Posted on March 29, 2021 at 2:29 pm by West Sider
After a year full of tough news about local restaurants struggling and closing, the Upper West Side got some exciting news about a restaurant that was actually in expansion mode: as we reported in February, Charles’ Country Pan Fried Chicken is planning to open at at 144-146 West 72nd Street between Amsterdam and Columbus. It’s considered by many to be the best fried chicken in NYC.
Now Grubstreet has the full backstory of what convinced a famous Harlem chef to expand south. It turns out owner Charles Gabriel, 73, had kept his spot at Frederick Douglass Boulevard and 132nd Street during the pandemic. As the restaurant relied more and more on delivery, he suddenly realized he was getting a ton of interest from other areas that hadn’t ordered as much from him before.
His small shop had not only stayed open for takeout and delivery after COVID-19 hit but thrived, thanks to the rise of delivery apps and increased demand from “downtown,” a.k.a. the Upper West Side. “Business went up 400 percent,” says Eberstadt. “UberEats, love ’em or not, they do take things two miles away in a car.”
This spike in sales, combined with lower rents and the increased availability of built-out restaurant spaces, presented an opportunity for the old friends. “Everybody’s always loved his food, but it was never really established that people would like to have it delivered,” says [business partner Michael] Eberstadt. “All of a sudden, that was made abundantly clear. The bell went off, and that’s why we all decided to create this mini-chain of small Charles’s that would be entirely delivery and pickup.”
About a month ago, Gabriel’s landlord cut off the gas to his current restaurant. But Charles’ will be coming back, in a big way. He’s expecting to open around five locations with delivery and takeout only. Along with the UWS, he’s opening in Harlem on 145th and is considering a location near the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. They’re working on the UWS opening, but it probably won’t be ready before May.
One of his secrets is that he doesn’t deep-fry the chicken. And he’s going to teach the chefs at the new locations not to deep-fry it either.
He cooks up to two dozen pieces at a time in enormous 25-pound skillets, because it forces him to pay attention, to turn each piece repeatedly rather than just dump them into a deep-fryer basket and pull them out when a beeper goes off. “That’s the way my mom taught me,” says Gabriel. “She told me if I ever, you know, open up a business, don’t deep-fry — always do your chicken this way, in a frying pan. It tastes better that way: less oily, better texture, everything.” The proof is in the pan and, with luck, coming soon to a neighborhood near you.
Read the whole piece here.