Charles' Southern Kitchen: Better than I expected
Went to Charles Southern Kitchen (2841 Frederick Douglass Blvd), a place thats gotten its fair share of hype. Wow. And for good reason. I grew up in rural south, my mom made some mean collard greans, so I have been disapointed many times here in NY. The greens, the hallmark of good southern soul food, where perfect. A bit bitter and with a hint of smokey flavour, but not loaded with salt. The fried chicken had a nice crunchy almost nutty skin, and then melt in your mouth inside. The mac and cheese was spot on. The ribs just kicked butt. It was 11 bucks for all you can eat. I almost felt guilty. I certainly felt stuffed. And now I go on my 10mile run. A sort of bodily penance. Thank god I dont have this place across the street from me, I would be well beyond 300lbs. Good to see a place live up to the hype. Oh and it was empty.
This is a repeat of my post on another thread about Charles. I ate there because of driggs review above and meant to post this here, not where I did.
I ate there on Thursday, March 15, 2007 for dinner. I was the only customer in the place between 5 and 6 PM; a Williamsburg arteest and his 3 friends from Ireland were just finishing up when I arrived. Believe the good stuff written here. I posted a review to Zagats:
HAVE FAITH -- this AYCE soul food buffet in a small, plain room -- 4 tables seating 4 and 2 seating 6 -- is excellent. The hot food is HOT and the cold food is COLD. Fried chicken is FRESH & pan fried, not deep fried. Smoked pork ribs swim in a tasty bbq sauce. Smothered turkey wings have a superior brown sauce. Collard greens and string beans, cooked and spiced well, are fresh, not canned or frozen. Cold potato salad has it all -- relish, hb eggs, celery, onions -- and love. The lemonade, also unlimited, is lemons, sugar, water -- over ice. The red velvet cake is from scratch.
What I'd add is that, even though the place is a dump, the sanitation level is very high -- cooking thermometers are out above the steam table; the temperatures of hot and cold items are regularly measured. I rarely drink sugared drinks, but beside the dishwasher in back, a counterman was juicing lemons right out of a crate, so I happily drank the lemonade. Everything tasted homemade from scratch, without taking any shortcuts -- onion flavor came from fresh onions, not onion powder or salt.
I cannot imagine having the temptation of this food so close. I thought the carrot cake was pretty good. As for the Iced tea, its been a long time since I ordered Ice tea from a southern place. I forgot how crazy sweet its made. Its a bit jarring to my NY taste buds. And to think I drank that all my youth. No wonder I went to the dentist a lot.
I live very close to Charles', and so I go a lot. I've never been when I haven't been able to sit down. Granted, we get the take out most of the time, but we pass by the buffet and it never looks like a wait. Last time I was there was a Friday night around 8:30 and it was about half full. Go now and go often!
If you like sweet tea, make sure to get that (AYCD is included in the meal). Desserts aren't so great at Charles', but if you go early enough you can go to T&J Bakery on 148th and ACP, a few blocks away for EXCELLENT dessert!