Air Transport Command
Air Transport Command Restaurant
143 North Dupont Highway
New Castle, Delaware
They say that “She who hesitates is lost” … and it certainly is true of my quest to dine at the Air Transport Command Restaurant in New Castle, Delaware.
The ATC was a World War II themed bar and eatery with views of an operating air traffic control tower and several runways on the adjacent airfield (similar to the 356th Fighter Group Restaurant in Canton, Ohio). In addition to the barbed wire and “bombed building” architectural touches, it once had tanks and other military equipment parked outside the building. See the DC-3 that was parked here. It was painted olive green to resemble a military transport plane.
Several times, over the years, I have been in the vicinity of the ATC and I never had opportunity/time to stop. I once came close, but that was just after it closed sometime around 2005. I believe it briefly re-opened at some point in late 2007 or early 2008, but closed for good before I visited again.
In the late Summer of ’09, I was in the area and thought that I would ride by the property to see if anything remained. Sadly, only the main structure and some sparse decorations survived. Several people in a nearby diner told me that the building was scheduled for demolition (oh, the irony!). I imagine that it is completely gone by now, but I don’t have any confirmation of that.
I love your comments. Have you been to the ATC or a similar restaurant? Tell me below!
On a side note ….
I have always admired “urban exploration” enthusiasts who get those great shots of abandoned buildings and factories etc.,. I’m such a scaredy cat that I imagine one of the following happening if I ever attempt my own urban explorations:
a) I would be arrested, convicted , and sentenced to 20 years of hard labor for domestic terrorism – all for my (sure to be poorly composed) picture of a broken window and some graffiti
b) I would stand an unacceptable chance of being devoured by green, bloodthirsty, foaming-at-the-mouth, roaming Zombies
c) I would fall through rotted flooring and perish (slowly and painfully) in the moldy basement of some ancient insane asylum that I thought was really “cool-looking” just minutes prior to my plunge.
So, I’m obviously not much of what one would label a risk taker. The abandoned ATC seemed pretty safe and harmless. It’s along a busy four lane and bordered by a Home Depot and similar retail spaces. It was broad daylight. What could possible happen to our heroine?
Well, I was on the ATC property no longer than 10 minutes — and actually preparing to leave once I took one last photo of the restaurant sign at the end of the driveway. I noticed a dark blue car driving slowly from behind the building (where I had been parked just minutes prior). Yep, you guessed it! It was the local Five-Oh coming after yours truly!
Luckily, he was greatly intimidated by my imposing figure and mannerisms …. he let me go with a stern, “Take your pictures, Lady. Then scram”
He wouldn’t even pose for a picture with me 🙁
You can’t visit Air Transport Command anymore … but here are some other airport-themed establishments. Let me know if you go to one!
I believe that this is the company who owned the ATC at one point – Specialty Restaurants. It appears that they still have some airport venues in business.
56 thoughts on “Air Transport Command”
Thanks for posting this website. I have very fond memories of the Air Transport Command from back in the late 70’s/early 80’s. My boyfriend used to take me there all the time. It was like visiting another world. It was fun and mysterious at the same time. Good food and good fun. I wish they had kept it open.
Thanks again. I have tried googling this for a long time and finally found it.
Thanks for stopping-by, Debbie!
I’m so sad that I never got the chance to visit when it was still in operation. It looks like it would have been fun — and I’ve heard that their food was pretty good too 🙂
It is nice to see your pictures posted. Unfortunately, that is all that remains from the restaurant. I drove by there a couple of weeks ago and the building is gone. It deeply saddens me as I had a lot of connection with that restaurant. First, I took my wife there when we were dating for her birthday. I rented a limo and we went there and had a wonderful meal and great time.
Years later, I went to school to become a chef and actually worked at ATC. It was a great place to work and everyone really got along there. It was not uncommon to finish your shift and then head to the bar to hang out. I can remember that place really getting packed on Wednesday nights (ladies’ night) and the weekends. We would do 400 covers on Friday and Saturday nights. However, Specialty Restaurants doomed the place when the owner’s daughter took over the restaurants and decided to make it a “family restaurant” and added diner food to the menu. It caused most of the staff to leave.
They eventually attempted to revert back to an upscale restaurant but the damage was done. They never did recover and then the restaurant started falling apart financially. I moved to Texas for a while and when I returned to the area, the restaurant was out of business. From what I understand (I was told this by a former employee still working there when it closed) they started attracting a “bad” crowd when a dj or something started playing there. I do not know this to be a fact, I am just repeating what I heard. Apparently, this led to a stabbing in the parking lot one night and people started staying away. The restaurant closed but Specialty Restaurants had a deal with the New Castle Airport that they leased the land from that stipulated they had to maintain the restaurant and be open for service to cater to airport traffic. They attempted to re-open as an upscale restaurant, but only part of the dining room could be used because there was a flood in the restaurant while it was abandoned. I heard the food was actually good, but without the bar operating, only part of the dining room being open, and the bad publicity from the parking lot incident, they never were able to recover.
Sadly, the building was demolished and a part of me went with it. I wish I could have gotten a few articles from the restaurant but I found out
too late. In its time though, it was a great place to work and eat.
I worked at ATC for 5 years, and I must say that I really enjoyed working there. We were like a big family and it is sad that they are no longer in operation. I also wanted to let you know that they have not torn the building down as of yet. I really enjoyed reading this and looking at all of the pictures you took. Brings back some GREAT memories for me :o)
So glad that you left a comment, Rachael. It’s nice to hear from someone who had a connection to ATC!
I worked at ATC along with Rachael, and as she stated, yes we most definitely were like one big happy family. I also enjoyed working there for many years. I enjoyed seeing the same regulars come in to dine along with the military on their drill weekends. I knew quite a few as I was prior military. I also remember a certain couple that had to have their special booth as it had a picture of him on the wall in his younger years serving in WWII. Ahh the memories. What a special place this was for me. Thank-You for posting the pictures 🙂
P.S I still stay in touch with some of my old co-workers thanks to fb 🙂
Thanks for stopping by, Pam!
By the way, if any former employees any have pictures from ATC when it was still open … I would love to post them!
I often went to the restaurant in the late ‘90’s and early 2000’s. I actually proposed to my girlfriend (now wife) on this day in 2003. I had the hostess periodically bring a rose with a note attached to our table throughout dinner highlighting some aspect of our relationship up to that point. The eleventh rose said, “This is for the times I’d do it all over again”. The twelfth and final rose said, “But to do it all over again, I have to do it the first time…”. And that’s when I pulled out the ring!
I would love to know if either Pam or Rachel was there that day or if they knew who might have been the hostess that day? We thanked her that day, but I would love to thank her again! We always celebrate our engagement anniversary and so wish we could go back to ATC!
The building is gone now, sweetie. Too bad. I wonder what happened to all the memorabilia in it – my husband’s uncle’s photograph was in there, amongst other people they knew.
Sorry to see another unique local landmark go. When my father retired from the Del. Air Guard after 40+ years, I attended his retirement party at the ATC.
It was the perfect unique theme for the area. So sad that they didn’t make a go of it 🙁
I have been searching for this for quite some time, and I’m glad I finally stumbled across SOMETHING that helped me figure out what happened to air transport!
we used to travel past air transport frequently when I was a child, and I ADORED it, from the second we pulled into the parking lot. I can see from your pictures that the vehicles and planes are gone, but it really took you back to the WWII era. Even as a kid, i was captivated.
I loved walking in to the sandbagged hallway, with a flickering electric “candle” setting the mood. The memorobilia was awesome; old uniforms, equipment, photos, etc. They set the mood even further with the old music. You could also look out the window to see the planes land and listen to the air tower. Closer to what I believe was the banquet room, was covered with photos of WWII planes and their crews. I used to examine the pictures while my parents were having coffee hoping to find my grandfather, who was a WWII airman.
I am sad to see it closed, I was hoping that someday I could take my husband there so he could experience what I loved so much about it 🙁
Thanks for sharing you memories, Winnie!
Quite a bit of the search engine traffic that I get to the site is from searches for Air Transport Command Restaurant. Apparently it is missed by many.
Loved Air Transport Command at New Castle, DE. Just realized a few days ago that the building is demolished. So so many happy memories went with that location. This is a great loss to the area.
Sadly, I drove by ATC a few weeks ago on my way back from a store in Bear only a few trees are there. The structure has been completely demolished. I am not sure if you were aware, as I didn’t read everyone’s responses but yes, may wonderful memories. My sister and her husband, (fiancee) at the time, went there to celebrate their engagement. Wonderful times also as a child, remembering the air plane that once was there. I miss the place, and It will always remain special to my family and I.
yells: SCREW YOU PEOPLE WHO TORE IT DOWN!!! SCREW YOU!!!! *tear
My dad was chief mechanic for a company that used to take it’s Westwind to Atlantic Aviation for it’s 100 hour inspections. I can still remember when I was a kid getting to go with my dad and mom on a couple of these trips. I know we ate at ATC several times and I always loved it. Sad to hear that it has been torn down.
We used to live in the bottom of Chester County, PA and would go to ATC every couple of months. I especially liked being able to put on the headset to listen to the tower. I used to fly in the Air Force and had a special affinity for the place.
Did they have headsets in the dining room?
Yes, there were booths along the wall opposite the windows and on the shelf next to the booths there was a headset at each one. A lot less conspicuous than using my scanner to listen to them.
Oh, that would have been fun! I’m so bummed that I never had the opportunity to visit when it was still in business.
Not sure what prompted me to Google the old ATC, but something did.
I dined there a couple of times during my brief engagement to a girl from Delaware back in 91-92. It was a great place to dine, from the overall theme to the information on recovery and restoration work being done on old WWII aircraft. Think it was a bit of a novelty for the staff having a wide-eyed 18 year old with a weird (Australian) accent there but they were all great. Even had a chance to have a chat with some WWII veterans who were there one night and had actually spent time in Australia during the war.
It is so sad to know that ATC is no longer there, definitely one of my happier memories from my visit. Unfortunately the my engagement didn’t last and I returned to Australia as Spring ’92 approached. I am pretty sure I took some photos of ATC, if I can find them I’ll let you know!
Damien – so glad you found my post.
It really is a shame about ATC … I’ve heard so many good things about it.
I would LOVE to post your photos if you can locate them. That would be fab!
No surprise that the staff liked your accent. A lot of we American girls are suckers for an Australian accent 🙂
Saw an old episode of Remington Steele (Pierce Brosnan as detective)from the 80’s maybe. The episode revolved around an aircraft company. One brief scene took place in a restaurant that looked exactly like The Air Transport Command. Does anyone know if it really was?
I Googled around and didn’t find any mentions of it used as a filming location; but I know that there are a number of similar themed restaurants around the country. I would bet that it was one in California (there used to be several that were in business in that era).
Maybe someone who reads this can chime in. I’ll let you know if I ever find out! 🙂
Their was also 94th Aerosquadron on the outskirts of Philadelphia
Thanks for the website. I’m among those who never made it to ATC, and now regret it.
I share your pain — this is the only time that I got to see up close. I truly regret that I was never there when it was open 🙁
Another long gone Delaware landmark was The Chuckwagon Restaurant. The large building was shaped like a covered wagon and the front entrance was designed to look like an old-fashioned coffee percolator–the kind you see in western movies, with a glass top that shows the coffee perking. Alas, today it is an Applebees.
I just found some pictures of it here, Janet. http://www.oldwilmington.net/oldwilmington/photos_before_1975-2.htm
Wow, such a shame that it’s gone!
My wife and I erer residents of Deleware in 1972,71,and 72. We were regular patrons of the ATC. Then, when I was transferred to New Jersey, we would drive down to spend the weekend at the Howard Johnsons Motel and eat at the ATC. We “suffered” when it was closed for about three years and were vwry happy when it was reopened. I gave the manager a picture of my step-mother and her work crew when she worked for the Unexcelled Chemical Company in Cranbury, NJ making fuses for bombs. WE were extactic when the ATC reopened…..unfortunately for only 6 months.It sat idle for about 1 1/2 years. We were in the areda on August 17, 2012. We were devistated to see that it has been torn down. The only thing left is a flat parcel of ground..!!!!!
I know, I think it’s so sad as well, Taylor.
While searching my desk for a pen I found a pristine pack of unused matches from Air Transport Command. Curiosoty caused me to google it to see if by chance it was still operating. Sadly it is not.
During the middle 80’s and 90’s my wife and I would fly our airplane from Central Pennsylvania to the Wilmington Airport for a “special date nite” and always had a wonderful time. The food and the atmosphere were GREAT !
Occasionaly if we wanted to really impress our friends we would bring them along to ATC. Fly in for dinner at 6. Dine at a table overlooking the runways (as the sun set in the west). Then walk back to ILG, load up and fly home in the dark.
THOSE WERE THE DAYS !
Wow, fantastic memories, Tim! That would impress friends, indeed 🙂
Joe Callahan (see comment above) recently sent some photos to me taken when the ATC was still open. I need to post those soon.
I would love to include a picture of your matchbook too!
I was only in ATC once and that was on a weekend in the early 90’s, however my wife and I were married at the 94th Aero Squadron which was a similar restaurant at Northeast Philadelphia Airport in Philly. Its a shame it closed.
I bet that was a cool wedding venue!
I was born in Delaware and moved to Chester County Pa in 1970. I don’t recall how I heard of ATC but it became a favorite road trip for my friends and I at least once a month in the 80’s. I moved to Florida in 1990 and found a similar restaurant at a small airfield in Orlando operated by the same owners. Sadly, they allowed it to go down hill and they closed up about 12 years ago. I’m not sure why I looked this up today but now I’m very sad to read what happened since I moved away.
What a great place to enjoy with friends.
I just read the post about the old Chuck Wagon restaurant on Kirkwood Highway. I loved that place as a kid but only ate there a few times as it was often closed from the late 70s into the early 80s. As kids, we often rode our bikes there and played around the restaurant. I can remember there being juke boxes in each booth and I loved the Western theme throughout the restaurant. I remember my Uncle taking me there one night when I was a young kid and it is one of my fondest memories of him. I remember the ceiling being really high. In the late 80s or early 90s, a restaurant called the Italian Bistro bought the building but built around the existing Wagon-shaped restaurant to leave it in place because it was historic and could possibly be used again in the future. I was again deeply saddened as I was with ATC when Applebee’s demolished the building for their cookie-cutter restaurant. I remember seeing the large tea kettle lying in the debris that used to sit above the doorway. I bought my father a painting of the Chuck Wagon from a local artist because it was a favorite place for my mother and him to go.
I have fond memories of this place. I’m 37, left DE when I was 15 and haven’t been to ATC since maybe ’87. LOVED the coconut rolls/biscuits they served. And another thanks for the person who posted the Chuck Wagon pictures. I lived across McKean H.S. and my family passed this place all the time shopping at Jefferson Ward, Montgomery Ward, Pathmark shopping center. Brings back memories.
I remember going to the ATC in the 80’s as my parents drove me back and forth to college. Good memories of it and a diner close by that served amazing pies.
There is still a 57th Fighter Group restaurant in Georgia.
I am glad to see people cared for this place.
My grandfather was actually a pilot with the REAL ATC during ww2 and was based at New Castle AAF.
I am concidering starting an Air Transport Command museum there on the airport.
Time will tell, depending on interest and available space.
That’s a great goal, Paul! Please keep me updated.
Miss that place even today, made great memories!
I was in simulator practice in February 1997 I lived in the neighboring motel So I found the ATC I really liked it and sadly read that it is no longer. It was a very characteristic point for the airport.
We went to ATC years ago on our way to Florida and always wanted to go back. I remember our youngest had a headset on and we couldn’t get him to eat because he was so entranced listening to the pilots at the airport. We got to sit near the large window that looked out on the field. So sorry to hear that it’s all gone now.
It was a great experience with great food that we’ve never forgotten.
I’ve yet to hear anything bad about it. So sorry that I missed experiencing it.
So cute about your son 🙂
I used to drive over from Md. to dine there on occasion, really enjoyed the nostalgia of the place-I moved to Fla. in 2000 and wondered from time to time if it was still around and was saddened to see it was gone. There is a place down here with a similar theme near the airport but definitely not the same vibe-just wanted to say thanks for the memories, enjoyed it!!
So jealous. I never got to experience it until it was too late.
This was a very special place. My grandfather used to take us there for a special treat. As a kid I loved running around the trucks, pretending I was a GI Joe. And the decor was so amazing. From the outside you would start to hear Glenn Miller or Jimmy Dorsey playing from tinny speakers. When you walked towards the door it was surrounded by sand bags. When you went inside the entry was lit by “candles” The biggest memory I have from the foyer was a large wooden chair that the seat folded up and they kept toilet paper inside. You could get a table in the interior of the restaurant which isnt as fun, or you could get a seat along the windows and watch the planes take off. They had headphones so you could listen to air traffic control, but I only remember doing that one time. They used to have an air show at the airport and they parked WWII era planes by the restaurant. The last time I was there was maybe 1994 at the latest. It is one of my fondest childhood memories and I miss it terribly. Fortunately I have a video that my grandfather shot in 1985/6 to remember it. It has my grandmother in it which adds on some special thoughts as well.
Mike, thank you so much for sharing your memories! That is fantastic that you have video!