On a recent Friday night, there were so many cars at the Conoco gas station in Watauga, Tex., 15 miles north of Fort Worth, you would have thought there was a fuel shortage. But no one was at the pump. Customers were instead crowded into the station’s convenience store, flipping through old issues of Auto Trader and trying not to upset the racks of beef jerky as they waited at least an hour for the hostess to tell them their table was ready.
Squeezed into the store and serving unlikely Texas truck stop fare like escargot and rack of lamb, Chef Point Café attracts local residents and culinary tourists alike. The restaurant, which opened seven years ago, is operated by the chef Franson Nwaeze, a Nigerian immigrant, and his American wife, Paula.
“The banks wouldn’t give us a loan for a restaurant but they would for a gas station,” said Mrs. Nwaeze, who runs the business side of the operation. “Restaurants have a much higher failure rate.”
So they bought the Conoco station in Watauga (population 24,000) and built a full commercial kitchen inside its convenience store where a rotating hot dog warmer and slushy machine might normally be. The unpretentious dining area, surrounded by shelves of motor oil, features little beyond folding tables and vinyl chairs. The crowd ranges from bikers to Dallas debutantes, sometimes sharing a table so they can be seated sooner.
“Everyone said we were crazy, that we’d never be able to have a gourmet restaurant in a gas station,” said Mr. Nwaeze, who was confident from two decades spent cooking in a variety of restaurants that he could. “That’s why I called it Chef Point — because I was out to prove a point.”
And Mr. Nwaeze isn’t falsely modest about his skills: “I can cook anything,” he said. Indeed, the menu at Chef Point Café has everything from Southern comfort food like fried chicken and waffles to more exotic fare like curried goat. House specialties include cioppino (fish stew), roast duck and blackened stuffed pork chops. But his most popular menu item is bread pudding with Cognac sauce, which tends to send diners into eye-rolling ecstasy.
The Nwaezes said service will not be interrupted in August and September during construction intended to double the restaurant’s 76-seat capacity. And despite rumors, they are adamant that they will not open another location. “We have our hands full with this one,” Mrs. Nwaeze said.
Chef Point Café, 5901 Watauga Road, Watauga, Tex.; (817) 656-0080; chefpointcafe.org. An average meal for two, without drinks or tip, is about $50. Reservations are not accepted, but diners may call 30 minutes before arriving to be added to the waiting list.