There really is a chef at The Chef’s House, an incongruously cute little pink home on a harsh commercial city thoroughfare. George Darko is the man at the stove. The lunch-only restaurant he and his wife, Tammie, opened in 2005 shows off his skills in a short buffet of from-scratch fare that meets high standards of soul food cooking at its finest.
Fried chicken comes encased in a rugged gold crust that really does want to melt in your mouth. About a dozen pieces are brought to the buffet at a time, hot from the fry kettle, virtually greaseless and yet succulent beyond description. Alongside the chicken are always a couple of other entrees: baked tilapia most days, and sensationally good honey-glazed salmon on Thursday (which also is fried pork chop day). I even like Chef Darko’s spaghetti & meatballs, a very non-Italian creation of big soft noodles, chewy little spheres of ground beef, and a simple, sweet tomato sauce that brings the two elements together in happy harmony.
The side-dish selection is minimal: greens are pork-free but hugely flavorful, their vegetable potency given an inviting vinegar twist. There are herb-speckled hunks of boiled potato and traditionally soft green beans. While not hard-line health food, all the veggies, as well as entrees, have the healthful mien of food cooked by a person who cares. I’d call it home cooking, but few homes I know serve meals so expertly prepared.
Cornbread, which is still oven-hot when the restaurant opens at 11am, is tender and just barely sweet — an ideal medium for sponging gravy and drippin’s off one’s plate.
Maximum capacity is 35 diners. Seating is in two snug dining rooms tastefully decorated with images and aphorisms that are culinary, biblical, and homespun. Eating here feels like being at a quiet party in someone’s home.
Gotta love the house motto: Small Place, BIG Taste!