Jet City Grill & Catering
Location: 63120 Powell Butte Hwy., Bend
Hours: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
Price range: Breakfast and lunch $10 to $14
Credit cards: American Express, Discover, MasterCard, Visa
Kids’ menu: On request
Vegetarian menu: On request
Alcoholic beverages: No
Outdoor seating: Deck overlooks runway
Contact: 541-323-3755, www.facebook.com
Food: A-. Limited menu features sandwiches, salads and Greek specialty plates.
Service: C-. As the cook also waits tables, service is slow; the cafe may close without notice.
Atmosphere: C+. Basic “man-cave” atmosphere is enhanced by windows over the runway.
Value: B. Prices are moderate, especially as the next nearest place to eat is miles away.
The current version of the second-story cafe at the Bend Municipal Airport is, if you will, Johnny Mehas’s personal “man cave.”
Mehas is known to many Bendites for his former east-side restaurant, Demetri’s Greek American Cusina, which closed in 2008 after eight years in business. Since then, he has kept the Demetri’s name (honoring his now-teenage son) in a catering business.
Mehas assumed the lease on the airport cafe last May and renamed it the Jet City Grill. It doubles as his catering kitchen. He surrounds himself with the things he loves, the things any good “man cave” should have — a flat-screen TV tuned to rock-music concerts or sports events, posters from a Rolling Stones concert and a national motorcycle rally, University of Oregon and Oregon State University fan banners, a couple of posters and souvenirs from his parents’ original home in Greece.
Diners won’t forget they’re at the airport, as windows overlook the runways and an antique propeller is mounted on one wall.
But Mehas need not try to persuade any colleagues to embrace his tastes, because there are no co-workers. The Jet City Grill is a one-man operation.
Mehas works hard. He does the prep work, the cooking, the order taking, the serving, the cleanup and the dishwashing.
Other than a handful of patrons, there’s no one else from the time he opens — 10 a.m. weekdays, 9 a.m. on weekends — until he closes up around mid-afternoon. That enables him to get ready for his evening catering business.
Still, I find it hard to know when he will or won’t be open, especially on Saturdays and Sundays. Twice when I made weekend visits, hoping for a savory gyro lunch, Jet City was closed. The explanaton, on one occasion, was a small sign that read: “Gone Flying.”
When business is slow, Mehas admitted, he is gone early — sometimes very early. “I need a minimum of 20 customers a day to keep it open, and we don’t get that,” he said. “I’m tired of being in the hole.”
The year’s lease expires in a little over a month. Mehas is prepared to sell the business. But if he does so, he insists, he will continue to cook and use the kitchen for his Greek specialties. I’m glad.
The Jet City offerings aren’t as extensive as Mehas once presented at Demetri’s, where such dishes as spanakopita, dolmathes and pastitsio were frequently available. But airport diners can always find gyros and souvlakis on the daily menu, along with German sausage, loaded nachos and BLT sandwiches.
The gyro (pronounced “yee-ro”) is possibly the most popular item. Far more nutritious than most American fast-food sandwiches, it features lamb that is roasted on a vertical rotisserie, then sliced off and rolled in pita bread with tomatoes, onions and tzatziki. Tzatziki is a yogurt-based sauce that includes diced cucumbers, onions and garlic.
I demurred on the gyro, however, in favor of a chicken souvlaki sandwich. Souvlaki is meat that has been skewered and grilled; this plate blended the poultry with red onions, tomato, romaine lettuce and a mild Greek cheese, a concoction that was folded into pita bread dressed with tzatziki. It was sloppy and delicious.
My dining companion, on this visit, was in the mood for an end-of-the-morning breakfast. Although Mehas told us that he stopped serving breakfast at 11, he nevertheless assured my friend that he could make her whatever she liked. Eggs? Sure. Scrambled? With what? The medley of bacon, sausage, mushrooms, spinach, onions and Greek olives, finished with cheddar cheese, was a delicious “kitchen sink” dish. It was a generous portion by itself, enhanced by hash browns and toast.
Burger and baklava
I returned (after a couple of false starts) for another lunch — and this time went all-American. Mehas didn’t disappoint.
My “Burger ‘n’ Bleu” was a terrific hamburger. An ample patty of lean ground beef was served on a lightly grilled egg bun and topped with plentiful crumbles of creamy blue cheese and two thick slices of crispy bacon — along with a leaf of romaine lettuce and slices of tomato and red onion. It’s served with a choice of frozen fries or tater tots, neither of which is exciting.
I opted for a flavored iced tea — a little on the sweet side, unfortunately — instead of a Coke or other soda.
And then there was dessert: the Greek classic, baklava. I don’t normally have a big sweet tooth, but I make an exception for this rich, sweet pastry. Leaves of paper-thin filo pastry are layered with chopped walnuts and sweetened with honey. I found Jet City’s version a little dry, but I loved it, just the same. It lacked only a cup of strong Turkish coffee.
— Reporter: firstname.lastname@example.org