Living Well in Litchfield County, Connecticut

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Adam Lerner

Woodbury’s Classic Charcoal Chef

Charcoal Chef’s old-school food and drink

By Charles Dubow

The roadsides of America used to swarm with restaurants promising in neon lettering steaks, chops, and cocktails. In these post-cholesterol times, though, such establishments have given way to more ecumenical fare. We modern diners demand the organic, the grass-fed, the exotic, and the new to stimulate our jaded palettes. Fortunately, for those who continue to hanker for such classics as a char-broiled New York Strip, breaded shrimp, St. Louis ribs, pork chops, a hamburger with all the fixings, an ice cream sundae or a dry Martini, there are still places like Woodbury’s Charcoal Chef.

On a recent visit to the Charcoal Chef I was glad to see the parking lot was full of every type of vehicle from Range Rovers to pickup trucks. Inside, the restaurant was packed. Families and couples on a night out filled the tables in the dining room. They don’t come here for the décor (which hasn’t changed in decades), the exquisite table ware (the napkins are paper), or the wine list (which is modest at best). There is nothing here to appeal to a food snob. There is no Wagyu beef, Fiddlehead ferns, or aged balsamic vinegar. But there is good, old-fashioned stick-to-your-ribs cooking that will gratify your taste buds as much as your bank account.

Opened in 1956 as a drive-in truck stop, today the Charcoal Chef is run by Judy Doran—daughter of the original owners Bob and Vee Sanderson—and her daughter Mikey Wescott. (Judy handles the day shift and Mikey does nights.) At any given time, the restaurant will be staffed by various members of their family or long-time staffers who all make a point to make guests feel welcome. And many of their patrons have been coming here for years. Carolyn Klemm, of Klemm Real Estate, is such a fan of their excellent fried chicken that she orders it for her famous parties. “I have been going there for over 40 years and love it.”

So come and bring an appetite. You will love it too. 

Charcoal Chef
670 Main St., North, Woodbury

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