The Charcoal Chef is a Woodbury landmark that opened in 1956 when Robert Sanderson, a tool and die maker with skills as a butcher, and his wife, Vee, decided to start a restaurant on what was farmland owned by Vee Sanderson’s father. The Sanderson’s set up a 1950s-style diner with linoleum floors and chrome furniture - the cheapest they could find, and created a menu that centered on charcoal-grilled meats. The Charcoal Chef is one of the only restaurants in Connecticut that still cooks on charcoal, Kingsford charcoal to be exact. The restaurant was a hit from the beginning. It was one of the few stops for truckers and travelers on Route 6 in the days before I-84 was built. Customers now come from all over, drawn by the restaurant’s reputation for its great food and friendly service.
What started off as a small drive-in that serviced long-distance truckers before I-84 came in, has expanded to a family restaurant that seats over 100. The Charcoal Chef Restaurant is more than just a family restaurant. Everyone is quite welcome to come in and enjoy the menu full of “comfort food”, many of the items that have been on the menu since 1956. But better than that, some of the wait staff that are serving you either have been here since early on or may have a brother, granddaughter, a cousin or a more distant relative working in another part of the restaurant. Although Bob and Vee Sanderson both have since passed on, the restaurant is still being run by the same family. Judy Doran, their daughter, and Mikey Wescott, their granddaughter, is now working together to run the restaurant.