left by visitors over the years.

Food and drinks just taste better under the wing of an abandoned ex-military aircraft in Costa Rica. (photograph by Jesús Rodríguez Martínez)

McDonnell Douglas DC-3
Taupo, New Zealand

article-imageOne one side and inside — a McDonald’s restaurant. On the other side, a prime parking spot to protect your vehicle from the elements (via russavia)

Yeah, yeah, you know all about the McDonald’s chain fast food restaurant and its food. But have you eaten it in an airplane, overlooking a parking lot? We bet the answer is no. Go to Taupo, New Zealand, where an old DC-3 is perched above traffic as an eye-catching sign and a small seating area.

The DC-3 was built in 1943, and after a stint as a troop transport during World War II, it was owned by the Australian National Airways and spent some time as a crop duster before it was retired and placed in storage in 1984. Tuapo mayor Rick Cooper bought the plane a year later for $20,000. It was installed as part of a McDonald’s restaurant in Taupo in 1990. The restaurant, owned by Des and Eileen Byrne, has been named one of the top 10 McDonald’s locations in the world.

Air Lekkerbek Bar & Restaurant
Phillipsburg, St. Maarten, Dutch Antilles

In case you didn’t notice, Heineken might just be the drink of choice aboard the Air Lekkerbek Bar & Restaurant (photograph by wanderinguk/Flickr user)

It started as a Japanese-made, 45-seat puddlejumper of an airliner for WinAir. But the NAMC YS-11-111 was stripped down at the nearby airport and toted across the bay to its present resting place. Now it’s Air Lekkerbek, a bar and restaurant on the Dutch side of the island of St. Maarten (Saint-Martin on the French side), with additional flag-festooned seating on the outside, because 45 seats just aren’t enough. The jet might be missing part of its tail, but guess what? That’s just a good space to fit another Heineken sign.

Outside the entrance steps, you’re greeted by a very Dutch-looking wooden sign of a bartender serving Heineken. It’s surprisingly airy inside the jet, with white paint, stained wood chairs, and a colorful pattern across the overhead baggage area keeping things light. Thinking about food to accompany your glass of Heineken? Air Lekkerbek offers grilled meat of all kinds, seafood, poultry and lunch platters and sandwiches.

And sorry, it’s closed on Sunday. No Heineken on Sundays.

As the Air Lekkerbeck Bar & Restaurant shows, just because you’re dining in an old airplane doesn’t mean it can’t be a cheery meal. (photograph wanderinguk/Flickr user)

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