Charlie’s Bar & Grill, 3519 Plainfield NE - 2/4/2010
Another recommendation from a friend for a humble, neighborhood restaurant/bar, Charlie’s was a great suggestion. When we walked in, there were two people at the small bar, and two other booths occupied (the side booth at the back of the restaurant contained a creepy-looking young man who unabashedly gawked at us with his mouth open for about five minutes - we dubbed him tomorrow’s pedophile, sorry; he was known to the server and was later joined by an older, heavier version of himself). The slightly curved bar in the front is sweet, made more intimate by half walls that hide a couple of booths. I liked the neon sign and stripes but my younger companion thought they were cheesy.
The dining area has booths along both side walls: on the left are five standard booths, finished off with booth seating/tables (where our “friend” was located). The opposite wall had four “gangster” booths (curved booths that can hold much heft and comraderie - we watch a lot of movies), with a mirrored wall. About 11 tables fill up the rest of the dining area. Other than the wall holding the standard booths, which is yellow, everything else is black, including the ceiling. So it’s dark and atmospheric (difficult for taking pictures surreptitiously without a flash - looking for a 007 pen-camera). The ubiquitous Keno is there along with two TVs in the main dining area and one in the bar.
It’s a big menu - sixteen appetizers to choose from and we picked the Maryland Crab Cakes. Served with roasted red pepper aioli and a shriveled lemon slice, with one cake broken apart, they weren’t pretty but they were great (they are better than those served at the Ada Grille, night-time version of the Schnitz in Ada). The one server/bartender in the place was friendly and helpful.
Along with the sixteen appetizers (3.29-7.99), there are four wraps (6.79-7.79), seven Mondo Burgers (5.99-7.99), twelve Sandwiches (6.99-7.79), five Baskets (7.99-9.99), seven Mexican Fare entrees (7.99-9.99), ten general entrees (9.99-16.99), and soup and salads (3.99-8.99).
Our main selections consisted of one of the specials, “home-made” beef stew, and a “what the cluck burger”. The beef stew came along with a slice of toasted garlic bread and the stew was just like what “my Mom used to make” - really. Tender beef slow-cooked with potatoes, carrots, and onions made a nice hearty meal. And the burger was beautiful: 1/3 lb ground beef, American cheese, bacon, lettuce, mayo and a fried egg, yoke unbroken; the unbroken yoke is the problem. The sandwich becomes very messy to eat as the yoke breaks. More napkins needed but a tasty burger. Skinny fries ok but unremarkable. Our final tab with tip was just under $34.00.
This is a good northeast neighborhood find - we would have never stopped in there based on the unassuming frontage and lack of website. But we’re glad we did.