Until late last year, Christie and Gene Bingham ran Christie's Extreme Burgers, a North Richland Hills spot that had a following but ultimately struggled. When the Binghams heard about a space available at Hicks Airfield in far north Fort Worth, they decided to give the location a shot. It wasn't their first airfield -- before opening Christie's, they ran the Blue Hangar Cafe at Roanoke's Northwest Regional Airport.
The new spot, Beacon Cafe & Country Store, is off the runway at Hicks, which is between Saginaw and Haslet.
Christie Bingham told the Star-Telegram's Bud Kennedy recently that she expected the business to come mostly from the airport, but it turned out that people were looking for a new restaurant in the area. It's the kind of place you find out about via word of mouth -- and yet it's shaping up to be the Binghams' most successful effort yet.
On our visits, it became clear why: This friendly, unpretentious little cafe is all about the basics -- but it does the basics very well.
Take the jalapeño patty melt ($8.99): It comes on thick, fresh rye bread, piled high with a half-pound of beef, and American and Swiss cheeses melted so perfectly into the meat that it's hard to tell where the cheese stops and the meat begins. The jalapeños, with a little support from the grilled onions, provide just enough kick to satisfy fire-eaters without chasing away more sensitive palates.
Along with the patty melt, the BLT has become one of the most popular things on the menu, thanks to the half-pound of Boar's Head bacon that has earned the sandwich its nickname, "The Chuck Norris B.L.T" ($8.99). The bacon was crisp and smoky, the toasted wheat bread was nicely crunchy, and if the meat overpowered the lettuce, tomato and mayo a little bit, it was hard to complain.
The Texan ($8.99) is a grilled ham-and-cheese sandwich, but like the patty melt and the BLT, it goes beyond the call of duty. Served on Texas toast, it's a half-pound of ham with that melted American-Swiss cheese combo; it wasn't quite as surprising as the patty melt or the BLT, but it was another example of how to make a down-to-earth item transcendent.
Beacon is also open for breakfast, and although all our visits were for lunch, the migas ($8.99) and blueberry or pecan pancakes ($3.99 for one, $5.99 for two) are calling us back.
The Binghams recently expanded their hours to 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday, and there is a possibility of a Friday dinner service. Christie Bingham also says she plans to add some menu items, but the spirit of the menu will remain the same.
Of course, part of the charm of the Beacon is that it is off the runway at a small airfield; on our visits, small planes and a helicopter shared parking-lot space with more terrestrial vehicles.
It may be too hot now to use the outdoor deck, but during more temperate times, it'll be a good place to gaze west at the open skies.
Robert Philpot, 817-390-7872