A few menu changes and a small expansion are part of the plans for the future new owner of Hutchinson’s Airport Steakhouse restaurant.
Hutchinson City Council last week approved a five-year contract with local restaurateur Shawn Heidari and his company, Nakom LLC, to take over the restaurant lease inside Hutchinson Regional Airport on Feb. 1, with the option of two possible five-year extensions.
The popular restaurant has operated inside the airport since 1951, including the last 30 years under Kevin Bowen, who decided to pursue other interests.
Heidari also owns the Applewood Restaurant inside the PlazaGo Truck Stop in South Hutchinson. He pointed out that Applewood is not closing. He plans to continue with both restaurants.
“Take things up a notch”
“He’s done a good job of bringing the company to where it is,” Heidari said of Bowen. “But for me, I’m going to take it up a few notches.”
Plans include remodeling the existing bar area to add bar seating and extending the restaurant area to the east of the bar so that no restaurant seating is lost. This will be done by moving the central part of the east windows, extending it to the sidewalk next to the airport fence.
“There’s a bar, but it’s not functional,” Heidari said. Currently, it is used to prepare desserts.
They hope with this addition to also attract a younger clientele, to add to the demographic the restaurant already attracts, said Chelsea Strawn, general manager of Heidari at the Applewood for the past six years. She will also take on this role at the airport.
“Once the bar is added, it will be enjoyable across the board,” Strawn said. “Not a bar scene, but a place to have a nice cocktail.”
The menu won’t change much in the first few months, but they’re planning some changes, Heidari said, including a new line of steaks with 60-day-aged beef.
“It’s the only way to have a really good steak,” he said. “It’s a really, really tender steak. When you put it in your mouth, it melts. I get it from a supplier who will age it especially for us.
“It’s going to take a bit of time, but we’re going to change a few menu items that need to be changed,” he said. “We will keep the most popular items, but return to a full dinner menu. The menu is very limited at the moment.
Strawn said she was helping design the new menu and was excited for the opportunities.
They also plan to continue the weekday buffets and Sunday brunch buffet, possibly adding a weekend breakfast buffet.
“We’re always trying to find out who’s coming, what nights and for the different things Kevin is offering,” Strawn said.
All current staff will remain. Once the bar is open they will add bartenders. The restaurant employs about 20 people, Strawn estimated.
The upgrades will also include changes to the kitchen, Heidari said, creating a more natural workflow and a new cold and storage room on the south side of the building.
“It’s very crowded (now),” he said of the kitchen.
Heidari declined to say how much he was investing in the upgrades.
The decision to buy
“I knew Kevin was going to sell because of other interests he had right now, after losing his parents,” Heidari said. “I approached him through a third party. He said if the money was good, yes, he would sell. We talked and I decided to continue.
He started looking for options himself, Heidari said, after the PlazaGo property was seized last year.
Her Iowa-based owners did not contest the People’s Bank and Trust lawsuit filed against Hutchinson, and she was set for sheriff’s sales in November, Reno County Court records show. However, an agreement has apparently been reached for its sale.
“I didn’t want to be a sitting duck,” Heidari said. “But everything is fine now. There’s a rumor that Shawn is going to close the Applewood, but that’s not the case. I want people to know that for sure.
Heidari has 30 years of experience in the restaurant industry, including experience “in the high end of the restaurant industry”.
“In Oklahoma City, I worked at a four-star hotel and restaurant,” he said. “I know what it takes to make this restaurant a success.”
Heidari originally opened the Applewood Grill inside the PlazaGo in July 2001. He left after about 16 months after parting ways with the original investors. but came back in 2016 when new owners asked him to return and has been successfully operating the 150-seat restaurant ever since.
“Hutchinson needs a really nice place,” Heidari said, referring to the steakhouse. “Kevin had done that, but he was getting tired. We’ll give the community the best food and service we can, and hopefully they’ll support us with that.”