When Charles “Cotton” Limbocker opened the Chef in 1943, Manhattanites packed into the undersized café with the famous horseshoe counter. Back in the day, you had to eat fast, because you better believe there was somebody behind you, ready to take your seat. Not much has changed, really. The Chef is still packing in the hungry, and chances are, if you come in on the weekend, you’ll have to wait a few for your seat! Don’t worry, though—there is plenty of “The Chef Blend” coffee, roasted and blended locally at Radina’s in Aggieville, as well as a variety of tasty cocktails and lots of friends to keep you occupied until your seat is ready.
Anyway, the Chef has always been one of those places where most everyone knows everyone else. Just ask the “coffee boys”. Back in ‘71, when Bob and Teryl Limbocker took over, Gertie (the cook) even knew what everyone liked to eat. We aren’t as good as Gertie was, but we sure like to get to know our customers. Especially the cute baby ones. Yes, that means you—Chloe, Jackson, Claire and Eula!
While Bob and Teryl were in charge, they transformed the cuisine from the traditional pies-and-meatloaf home cooking to quick and tasty lunches for the business folk downtown. The present-day Chef offers a little of both—a home cooked meal that doesn’t take all day. As the Chef became increasingly popular, the lunch crowds and coffee groups grew. This growth prompted the Limbockers to expand the space next door. And that’s how big the Chef is today. We’ve got a cozy entry, about eight seats at the counter, and plenty of space in the dining room.
To the dismay of many of those in the Little Apple, the Limbockers closed the Chef in 1986. Flash forward to 2008, when some
friends decided to fill the breakfast diner void downtown. Kevin and Kurstin Harris, along with their good friend, Zach Filbert,
re-opened the Chef in September 2008. The three wanted to create a modern, comfortable, family cafe with an eclectic menu,
while paying homage to the institution the Chef had become throughout its decades in downtown Manhattan. The Riley County
Historical Society even provided the original Chef neon sign to hang outside. As for the menu, there is something for everyone—
from frittatas to PB&J pancakes, and homemade apple cider to Manmosas (that’s PBR and a splash of OJ those Wilson boys
from Salina always order)—everyone will find something to love at the Chef.