Monday, June 29, 2009

Boston's Best . 1 - Charlie's

Breakfast is a meal that's been disappearing from the American scene. Fast food nation's breakfast sandwiches and other prefab offerings, cold cereal and protein shakes are not breakfast. Although in New England pie is, of course.

Charlie's Sandwich Shoppe at 429 Columbus Avenue in the South End serves no pies, but they do serve up the best breakfast in Boston, and maybe the world. Says who? James Beard and Julia Child for starters.

Charlie's looks much the same as the day it first opened its doors in 1927. Just check out the wall of photos that spans the rank of tables. Down to the wooden refrigerator, probably the same one. The staff - well we won't go there - but they all have many miles in this Majourides family operation. But the food couldn't be fresher or more up-to-date, maintaining the quality that Charlie Majourides, formerly a chef at the Statler Hotel, insisted upon.

Omelettes, what could be simpler? But most places get them wrong and are inconsistent. Chris and Arthur, the line chefs, nail them every time. Light, fluffy 3-egg monsters with a choice of 9 fillings, served with toast, home fries and salad. One of those and forget lunch, you're set until dinner. The home fries, something I usually push aside, are excellent - handmade, large-cut, pan fried and not greasy.

The coffee's good, a nice light roast, urn-made. They offer year-around ice coffee as well. Water is self-serve at the back of the dining area, by which there's a small hand washing sink. There's a selection of juices, sodas and spring waters.

Breakfast is served all day, but this is a Sandwich Shoppe and Charlie's has almost 40 offerings, from BLT to Western. Just about everything on the menu is also available during breakfast hours, which I consider to be the sign of an advanced civilization.

Soups, another vanishing species and one that few get right, consist of a daily special or two, with chili and clam chowder being almost daily staples. Gumbo and jambalaya have begun appearing regularly. But face it, Greeks aren't Cajuns and they just don't know. Arthur - less hot sauce (too much vinegar taste), use fresh hot peppers to help bring on the heat.

The fish is always fresh (unfrozen) and offered in a half dozen ways: Fish and Chips, Baked Haddock and Clam Roll among them. Salads include: Greek, Chicken Caeser, a Cold Salad Plate and a side Tossed Salad.

The lunch entrees are enormous, somewhat variable and pricey - mostly $10.00 and up. If I finish them, I usually feel logy for the rest of the day. These are portions for lumberjacks. And they're OK, but a bit much for the rest of us. Roast Pork, New York Sirloin, Baked Haddock and Meatloaf are among the standouts, served with appropriate sides. If cornbread is among them, ask that it not be toasted on the grill, it absorbs the flavor of everything that's been cooked on there for the last 82 years.

Charlie's Sandwich Shoppe ...
429 Columbus Avenue - 3 blocks directly behind the Prudential Center.
The South End - Boston, Massacusetts 02116.
Phone: 617-536-7669. Take-uut available.
Monday to Friday, 6:00 AM - 2:30 PM. Saturday, 7:30 AM - 1:00 PM. Closed Sundays.
Cash only, no credit cards or checks accepted.
No restroom facilities. Closest available are in the Prudential Center.

Image ... Charlie's Sandwich Shoppe, Boston.