The Skyline Restaurant was located at Herndon Airport. Herndon, now Orlando Executive Airport, opened in 1928 with its first flights headed to Puerto Rico and Cuba on Pan Am. Herndon was the main airport for Orlando before McCoy Air Force Base became Orlando International Airport. The Skyline was THE place to go for one of the best meals in town. Townie Dad, Wayne De Witt, a pilot at Shawnee Airlines, found himself there on more than one occasion. He describes it as the place everyone went out to eat, from professional golfers to local couples to travelers waiting on their flights. There weren’t many options in the 1960s for fine dining and Champ Williams hit on a way to make a buffet meal feel special.
Cut glass crystal glasses, fine china, large tables, comfortable chairs, and linen napkins and tablecloths made it unique. The decor was modern and the buffet specials of all-you-can-eat lobster tail, fish, alligator, and prime rib of beef were sought after.
“When you went up the steps into the restaurant, the first door to the right was the lounge. On the bar, they’d have this big wheel of cheese. Pilots would hang out at the bar after they finished their day. The joke was, “beer and cheese for all my friends!” They’d drink beer, cut off a big hunk of orange cheese and eat it.” De Witt recalls more about the decor, “Windows in the bar overlooked the tarmac, so while in the bar you could look down and see what planes were coming and going. Eastern and National would fly in and passengers waiting on their flight could look out the window and check to see if their plane had arrived.”
Memories of the Skyline are strong and there’s more than one forum discussion online with requests for recipes and images of the storied restaurant. “That was at a time when Orlando didn’t have a lot of places to choose from. After the airlines quit flying there and Shawnee closed up and there was more competition of restaurants that moved into town, things changed.”
“Since 1962, the Skyline Restaurant has maintained a reputation unique to airport terminal dining. The Skyline has been owned, operated, and managed daily by the same family for nearly a quarter of a century. Unlimited Prime Rib of Beef for one low price” this postcard reads.
Are you hankering for a taste of Orlando’s past? Here’s one recipe I found that might make that possible.
Champ's Brazil Nut Dressing
1/4 pound chicken fat
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 chopped bell pepper
1 medium diced onion
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/2 pound brazil nuts, chopped
1 loaf Pepperidge Farms whole wheat bread diced
1 1/2 cups corn bread, diced
1 Tablespoon sage
1 Tablespoon Accent
1 Tablespoon poultry seasoning
1 Tablespoon curry powder
1 Tablespoon salt
8 cups turkey or chicken stock
1 Tablespoon chicken base
On stove, melt chicken fat and strain. In a 5 quart pot, combine turkey stock, chicken fat, bell pepper, celery, onion and parsley. Cook until vegetables are tender. Add brazil nuts, poultry seasoning, sage, curry powder, salt, accent and chicken base. Add corn bread and whole wheat bread. Stir until thoroughly mixed and comes to a simmer. Transfer to a casserole dish and bake in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes.