Special to the Valley News
About 300 small aircraft flights take off or land each day just outside of the French Valley Café, where diners have a view of the runway while they enjoy an award-winning breakfast or dinner special such as Prime Rib and Baked Potato with all of the trimmings.
The tucked-away café at 37600 Sky Canyon Rd. shares a building with Riverside County’s Economic Development Agency and is next to Riverside County District Supervisor Jeff Stone’s office.
“It is unique,” said café owner Darci Castillejos, 53. “It’s hard to explain to people until they come. They expect a diner, but it’s a restaurant.”
The décor inside is a casual, family-atmosphere where about a dozen model-type airplanes hang from tubular pipes that are on the ceiling, of which further add to the aviation theme.
The walls hold an assortment of framed airplane pictures and paintings, and a full bar is situated in a corner of the restaurant.
“A lot of the airport café’s aren’t on the runway. They don’t have a view like we do,” Castillejos said.
Bruce Montour, of Murrieta, was eating at French Valley Café in February along with a work colleague from French Valley Airport.
“Usually we fill up the table,” Montour gestured.
He said he eats at French Valley Café about four days each week with a group of airport employees who are regular customers.
“The atmosphere is really nice, the food is always good and they make good drinks,” he said.
Readers of the Inland Empire Magazine voted French Valley Café with the “Best Breakfast 2014” award, and Castillejos said it was a nice surprise.
“We were nominated by customers – it was pretty exciting,” she said.
Breakfast meals start at about $6.00, and on Sundays a brunch is offered.
“We have everything from Corned Beef Hash to Eggs Benedict, great omelets and French toast,” Castillejos said.
The latest food added to their menu includes pork chops, and the current Friday and Saturday dinner special is a prime rib entrée for $13.95, she said.
Deborah Glaus is a server at French Valley Café, and said that the weekends are generally “packed.”
“Our burgers and sandwiches are very popular,” she said.
She said they have an F-4 Spicy Jalapeno Burger that is ordered frequently. Weekend nights also draw in crowds for the live music and entertainment.
The restaurant accommodates up to 100 guests in its dining area, and up to an additional 40 people can enjoy eating outdoors.
The patio is pet friendly, and an iron fence separates guests from the runway, while still offering an intimate setting for watching the planes.
On Tuesdays kids eat free per paid-adult from 4 p.m. to closing time, and Castillejos said they also feature a kid’s movie on the television.
The Tuesday children’s special is a new promotion aimed at bringing in customers who may not know about the café, she said.
For years, the guests have mainly been pilots who fly in and out of the airport, and airport employees and those who work at the nearby courthouse, Castillejos said.
Before French Valley Café opened in 2000, Castillejos owned a restaurant in Menifee. She said that personnel from the Riverside Economic Development Agency, which manages the airport, approached her about applying for a grant and opening up a restaurant at the airport.
She is very happy that she did, she said.
But running a restaurant isn’t the only thing on Castillejos’ plate, as she also serves her country as a chief petty officer in the Navy Reserves.
“This is a veteran-owned business,” she proudly said.
After joining the Navy at age 34, Castillejos said for the first time in 19 years she is set for deployment with a Navy Cargo Handling Battalion.
She is leaving in early March to Afghanistan, where she will spend the next nine months helping with food service and supply.
French Valley Café is located at 37600 Sky Canyon Rd. in Murrieta. For more information, visit frenchvalleycafe.org or call (951) 600-7396.