Charles' Country Pan Fried Chicken isn't necessarily the kind of restaurant that's trendy in Harlem right now, offering, say, a fried-chicken-and-waffle brunch with bottomless mimosas and maybe some jazz on the side. It's a modest but busy takeout joint with a handful of basic tables for those who prefer to stay in.
But that doesn't mean you shouldn't go. Quite the opposite. Last month Charles Gabriel, the legend behind this old-school soul food spot, was named as a semi-finalist in the James Beard Awards' Best Chef in New York City category. To understand what a big deal this is, you only have to look at the list of fellow nominees, which includes chefs from critical darlings such as Estela, Upland and Contra.
Of course, the prestigious James Beard Foundation isn't the first to notice Gabriel's talents. The chef has become a culinary-world icon for the chicken he pan-fries in batches of 20 according to his mother's recipe. "When you have chicken in a deep fryer, you cook the flavor out of it,” he explained in a New Yorker piece called "The Fried-Chicken King of Harlem" a few years ago. “This here? It can breathe.”
The small restaurant, which moved to its current location at 2461 Frederick Douglass Boulevard near West 132nd Street a few years ago, is open all week long, so you can swing by day or evening for a taste of Gabriel's crusty-on-the-outside, juicy-on-the-inside, perfectly seasoned fried chicken, which comes with sides such as collard greens, yams and macaroni and cheese. Eat your order there or take it to go–either way, it's a Southern home-style meal that's sure to bring you real comfort and joy.