Why a Famous Fried Chicken Restaurant is Coming to the UWS

Photo of a meal at Charles’ by @samkimsamkim.

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.

FOOD, NEWS, OPEN/CLOSED | 22 comments | permalink
    1. chris says:

      Yum!!!! Welcome!!!!

    2. Designaddict10023 says:

      Already drooling

    3. Gretchen Berger says:

      I’ve been to Harlem location and it’s FABULOUS. And not just the chicken, but the sides are to die for. Always worth the trip uptown!! Can’t wait to have their yardbird here in the hood.

    4. Natasha Hubshman says:

      I’ve been eating Charles Chicken for over 15 years! His MAc and cheese is also great.

    5. Tussa McGinn says:

      In moderation. It tastes better that way.

    6. PastramiBliss says:

      I welcome this gentleman to the neighborhood. Blue Marble charges $6 for one scoop the size of a ping pong ball, I walked in and out of their new spot yesterday.

      • UWSWU says:

        For whatever reason, Blue Marble only charges $8 for a pint even though the scoops are $6/7. Not sure how that works for them, but it’s a much better deal.

      • UWScathy says:

        Blue Marble is expensive, but the prices underwrite their philanthropy. Google their participation in helping women in Rwanda open an ice cream business. Not only is ice cream a rarity there, but women as entrepreneurs are even more so!

    7. Liz O. says:

      I can hardly wait for this!!! Thank you!

    8. Honest Abe says:

      Used to be able to get It at Rack and Soul on 109. Those were the days.

      • Leon says:

        That was a great spot – thanks for bringing back tasty memories!

      • chris w says:

        Rack and Soul! Happy memories. The guy who ran it was very nice but very quiet. I always worried he wasn’t plugging his own business enough.

    9. lynn says:

      Things are really looking up on that block. 🙂 Welcome to the neighborhood!

    10. ben says:

      This neighborhood could certainly use a decent fried chicken spot! I’m hyped!

    11. Patrick O'Connor says:

      This is so exciting. This is the best place to get soul food and we’re lucky to have it on the UWS.

    12. Francena James says:

      Looking forward to this . the neighborhood really this type of Restaurant.

    13. RichardW says:

      Some years ago, Charles’ Country Pan Fried Chicken, had a restaurant at 109th St., just east of Broadway. It was open for several years and then closed.

    14. geoff says:

      His original location was up by the projects at Rucker Park, I think. It’s not just his chicken that made him famous up there—wait til you taste his smothered pork chops.

      I hope this Black owned business doesn’t suffer gastronomically from such rapid expansion.

    15. Robin Randazzo says:

      One of my favorite fried chicken in NYC. My friend Pam had my surprise birthday party catered by Charles Chicken and it was totally off the hook. One time I went uptown with my kids ready to have a feast. When we got there we saw the gates getting drawn down to close.I totally lost it.. How could that be!! I snuke under the gates like a crazy women.I Proceed to discuss the situation only to find out that Charles was in the South visiting Family, and they didn’t order enough Chicken. Trust me Charles you get ONLY ONE pass card..😉

    16. Twilla Duncan says:

      Charles’ pan fried chicken and sides are truly delicious. Plus, he’s a very nice man.

    17. Rachel Dahill-Fuchel says:

      Only wish I still had my metabolism from the 70s…

      (And, yes, please…I’d love a WSR t-shirt!)