(From our archives) In a city known for great seafood, and as I have written before, I’m delighted there are so many great steakhouses here. Especially ones that have endured w/o change over the years. For the past 70 years, Charlie’s has been selling the “sizzle” right along side the best of them, but doing it with considerable panache despite being a “bare-bones” operation. (No pun intended).
Charlie’s doesn’t take reservations, and doesn’t bother to print menus. With less than a handful of choices to make, your waiter will run through the choices aloud, standing next to your table: “small, medium, or large T-Bone, or 9 oz filet; au gratin or fried potatoes; iceberg wedge salad with dressing.”
Except of course, he’ll ask you if you want onion rings for an appetizer, which, of course, you should say “yes” to. Charlie’s rings are the thin and crispy kind, and one order is probably enough for two couples to share. There were two of us at dinner last night, and we hardly made a dent in the pile, despite ravenous appetites and the taste treat in front of us. (Note, Charlie’s is one of the few places that makes their rings with a seasoned flour especially FOR the onions – it’s not a seafood batter, and contains no corn meal).
Dinner moves along at a pretty fair pace – when you’ve been preparing these few items for this many decades, you get your systems down to a science.
We started with the iceberg wedges, both opting for Charlie’s very thick and creamy blue cheese dressing – at least 6-8 ounces on a 1/3 head of lettuce with a few tomato wedges. The dressing might just be the best in town. I just said creamy, tho, didn’t I, and creamy is not the correct description. It’s packed full of chunks of blue cheese crumbles, full of flavor and bite.
The steaks came just as we were finishing the salads (well, we didn’t finish, they were too big), and were cooked and served precisely as ordered. Diners are lectured by their waiters not to touch the plates (the bubbling sizzle is even audible), but a disbeliever at the table next to us didn’t pay attention to the instructions, and spent the rest of his dining experience with one hand stuck in a glass of ice water.
We chose their famous au gratin potatoes as a side, and it was overkill — soaking in sharp cheddar, which had a nice cap of broiled, black cheese covering it, we barely managed a couple of spoonfuls each. Nor did either of us manage to finish the filets. Desire is one thing, capacity is another.
As always, we skipped desert – which traditionally at Charlie’s is a heaping bowl of local favorite Angelo Brocato’s spumoni; but we did have coffee, which we weren’t charged for.
The waiter, as is the custom there, I am sure, asked if we wanted to take any of the leftovers home, and I said no, but being the “funny guy” that I am, I reached for the Worcestershire and said “But I am taking this.”
The waiter replied “hold on a second,” turned around, and placed an unopened bottle in front of me, and said “at least take a new one.”
We were in/out, and fully sated in less than 90 minutes. Charlie’s attracts a very mixed crowd of blue-hairs from the neighborhood, students, and people that are just plain lost and stumble in.
When you walk in, you think you might be in the wrong place, as you see a small bar on your left, the kitchen in front of you, and no tables in site. But you’ll quickly be shown a table, and the rest of the evening’s enjoyment is left to you.
The restaurant is short on ambience, but big on quality and flavor, and, after all, isn’t that what we are paying for?
Charlie’s is off Napoleon, right behind Pascal’s Manale… Lunch Tue-Fri, dinner, Tue-Sat. 4510 Dryades Street. 504-895-9705 . No reservations. Casual. Off street parking available.