Once upon a time, before it became some
kind of chic to dine al-fresco from a food truck, long the norm in cargo
areas btw, people who worked in high profile passenger terminals could
only look down their collective noses at the dining selections offered
to people in cargo.
For years food has been served up with varying
degrees of success in the airport cargo area.
Food trucks park near cargo hangars, or
you can call for carry away pick up, and of course the growing trend especially
during and post COVID has extended into occasional inventive fancy deliveries.
One restaurant near JFK International Airport
on Woodhaven Bouvelard named London Lennie's, will deliver you a dozen
shucked (Blue Point) Oysters with condiments and those small oyster crackers
arranged on a bed of seaweed and crushed ice. Come to think of it, better
get a couple dozen and some of their incredible chowder and homemade coleslaw.
Get some Gavel Kolsch from Cologne too,
if it's sold nearby and you’re off the clock.
Which brings me to the most notorious, but
also the best Italian sandwich in the history of JFK Cargo.
The place was called The Owl, and it was
located just outside the airport on the corner of Farmers & Guy R.
Brewer Boulevard, and what fun it was.
The Owl, a local air cargo haunt operated
by Joe “Owl” Mancusi was reportedly an occasional gathering
point for the gang that planned and later held up Lufthansa Cargo and
were immortalized in a book and the movie, “Goodfellas”.
But for the straight working stiffs, the
wise guys and the day time cuisine crowd, the veal parmigiana hero sandwich
served at The Owl was absolutely out of this world.
Make no mistake, at times the price of admission
was you had to zone out the “Bada-Bing,” tough guy-topless
joint reality that The Owl was in the cold light of day.
But somehow the place did clean up the entertainment
for the lunchtime crowd that drifted in and out from all those mixed-use,
off airport residence and cargo office operations both on airport and
off the field that brought the crowds to The Owl and the popular Hans
Deli across the street for years.
Highpoint for The Owl was 1987 when a scene
from the movie Wall Street was shot there.
Now The Owl is long gone.
Somebody said that they saw Joe The Owl
down in Florida but that was five years ago.
But great joints like supple stories don’t
die, they just fade away.
Loved The Owl
Dolores Hofman, now retired from a lifetime of
service to aviation as Program Manager Queens Air Services Development
Office in New York is also a real lady pioneer in air cargo like no other.
Dolores shunned an office job and asserted
herself to work at Pan Am Clipper Cargo at JFK on the warehouse floor
operating a forklift truck in the late 1960s, when the only other women
on that level of the air cargo building were staring down half dressed
or not dressed at all from calendars on the walls of break rooms and the
“Ahhhh, yes, “The Owl,”
one of the few places that this ex-Cargo Service Agent (when I drove that
forklift, unloaded those trucks & worked shifts) could go for a nice
lunch break . . . OMG what stories to tell!”
The former KLM Cargo JFK Operations Guru
Barry Medwed, today a top air cargo consultant, “Call Barry”,
pictured here (right) with Mattijs ten Brink (left)
who lead KLM Cargo, dunked into The Owl:
“I remember the first time I went
to the The Owl in 1979.
“Co-workers took me for lunch.
“When working the midnight shift,
we knew The Owl would be open for 3am lunch,” Barry recalled.
Home of The $5 Meeting
“I joined The New York Air Cargo Sales
Club in 1966 as a rookie cargo sales rep with Braniff,” Eldon Brown
“The NYACSC President was Bob Havenstein
of National Airlines Cargo.
“Our monthly meetings were held at
the Playboy Club on E. 59th Street. The meetings tariff was $10.
“We had a private meeting room and
two bunnies were assigned to our meeting.
What did the $10 buy?
“Two drinks, a steak dinner, coffee
and desert, plus Playboy usually threw in a door prize or two.
“Of course, back then you could get
two drinks and a steak at The Owl for under $5, but the waitresses didn't
wear bunny tails . . .”
Eldon had a great air cargo career serving
in JAL Cargo top USA management for 15 years. After that Eldon outdid
himself with more than a quarter of a century at Northwest Cargo.
Today Eldon is alive and well, and writing
“The Owl, it was an experience!”
“Everybody went there for lunch on
the Midnight Shift,” writes Henry Lumm.
Alan Wood recalls:
“i worked at Circle Airfreight, for
years cashed many of my paychecks at the bar, to many good times.
“Had a fight with Jimmy Breslin there
. . . all good . . .
“The Owl was also known as “The
“Hans Deli was across the street,
and one of my worst business decisions was, when Hans offered me a deal
on his deli and I said no.
Alan is the only former habituae of “The
Owl” we know of, who operates a nifty oasis where you can get a
drink, something to eat, see a live theater show nearby and maybe even
carry this story further.
Located in downtown Titusville, Florida,
“OhVino” is where Alan Wood and partner James hold court in
their small restaurant with soft lighting and peaceful soothing ambience
near The Titusville Playhouse there.
Huge wine selection and small snack plates,
hamburgers. Great pizza with a delicious crispy crust and plenty of topping.
Regular wine tastings.
Theater is in 57th season, currently mounting
a stage presentation of “Kinky Boots”.
And Today . . .
Today the lunch bunch has departed The Owl
for the last time and the X-rated TV screens have bumped and ground their
way to black.
But down is not out.
In the same building that housed The Owl
appeared fairy tale pictures, pink balloons and boxes of chalk and crayons.
Today, the space that greeted a brilliant
cast of characters who were creating the air cargo industry has become
The Academy of Little Leaders" a gentle sanctuary for the laughter
of little children starting life in a fantasy pre-school day care center.
The wise old Owl giving up some tricks.
“And just like that, my lunch today
just seems unbearably boring,” smiled Mike Webber.