Restaurant Review: Chef-O-Nette

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Nope, it's pretty much forever stuck on 1955 in there, i.e. the year in which this U.A. mainstay fried its first little burger. That's what I was thinking the other afternoon when I popped in to see how the Chef-o-Nette was holding up and found out it was business there as usual. By the way, that's a good thing.

For me, a visit to the Chef is akin to an anthropological view into the way-back window of an all-but-vanished America.

I mean, independently owned diner/hamburger houses like it used to line the streets and highways of our still-burgeoning country. Nowadays, unfortunately, these types of pies-baked-on-premises mom-and-poppers have become replaced by highly impersonal, corporate chains.

Impersonal is the last word I'd use to describe the Chef-O-Nette. No, this is the kind of place where you're likely to hear, as I heard last week, a waitress uttering something like (while pointing to a strapping lad clad in a letterman jacket and lowering her other palm), "I've been waiting on that guy since he was this high."

As befits a family-friendly neighborhoody diner that time forgot, the Chef-O-Nette's convivial servers usher out comfort food vittles from an era before supersized portions and supersized prices were commonplace. Yeah, just one look at the Chef's chuckle-inducingly anachronistic menu will quickly clue you in that this place is downright stupid cheap.

Naturally this sort of joint should have good chili, and the Chef doesn't disappoint ($2.55 for a big bowl). Served steaming hot, it's tomatoey rich and thick and filled with very finely ground beef, a few beans and - best of all - it delivers a surprisingly bold spicy punch.

The Pork Tenderloin sandwich ($3.45) is pretty popular and it'll surely please the kid in you. Though it's more golden brown, crunchy and greasy breading than piggy, beneath all that easy-to-eat stuff is a real piece of meat.

Another thinnish slice of meat anchors the Chef's signature sandwich, the Hangover ($2.75). On a routine toasted bun comes a little diner-style burger with melted American cheese, a hunk of raw onion and (here's the brilliant part) a sliver of griddled ham.

Of course you can make that a "plate" by adding on slaw (minced cabbage with a bit of carrot and an old-school sweet and creamy dressing) plus fries (crinkle cut, from a bag) for a nominal charge.

Match that with a milkshake (sweet, not too thick, milky) that's probably quite like what your mom used to make, and you'll be taking a trip down memory lane - well, maybe your mom's, not yours.

You want retro? You want cheap? Then try the Chef-O-Nette, because this place ain't fakin' it.

Chef-O-Nette

2090 Tremont Ctr., Upper Arlington

614-488-8444

To search thousands of restaurant listings and reviews, click to ColumbusDiningGuide.com