The arrival to Brackett Field Airport (KPOC) takes you through the Pomona Valley south of the San Gabriel Mountains approximately 35nm east of LAX. Look down on the city of Baldwin Park and Interstate 10 and pay homage to the original location of In-N-Out Burger chain that opened in 1948. The San Bernardino Freeway (Interstate 10) built from downtown Las Angeles to the San Gabriel Valley, demolished this vital piece of fast food history. Take solace in the fact that a $100 Hamburger is minutes away.
The precision approaches to Runway 28L are a thing of beauty taking you down to just of 300 feet above TDZ. Even with the marine layer and urban smog drifting in from the west, Brackett rarely goes below landing minimums. Smooth air will accompany you down the glide slope allowing for a relatively worry-free landing. There’s a wonderful view of the sparkling Puddingstone Reservoir and the Pomona Raceway on final. After touch down, taxi to transient parking on the south side of the field just behind the main terminal complex and the long blue awning. The building contains a pilot shop, pilot’s lounge and Norm’s Hanger Coffee Shop, home of one of the best plane watching views anywhere.
For more than 25 years, Norm’s has offered American diner comfort food with a fantastic view of a fairly busy local strip. Run by Norm’s daughter Kathy Touche since 2004, the coffee shop is an institution. It has a lot going for it. First, patrons get to listen to Brackett Tower communicating with pilots over the restaurant sound system. Second, nearly every seat has a view of the action a few hundred feet away. Third, breakfast is served all day. Lastly, the LA County Fair Grounds with its ominous “Le Grande Wheel” are within walking distance from restaurant and airstrip.
Kathy supports as many local suppliers as possible. Her establishment is an old school diner that doesn’t make any excuses. This place is homey, friendly and seems to care about what and who it serves. Norm’s is a favorite hangout for flight instructors and their students conducting ground school over fluffy pancakes and juicy hamburgers. During fire season, you’ll find Erickson Aircrane 734 pilots and deputies from the Los Angeles Sheriff's Air Support Unit refueling their own tanks. On weekends, old time pilots can be seen passing the torch to the next generation of aviators.
Eggs and griddlecakes dominate the two-page breakfast menu for good reason. The Start ‘Em Up Breakfast section ($5.50- $9.75) basically allows you a choice of your favorite protein with two eggs, hash browns, home fries, fruit and choice of toast, tortilla, muffin, or ½ biscuit and gravy. “Protein” choices are varied and plentiful. Bacon, sausage or ham are staples. How about corned beef hash, a hamburger patty, Polish sausage, chicken fried steak, chorizo or a pork chop?
Omelets are a fluffy, moist, four-egg affair ($8.10) that also come with all the fix’ ins. Kathy’s Pancakes and French Toast sections ($4.95 - $7.10) read like a menu from an ice cream shop. Cinnamon, strawberry, chocolate chip or apple flavors come in buttermilk, buckwheat or wheat germ versions. These griddled monstrosities are precariously stacked on top of each other, drizzled with appropriately flavored syrup and a generous helping of whip cream. The biscuits and gravy ($2.25 ½ order – $4.50 full order) are rich, creamy and filling and rounds out the not-so-heart-healthy selections.
Lunch, as with breakfast, abounds with choices. The problem is volume doesn’t always equate to quality. Hot and Cold Sandwiches and Burgers ($4.50 - $8.25) are certainly plentiful, basically tasty yet come off as run-of-the mill. The Pilot Special sandwiches are intriguing but somehow miss the boat. The French Dip on a French Roll ($7.50) has slices of just out of the package tasting roast beef on an overly doughy white bread roll. The California Chicken on Sourdough ($7.50) fared better. The grilled chicken breast was moist and tender on crisp, grilled sourdough toast. The abundance of gooey 1000 island dressing however takes away from the rich Swiss cheese and made the bread soggy.
Norm’s recently instituted Taco Tuesdays from 5 p.m. to 9. After the sun goes down and the restaurant lights up. Homemade tacos overflow with carne asada, beef, chicken or shrimp ($1.50 - $3.00). Quesadillas are filling alternative available with either cheese or chicken ($2.50-$3.50). Combo plates are a fantastic deal and feature rice, beans and a number of taco choices ($5.00-$5.75). The non-PICs can quench their thirst with mediocre domestic and imported beers, passable wine and margaritas ($2.75-$4.25). Sombreros are optional.
Norm’s is good, passable, decent – not bad really – but certainly not the best $100 Hamburger around. Norm’s is rightfully known for its ample portions, large selection and reasonable prices. It does have its downfalls. Sandwiches can be a bit flabby and over sauced. Fried foods have a tendency to be somewhat grease. The wait staff has a tendency to a bit aloof. Even with the negatives, Norm’s is worth supporting. The view of the San Gabriel Mountains from the awning-covered patio on a crisp midday afternoon, the camaraderie and the southern California hospitality are worth a trip.
Note: Norm’s is cash or check only and does not accept credit cards.
Brackett Field Airport, La Verne, California (KPOC)
(Information below is not meant for official use, please confirm that you have the latest airport information)
Elevation: 1,011 feet/ 308.2 m (surveyed)
Zip code:** 91750
Sectional chart: Los Angeles
Control tower: yes
ARTCC: Los Angeles Center
FSS: Riverside FSS
Pattern altitude: 2,011 ft. MSL
Runways: 08R/26L, 4,839 feet x 75 feet and 08L/26R, 3,661 feet x 75 feet, right hand pattern for 08R and 26R
Wind indicator: lighted
Segmented circle: yes
Lights: Dusk to Dawn
ATIS: 124.4 (909-596-1523)
Brackett Ground: 125.0 [0700-2100]
Brackett Tower: 118.2 [0700-2100]
SOCAL Approach / Departure: 125.5
Norm’s Hanger Coffee Shop
1615 McKinley Ave
La Verne, CA 91750
Phone: (909) 596-6675
Open 7 days a week
Wednesday – Monday 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Tuesday 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
The above airport information is not for navigational purposes. Please obtain up-to-date airport information from the FAA before flight.