Roosters crow. That’s what they do. People who eat at the Cockeyed Rooster tend to do the same thing. But they crow about how fabulous the food, service and décor is at the Smithfield restaurant.
The Cockeyed Rooster is the kind of place that brings people back. Again. And again.
With a quirky name, the café has found a niche serving breakfast, brunch and lunch.
“We wanted this to be a comfortable, family friendly restaurant that felt like home where people would come and stay awhile,” says Roxanne Christou, who co-owns the restaurant with her husband, Chris.
The restaurant opened in June 2015. Since then, people have come in droves. On weekends, the line to get in is out the front door.
“I kept thinking, ‘it has to be a fun, happy place,’” Chris Christou says. “I think we hit the mark.”
The restaurant, located in Smithfield Shopping Plaza, is decorated with all types of roosters, large and small. Patrons have taken fondly to the rooster theme and continually bring in roosters to add to the restaurant’s collection.
“It’s so much fun,” Roxanne says.
And the pictures on the walls are hung cockeyed. Chris often has to tell diners who feel the need to straighten the frames that they are meant to be hung crooked.
When trying to select a name for the restaurant, Roxanne came up with the Cocky Rooster while walking their dog. But her mother was not a huge fan and suggested the Cockeyed Rooster instead.
The restaurant serves all of types of breakfast specialties, including omelettes, pancakes, waffles, benedicts and farmer’s breakfast dishes. One of the favorites is Oreo-crusted French toast.
“Everything is made from scratch. We even squeeze our own orange juice,” Chris says.
Chris is no stranger to restaurants or breakfast menus. For decades, he owned the Belgian Waffle and Steakhouse in Newport News. He sold it in 2013 after being burned out and tired of commuting back and forth from his home in Smithfield to Newport News. He stayed home for a while but started to “get antsy, wanting to do more,” he says. The couple’s children got tired of extravagant breakfasts Chris would create every day.
“My daughter said, ‘Dad, we just want a bowl of cereal,’” Roxanne says.
And when Roxanne, an airline stewardess, came home from a trip and noticed that Chris had varnished the rocks outside their home, she knew he needed more to do. The Cockeyed Rooster was born.
“We wanted something on a smaller scale, where we could do breakfast, brunch and lunch,” Chris says.
The restaurant’s space was once home to a Chinese restaurant. The couple completely stripped and redesigned the space. With a vision of quirky and homey, Roxanne and Chris created the Cockeyed Rooster.
“It’s been a crazy ride,” Roxanne says.
The restaurant has gained a reputation of great food and atmosphere. Many of the employees followed Chris from Denbigh, wanting to work for him again. The Christous say that most people hear about the restaurant from word of mouth. Diners have come from all over. In fact, Roxanne was once working a flight to Europe when a passenger recognized her. He had eaten in the restaurant.
“He looked at me and said, ‘I know you,’” Roxanne says. “I couldn’t believe it.”
Chris’s culinary vision resulted in his being the recipient of the 2017 Entrepreneur of the Year Award, which was given to him by the Isle of Wight County Department of Economic Development during Virginia’s Business Appreciation Month last May.
After being in the restaurant business for years, Chris says the Cockeyed Rooster is the pinnacle of his cooking career.
“It’s my favorite one yet,” he says. “The hours are great. The customers are great. The food is breakfast and lunch. And the location is great.”
TO THE POINT:
Address: 268 Benns Church Blvd., Smithfield, VA 23430
Contact: Chris Christou