“I’m not usually a chain person,” said my foodie friend, prefacing his rave of Cafe R&D, a spinoff of Houston’s. Right on, pal. Me neither. Chain restaurants are like television—you don’t admit you go there.

But R&D isn’t a typical chain. This is only its second branch; the first opened in Newport Beach in 2004. And like Houston’s, it has an impermeable proficiency, harder to achieve than it looks. Where Houston’s takes a traditional salad-entrée-dessert approach, however, R&D touts “one-course dining,” wherein you eat a plate of food and get out. That included perfect pork tenderloin, poster-pretty meatloaf, and remarkably pristine salads such as the chicken and spinach—with not just any greenery but Bloomsdale spinach, apples, cashews, and bacon.

Warm potato salad with soft potato cubes had bright kernels of corn. Appetizers included deviled eggs, of all things, and the dinner menu had a spinach-and-cheese omelet, right next to rib-eye and short ribs. Where else does an omelet get that kind of status? It was idyllically firm and fluffy, though you might ask for extra spinach.

All the wines on the small list come by the glass, with rare selections such as the limited-run Napa cabernet from Anselmo Vigne. The warm teak interior oozed comfort. The staff was as wholesome and friendly as something you’d see on a sitcom—on TV.

Get contact information for Cafe R&D.

Update: Cafe R&D is now called R&D Kitchen.