Northwest News

Barnstormer Diner at OSU airport

Garcias take on second restaurant

Enlarge Image Buy This Photo
Hilda Garcia and her husband, Genaro Garcia, owners of Jack and Benny's in Clintonville, took over Nov. 11 as the new owners of what is now Jack and Benny's Barnstormer Diner at the Ohio State University Airport. LORRIE CECIL/THISWEEKNEWS

After nearly two decades of successfully running the artfully named Jack and Benny's Restaurant on North High Street, Genaro and Hilda Garcia have taken on a new challenge.

The move weds two of Chef Geno's major interests: aviation and preparing food for customers.

Since November, the couple has operated the renamed Jack and Benny's Barnstormer Diner at the Ohio State University Airport on the Northwest Side.

They hope to duplicate the success of Jack and Benny's at the OSU Airport in the Barnstormer location, university officials stated.

"I've been pretty impressed with the reception we've received," Geno Garcia said last week.

His parents have long been in the restaurant business -- his father worked at the original Jack and Benny's downtown.

They opened Garcia's on North High Street in 1977 and then a new Jack and Benny's when the old one closed.

Garcia said he tried to get as far away from the industry as possible by studying aviation management at OSU.

The Bishop Watterson High School graduate dropped out before earning his degree, although he worked for several airlines and obtained his private pilot's license from the OSU Flight School in 1992.

Still, he was eventually drawn back into the family business.

He and Hilda, a native of Peru where his parents came from, have been running Jack and Benny's, 2563 N. High St., since 1995.

In spite of the amount of time running a restaurant requires, Garcia went back to OSU and earned a bachelor of science degree in aviation management in 1999, at Hilda's urging.

"She was the one who told me to finish my college degree," he said.

And that is, somewhat indirectly, how the couple came to own the latest version of the Barnstormer Diner, which has been a fixture at the university airport for about 50 years.

In September, Garcia organized a reunion for aviation students that was held at the Fawcett Center and included an Ohio State football game.

"Half of them knew me from Jack and Benny's and half of them knew me from school," Garcia said.

And at least some of them knew that the Barnstormer had closed in August.

Garcia, who remembers dining there as far back as 1991, was intrigued about "checking the bones of the business," and liked what he saw during a visit.

"The place was operational," he said. "They wanted to get someone here quickly."

Jack and Benny's Barnstormer Diner, or Jack and Benny's II, as Geno and Hilda's son, Valentino, calls it, serves mainly airport employees, aviation students, people who work in corporate aviation and residents from the surrounding neighborhood, Garcia said.

"We're really in a good position," he added, noting the new Barnstormer is close to not only Northwest Side residents, but also parts of Dublin and Upper Arlington.

While Geno and Hilda mostly concentrate on building the customer base at the Barnstormer, Garcia said his wife's brother and sister are helping keep the North High Street restaurant running. "We just switch it back and forth," he said.

Hours for Jack and Benny's Barnstormer Diner are 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.