J. Cody Whitten, proprietor, grew up in College Station and Snook working in his father’s Ag Aviation business with his two brothers. His older brother, Brett, who learned to fly at the age of 13 took over his father’s business and can still be seen dodging power lines and spraying crops in the Brazos River Bottom. His younger brother, Beau, carried on the family tradition of flying but took a different route becoming a Navy pilot chasing submarines and now flies for Southwest Airlines.
From a very young age, J. Cody thought he too would also take up flying having a strong love for aviation but one thing lead to another and owning a restaurant became his passion. In 2001, J. Cody’s Steaks & BBQ opened. As the restaurant became more successful, J. Cody began pondering the idea of a local sit down steakhouse. As time went by, the idea grew and discussions with city officials lead to the idea of a location at Coulter Airfield. J. Cody thought this was a great way to connect his enthusiasm for aviation and his passion for cooking.
However, on a cold Saturday in February 2019, a chance conversation with a couple of Old Army Aggie pilots enjoying lunch in J. Cody’s, pointed him to the vacant old General Aviation Terminal at Easterwood Airport. Being familiar with the old terminal and the air traffic at Easterwood, excitement over the idea of a steakhouse there began to grow. After thinking about the conversation from lunch for the rest of the day, J. Cody realized he had a friend from grad school who worked in the TAMU System real estate office. So just after midnight Saturday an email was sent asking who to talk to about the old terminal.</p><p>Unknowingly to J. Cody, Easterwood Airport, Astin Aviation and the TAMU System were already searching for a restauranteur to occupy the old terminal as everyone involved had decided Easterwood needed a restaurant amenity. Immediately on Monday morning after J. Cody’s email was read, conversations snowballed. A few months later, a lease was signed and construction began in December 2019. Little did anyone know that at the same time, the pandemic had also just begun. Originally planning to open late spring to early summer of 2020, construction was delayed and Gate 12 Bar & Grill finally opened on December 10, 2020.
During construction, there was an evolution taking place to Gate 12. New ideas began to emerge as construction progressed. As all parties involved began to see the building taking shape, they knew that Gate 12 was going to be something far better than expected. They also knew this wasn’t going to be some ordinary steakhouse and so the menu began to evolve also. Gate 12 wasn’t looking to be a high end steakhouse but its’ atmosphere had the feel for it. J. Cody didn’t want his customers to feel like a coat and tie was the expectation, so his team coined the phrase “Relaxed Elegance” which he hoped would make everyone feel welcomed at Gate 12.
As a result, Gate 12 is a place for all to enjoy. Guests can watch airplanes of all kinds and hear the sounds of the roaring engines inside the dining areas while they enjoy their steaks with family and friends. Many times, military aircraft are parked on the ramp straight out in front of the dining room with aircraft occasionally pulling right by the dining room windows. Guests can even walk out onto the patios to experience the sounds of aviation first hand. And due to Gate 12’s location on the ramp and runway, there are no trees to obscure a view second to none of the outstanding sunsets year round.
For those who prefer to enjoy their favorite beverage, Gate 12’s bar also has a view of the ramp and runway. Easterwood’s hot fueling station is directly behind the bar’s back windows where military helicopters of all kinds can be seen fueling up with even an occasional V-22 Osprey stopping by. To top off this view, one of Gate 12’s neighbors’, St. Joseph’s PHI helicopter, Air Med 12, can be seen daily landing and taking off just a short distance from the bar.
Hanging from the ceiling above the bar and main entryway on display is the centerpiece to the restaurant, a four bladed propeller believed to have come from the Enola Gay. TAMU acquired the prop in the late 40’s to power its new wind tunnel at the time which is located across the parking lot from Gate 12. A newspaper article displayed in the wind tunnel circa 1950 tells the story of the prop coming from the Enola Gay.
Although the propeller appears larger than life, 18 inches were removed from each blade tip so it would fit in the wind tunnel. At some point in the prop’s history, a model being tested in the tunnel came apart and was sucked through the spinning prop. The prop sustained enough damage to be considered unsafe to continue powering the wind tunnel and the decision was made to retire her. Fast forward to 2019 and that’s where Gate 12 enters the picture.
Management at the wind tunnel heard about the new restaurant being planned. They thought the new restaurant would be an excellent place to display the historic prop collecting dust in storage and J. Cody agreed. Discussions with TAMU lead to the decision to display the prop in Gate 12 with the deciding factor being TAMU owns the building and the prop.
Gate 12 also has a private dining room appropriately named “The Hangar” which can be reserved for any function or party. It features sliding doors that resemble those of an old airplane hangar. Inside, is a popular attraction, a 25 foot wide mural of a restored flying B-17 named “Aluminum Overcast” painted by J. Cody’s niece, Cherry Vollert.
In closing, Gate 12 Bar & Grill occupies the original General Aviation Terminal at Easterwood Airport. It is located next to the Air Traffic Control tower for Easterwood Airport at the end of George Bush Drive West. Gate 12 is uniquely hidden away on the private side of the airport. The wind tunnel, neighboring research facilities and big old Oak trees hide its view from Harvey Mitchell Parkway creating a secluded, quiet setting for enjoying a meal with family or friends, watching airplanes fly by or experiencing one of nature’s finest sunsets.