I love Valentine's Day. Not for the cards, nor chocolate, nor flowers. I get none of these things. Instead, every year on February 14th, I get a delicious fried chicken dinner with beer. This tradition started about 6 years ago humbly at KFC. It progressed from there to Bon Chon, to Hill Country Chicken, and now to Charles' Country Pan Fried Chicken. Oh yes, that place that seems to appear on every top 5 NYC fried chicken joint. The only caveat is that it's all the way up in Harlem. But why let location keep me away from some really delicious food?
We drove up and parked a block away. My anticipation was overwhelming at this point. So when I walk in, I felt immediately happy. The place is really small. Only 4 tables are available (two 2-tops, and two 4-tops). At the counter, on the left was the fried chicken sitting in a warming shelf. The white meat and dark meat were separated. The other meat and sides sit in chafing dishes on the right. That night, they offered: ribs, bbq chicken, smothered pork chops, smothered turkey wings, and roasted chicken. As for sides, they had candied yams, collard greens, white rice, black eyed peas, succotash, lima beans, mac n cheese, and corn bread. You can have all of this as an all you can eat buffet for $14 during dinner time. Yes, everything for $14. This buffet also includes all you can drink lemonade, iced tea, water, or soda. Oh and don't forget about dessert which is banana pudding. This at the very least was a steal.
The chicken was well fried in every aspect. The meat was tender and juicy while the skin was thin, crispy, and greaseless. This was one very well made chicken. Perfectly seasoned, and cooked to greatness. The skin didn't fall off in one bite. It held onto the meat so every bite was both meat and skin. Greatness indeed. The mac n cheese was also very good. The balance of cheese and pasta was spot on. But most of all, the pasta was not mushy. Nope, it was actually al dente. The collards, as with the rest of the meal, was really good. It wasn't mushy and held its texture well. The flavor was savory and porky with some natural vegetable bitterness to balance it out. The corn bread was the only thing that fell short on this plate. It was more cake like than corn bread like. But Mr. M&P certainly liked it. Speaking of Mr. M&P, he had a very similar starting plate. But instead of collard greens, he had white rice with turkey gravy. On man, that turkey gravy. It was really, really good.
We ended our meal with some banana pudding. It came cold from the refrigerator with two forks. We only asked for one small serving to share. The waitress gave us more than enough. She did the same throughout the night. In fact, she did it for every customer that came in that night. I happily tipped her well. Now back to the banana pudding; it was just okay. I'm not a huge pudding person but I wanted to try it. The flavor was nice with the fruity pudding pairing well with the sweet cake. Even Mr. M&P took seconds and thirds of this. And he hates bananas. Though I only thought it was okay, I wouldn't mind eating this again.
Charles Country Pan Fried Chicken
2839 Frederick Douglass Boulevard
New York, NY 10039