Chef's Hut

Special to The Idaho StatesmanOctober 21, 2005 

— The Chef's Hut is tucked away in a business park near Bishop Kelly High School.

Those were the directions I was given.

I've probably driven by the restaurant hundreds of times and never known it. It's easy to miss, mixed in with the industrial businesses on the corner of Franklin and Cole roads.

The inside looks like Grandma's living room, with a profusion of ceramic plates and other knickknacks strewn about in a bombardment of Americana kitsch.

The menu pays homage to the American café, a place where the plates are big and the price is little.

Here you will find standard breakfast and lunch options, served by middle-aged women with good senses of humor.

One day, a server almost made a little kid cry when she told him he couldn't get pancakes because the kitchen had already changed over to the lunch menu. Evidently she pulled some strings in the back, though.

Anyone who has ever dined with a 5-year-old can tell you an act like this is tantamount to saving the day.

We didn't want pancakes. Lunch was on our minds; a patty melt ($3.95), hot pastrami sandwich ($4.25) and clubhouse ($4.95), to be exact.

We also tagged on cups of cheese and onion-crowned chili ($1.55) and clam chowder ($1.70) with a strange, dark beige hue. To its credit, the chowder didn't taste as bad as it looked.

The patty melt was a double-fister, the kind of sandwich you have to squish with your palm just to eat. A hand-formed beef patty topped with crispy strips of bacon came smothered with melted Swiss and caramelized onions, stuffed between toasted slices of dark rye. The French fries (processed, frozen and deep-fried again) weren't as remarkable.

We also enjoyed the hot pastrami sandwich, a fat pile of cured beef brisket, melted white cheese, sweet pickle chips, lettuce and tomato on dark rye. A creamy mound of macaroni salad rounded out the plate.

The club sandwich was average, at best. Processed American cheese, turkey breast, bacon, iceberg lettuce and tomato were layered between toasted slices of multi-grain bread, with entirely too much mayo. A pile of paprika-dusted potato salad (did I detect Miracle Whip?) came with the clubhouse.

We left full, to say the least. This place needs a courtesy wheelbarrow to get diners out the door.

The following week, we came back for big breakfasts, the kind guaranteed to send your cholesterol levels soaring.

As a matter of fact, one of my dining partners was having a check-up later that day, including a cholesterol test. Maybe he should have stuck with the cottage cheese and fresh fruit instead of ordering that monstrous chorizo omelet ($5.25).

His omelet had copious amounts of spicy sausage, gooey cheddar, green bell pepper, onion and tomato, served with dry wheat toast — a sure bet to counteract this cholesterol bomb.

The eggs Benedict ($5.75) came heaped on a large platter. Two crunchy English muffins were layered with grilled ham and delicately poached eggs, covered with a just-add-water hollandaise sauce that was pale yellow.

The corned beef hash ($5.25) was a typical pile of mushy seasoned beef and diced potatoes topped with two hard-yoked eggs that were ordered over easy.

All these plates were served with crispy hash browns, straight from the scorching flattop grill.

Don't expect to be blown away by the cuisine at Chef's Hut. What you'll get is a big plate of homespun food carrying a price from two decades ago.

James Patrick Kelly is The Idaho Statesman's restaurant critic. E-mail him at jpkfood@earthlink.net. Listen to him at 7 a.m. Saturdays on "Weekend Idaho" on KBOI 670-AM.

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