23 Aug 2014
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Charcoal Chef Serves Up Tradition

This Woodbury classic still cooks steaks and burgers using real charcoal.

Charcoal Chef Serves Up Tradition Charcoal Chef Serves Up Tradition Charcoal Chef Serves Up Tradition Charcoal Chef Serves Up Tradition Charcoal Chef Serves Up Tradition Charcoal Chef Serves Up Tradition

Charcoal Chef hasn't changed much since opening in 1956. And that's the way the customers like it.

The roadside restaurant sits on a lonely stretch of Main Street North in Woodbury. When you walk inside, the chunky wooden chairs and tables, dim lighting and small-town feel transport you back in time.

Bob and Vee Sanderson began Charcoal Chef after receiving the land as an inheritance from Vee's parents.

"It started as kind of a truck stop," said current owner Judy Doran, the Sanderson's daughter.

Before I-84 was built, Route 6 was a main road that saw a lot of traffic, said Doran.

"In fact, we still have truckers pull off and spend the night here," she said.

Now, the restaurant serves mostly locals and some weekend travelers, although some people make it a destination stop, especially those who grew up in the area.

"People like to come in here and see it's the same," said Doran, who has many on staff who've been there 20 years and longer.

Doran runs the restaurant's daily operations, while her daughter takes care of the bookkeeping, marketing and helps with the cooking.

The pair is also involved in giving back to the community. The restaurant started promoting local business by highlighting a different business each month with a free raffle for its customers. In addition, Charcoal Chef hosts Charitable Giving Night one Monday per month. Ten percent of that day's sales go to a chosen charity, such as the Woodbury Food Bank, the library or scholarship funds.

But the real draw here is the style of cooking and family atmosphere, in addition to the nostalgia.

"We use real charcoal," said Doran. "If it's the middle of winter and you want that flavor, you can come here, and we can accommodate you."

In addition to the charcoal-broiled burgers and steaks, the restaurant is known for its drinks.

"Our drinks tend to be a little bigger and stronger than usual," Doran commented with a smile.

Other classic menu options include Franks & Beans ($7.50), Cornish Hen in a Basket ($11.25) and Fried Breaded Shrimp ($13.25). The restaurant added items such as salads and vegetarian options over the years, but the main menu mostly remains the same as the original.

"We still use Pepperidge Farm bread, which we used when we opened," said Doran. The restaurant also makes its original homemade Clam Chowder on Fridays ($5.25) and Beef Stew on Wednesdays ($5.50).

Charcoal Chef serves breakfast, lunch and dinner and is located at 670 Main Street North in Woodbury, 203-263-2538. Hours are Mon, Tue, 8am - 9pm; Wed, Thu, 8am - 9:30pm; Fri, Sat, 8am - 10pm; Sun, noon - 8pm. In addition to cash, credit cards are now accepted.

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