Whether it’s lunch, dinner or weekend brunch, the new The Aviator Pub is redefining the Cleveland dining scene

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The former 100th Bomb Group location overlooking Cleveland Hopkins International Airport is now The Aviator Event Center & Pub, which offers creative upscale dining Wednesday through Sunday. Executive Chef Jon Standen (left) and Executive Sous Chef Robbie Harrison (right) got out of the box to create the new menu—way out of the box. (Photography: Felicia Vargo)

By Mitch Allen

Most people know by now the former 100th Bomb Group location overlooking Cleveland Hopkins International Airport has been transformed into The Aviator Event Center & Pub, a stunning new venue that has already hosted some of Northeast Ohio’s most extravagant weddings.

But what you may not know is the venue is also home to a restaurant known as The Aviator Pub, which serves lunch and dinner Wednesday through Sunday, including a fabulous brunch on both Saturdays and Sundays.

But this isn’t typical venue-style fare. The Aviator Pub features a scratch kitchen and two soon-to-be celebrity chefs recruited specifically to create a one-of-a-kind menu—from fried chicken and donuts to smoked walleye fish dip to a 16-ounce bone-in ribeye.

But first, let’s meet the chefs.

“Don’t Box Us In”
Executive Chef Jon Standen knew what he wanted to do way back in high school when he graduated from the culinary arts program at Lorain County Joint Vocational School, then attended the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. After graduation, celebrity chef Michael Symon tapped Jon to work with him at the original Lola and then Lolita’s. Jon worked there for seven years before joining the Elyria Country Club when Michael Symon had become consulting chef. Finally, Jon joined a renowned westside country club as executive chef before coming to The Aviator.

“I felt limited in the country club environment and wanted to stretch my wings,” Jon says. “The Aviator has given me the chance to do that. I don’t like to feel boxed in. I like to be creative, to experiment. Khadar gave me the chance to do that.”

Jon is referring to Khadar Soussou, president and co-owner of The Aviator, who opened the new venue in partnership with Cleveland entrepreneur Tony G. Di Fiore and the Rababy family of United Concessions Group.

President and Co-Owner of The Aviator Event Center & Pub Khadar Soussou

“We’re a scratch kitchen,” Jon continues. “We do everything in house. We roast fresh corn to make a stock for our shrimp and grits. We smoke our own walleye for the fish dip. We make our own pimento cheese, plus all of our sauces, jams, pastas, crostini. We even make our own pancake batter.”

Helping Jon is Executive Sous Chef Robbie Harrison, who also graduated from the culinary arts program at Lorain County Joint Vocational School before landing his first gig with Chef Jon at Elyria Country Club. Jon was so impressed with Robbie that he asked him to join him later at that westside club.

After a stint there, Robbie pulled up stakes and became lead line cook at the four-star Wyndham Grand Hotel in Clearwater Beach, Florida.

“The Wyndham was great experience for me,” Robbie says. “That’s where I learned to roll sushi and fell in love with the hotel’s Asian/Japanese fusion style. I studied hard and learned a lot about plate presentation. I also made sushi for John Travolta. He came into the hotel all the time.”

Ponzu-Braised Pork Belly over a crispy scallion rice cake topped with sesame vegetable salad.

Then in March of 2022, the call came from Jon inviting Robbie to join him at The Aviator.

“Jon has been a mentor for most of my career,” Robbie says. “When he said we could create the menu ourselves and change it seasonally, I was in. The freedom has been incredible. It’s awesome when no one boxes you in. When I suggested the smoked walleye fish dip, Jon said, ‘If you think it will fly, let’s do it.’ And it’s become one of our most popular appetizers.”

The Menu
The Aviator menu includes “Shareables,” which are large-portion appetizers like that fish dip, which is house-smoked walleye, pimento cheese, jalapeno peppers, sweet pepper jam, and crispy toast points.

Salads include Fried Brussels Sprouts Salad, which features Living Greens from Cleveland’s Green City Growers, Granny Smith apples, toasted almonds, bacon, shaved parmesan, and crispy brussels sprouts topped with an apple cider vinaigrette.

The Beer Cheese Soup is currently available e

The Jack Frost Smash is two 4-ounce Angus beef patties smashed together between a grilled donut.

very day, while the soup of the day could be anything from curry chicken or borscht, to chicken pot pie, to Manhattan clam chowder.

Entrées include a 16-ounce bone-in ribeye with a Frenched bone, roasted fingerling hash with onions and peppers and charred chimichurri.

For something lighter, try the Butter-grilled Salmon with roasted corn, spinach, confit tomatoes in wild rice, and a classic dill crème sauce.

Those on a vegan diet may want to try the Vegan Short Rib, which is Impossible meat and jackfruit with a sweet and tangy barbecue sauce, roasted corn, fingerling potatoes and grilled asparagus.

In terms of hamburgers, Jon and Robbie refer to their selection as “Smashed.”

“That’s because we use two 4-ounce Angus beef patties and smash them together to crispy perfection,” Robbie says.

Smoked Gouda Mac featuring gouda, oven-roasted grape tomatoes, grilled asparagus, and penne pasta.

The Jack Frost Smash features a grilled Jack Frost donut as a bun, along with American cheese, bacon and caramelized onions.

A nice selection of handheld wraps rounds out the menu.

The Aviator’s patio is open for the season, overlooking the airport’s runways. Relax by the fire pit and watch the planes take flight while you enjoy a meal from the all-scratch kitchen.

The all-scratch open kitchen inside The Aviator Pub.

Reservations are strongly encouraged for The Aviator Pub, especially for Saturday and Sunday brunches.

The All-Inclusive Wedding
The Aviator is also taking the stress out of wedding planning by offering a one-stop shop, a completely all-inclusive experience. “We have high-profile onsite partners so you don’t have to worry about anything,” says Khadar. “Blanc Slate is here to handle your floral decorations and event design, and Cuff Link Media does photography and video to capture the event forever. They’re all here. Even Ohio DJ Pros has an office right in the building to make it easy to plan your entertainment. And we’ve partnered with Jack Frost Donuts, perfect when guests get the late-night munchies.”

The event center also features variable uplighting already installed (just choose your color) plus two ceremony sites with the airport as a backdrop.

For enhanced planning flexibility, The Aviator can do wedding receptions any day of the week, including Sundays.

The Ultimate Event Space
Although The Aviator will undoubtedly become legendary for its all-inclusive weddings, the venue also hosts many other types of events.

“The Aviator is perfect for bridal and baby showers, rehearsal dinners, corporate meetings and retreats, holiday parties, first communions, and more,” Khadar says. “The list is endless and so is our flexibility. We can accommodate any size gathering with a space and a vibe that fits perfectly with the nature of the event, whether that’s formal or casual, all-business or all-party.”

The Aviator Event Center & Pub is located at 20920 Brookpark Road in Cleveland next to Cleveland Hopkins International Airport. For reservations to dine in The Pub or to schedule a tour of the facility, call 216-770-5300 or visit AviatorCLE.com.

Categories: Westside Food & Dining