Looking to indulge that craving for some down-home cooking and an old-fashioned milkshake? The Chef-O-Nette diner in Upper Arlington (located on the Northwest side of Columbus, Ohio) provides the ideal combination of 50’s diner atmosphere, 50+ years of experience and tradition and prices that other diners have a hard time beating. This review, based on three recent visits to the Chef-O-Nette, covers a few of the diner’s most popular menu items, the Chef-O-Nette’s atmosphere and facilities, and its customer service.
Imagine hopping in a time machine and traveling back to the late 1950s. That’s what it’s like open the door to the Chef-O-Nette. The diner’s history dates back to 1955 and has now included three generations of owner-operators. You’ll get a strong sense of history as you choose between what now seem like antique booths or swiveling stools at the counter.
From the brown patterned curtains to the pendant light fixtures, the décor at the Chef-O-Nette gleams with classic diner authenticity. Although a few years back the owners decided to perform a series of renovations and upgrades to the original seating and lighting, they stayed trued to the Chef-O-Nette’s diner concept. Aside from the cleanliness of the upholstery and the lack of cracks in the leather on the counter stools, you would never know that you’re not seeing décor straight out of the 1950s.
The Chef-O-Nette’s layout adds to its charm. Immediately inside the entrance is the payment counter, where you can put in a quick order to go or pay your bill following your meal. The glass case in front of the register stocks a host of classic candy bars and other sugary treats, which makes it easy to grab afternoon mints to take care of your breath after the Chef-O-Nette’s famous Hangover platter.
The updated and renovated restroom facilities are a marked improvement over the original bathrooms. Still, space is tight-this is a small diner, so high expectations for the facilities will probably lead to disappointment.
The Chef-O-Nette serves a range of typical diner food, but it’s made its name by what it calls “quality chef specials at everyday low prices.” And they’re not kidding about the low prices. At the upper end of the menu’s price range are high-quality chef specials like the Chef Steak Special Ribeye, which costs $10.95. A plate of Golden Fried Chicken costs just $6.85, and an order of Ham Steak costs under $6.00.
Other customer dinner favorites include the Spaghetti & Meatball entrée ($6.25) and the Jumbo Shrimp ($7.95).
Maybe the best time to visit the Chef-O-Nette is at lunchtime, when a mix of senior citizens (who come from the nearby senior center) and high school students (from Upper Arlington high school just down the street) mingle and enjoy ultra-cheap food. A regular hamburger sells for $2.10, and adding cheese costs just a dime more. The cold turkey sandwich costs $3.10, and a BLT on toast is $3.95.
Probably the feature item on the Chef-O-Nette’s menu is the Hangover Plate, which includes a loaded burger, homestyle coleslaw, and a side of French fries for just $6.15.
The Chef-O-Nette’s milkshakes are a local favorite, and many afternoons children and their parents walk over from the nearby park (after football, soccer, baseball and softball games) to enjoy a cold treat. For the coffee crowd, there’s a band of regulars who sip their java and read the newspaper every morning and afternoon. A cup will set you back just $1.55.
It’s seems close to impossible to get good customer service these days-and it almost never pairs with low prices. The Chef-O-Nette is one of the few exceptions. The wait staff includes a mix of responsible teenagers and career waiters and waitresses. They’re friendly and used to the fast-paced diner atmosphere. They’re willing to stop for a quick chat, but mostly they’re focused on getting your order in ASAP and getting a hot plate of delicious food to your table. Because you pay your bill at the counter upfront, there’s no waiting when you’re finished with your meal. This makes the Chef-O-Nette ideal for quick lunches or afternoon snacks.
The Chef-O-Nette will not appeal to those looking for a rich gourmet experience. But for those wanting almost unheard of low prices, good homestyle cooking and a charming atmosphere, the Chef-O-Nette is certainly worth a try