The new restaurant is going gangbusters without so much as announcing its opening.
As a group of women sat at the Props bar laughing and sipping chilled, white wine Wednesday afternoon, a man wandered in and asked if the restaurant was open.
With an enthusiastic yes, the bar manager guided Props’ newest patron to the hostess stand and handed him a menu.
Props, the new restaurant at the Watsonville Airport, didn’t announce an opening but started serving meals Monday. By Wednesday, waitresses were bustling from table to table with burgers, iced tea, salads and sandwiches as excited customer streamed in the door.
“The response has been really good,” said owner Andrew Crocker.
The restaurant and bar employ about 30 people, including some who worked for Zuniga’s, the last eatery to fill the space at the airport.
Props bar manager Rand Coniglio feels like Props found a niche that no other restaurant in the county can replicate: aviation.
“We’re the Crow’s Nest of the skies,” said the longtime restaurant and bar manager in Santa Cruz County. “We’ve got the market cornered.”
Props patrons can sit on the glassed-in patio to watch planes take-off and land, and there are plans to pipe air traffic control communications through the restaurant’s speakers.
The restaurant is bright and clean, two things Crocker said former patrons are happy to see when they walk in. The fake brick walls have replaced with drywall and plaster painted in either bright blue or light yellow. The concrete floor has been tiled and new cherry-wood cabinets were installed to display the restaurants full lineup of adult beverages, though Crocker and crew saved the old bar.
“We knew people had been sitting here at this thing for decades,” Crocker said, leaning against the bar for effect.
Crocker kept other vestiges of yesteryear: a historic propeller is mounted vertically near the door and the old stained glass windows of planes remain in the dining area. But he added flat screen TVs in the bar to watch sports and let chef Roger Barnes create the menu.
“It’s American cuisine with a hit of Asian and Hispanic,” Coniglio explains to a woman who asks what type of food is served.
That means you can get a cheeseburger, or an Ortega burger with chilies and avocado. Sandwiches run the gamut from BLT and Reuben to a prawn sandwich with wasabi mayo.
Coniglio already has a go-to item on the menu and recommends it to just about everyone.
“The pulled pork wontons—my personal favorite,” he said. “They’re just bring a tear to my eye, they’re so delicious.”
Still, Crocker and Coniglio both acknowledged there are some kinks to work out—the sweet potato fries have been so popular, Props ran out by 1 p.m. Wednesday—but they expect the restaurant will be ready for what Crocker calls the “test by fire.” The Watsonville Fly-In and Air Show will draw thousands to the airport over Labor Day Weekend.
There also is a Chamber mixer planned at Props on Thursday, Aug. 30, to kick-off the Air Show.
Props is at 100 Aviation Wy. in the Watsonville Airport main building. Contact the restaurant at 831-724-7767 or PropsWVI@gmail.com. Hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Thursday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday; 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday.