NYCReview

photo credit: David A. Lee

Charles Pan-Fried Chicken review image
7.7

Charles Pan-Fried Chicken

$$$$

146 W 72nd St, New York
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As soon as you step inside Charles Pan-Fried Chicken, you’ll hear an enthusiastic “Welcome” as well as random shouts of “Saucy” or “Oooooh” from the people behind the counter. This ritual is part of their employee handbook, but it still makes us smile.

You’ll likely come here for their namesake item, but there’s a lot more than chicken on the menu. The Upper West Side outpost of this popular restaurant (which started in Harlem decades ago) will satisfy your soul food craving whenever it hits.

David A. Lee

Charles Pan-Fried Chicken review image

The fried chicken at Charles Pan is famously made in a cast iron skillet rather than a deep fryer, and the meat comes out tender, juicy, and somehow never that greasy. Plenty of other options like pork ribs and humongous turkey wings smothered in brown gravy are available—and if you’re the type of person who lives for sides, welcome to your happy place. There are more than 10 kinds to choose from, including buttery grits and collards that taste like they’ve been cooked down for as many hours as you did actual work today. (Okay, maybe even more than that.)

There’s nowhere to sit here, so you’ll have to eat elsewhere. Plan a walk to the Strawberry Fields (about 15 minutes away), and if you hear someone shout “I got that cornbread” before you head out, get excited. Grab a few hot squares from a fresh batch—it might be the best cornbread in the city.

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Food Rundown

David A. Lee

Charles Pan-Fried Chicken review image

Fried Chicken

Come here with a go-with-the-flow attitude because you’ll have to take whatever pieces are in the current pan-fried batch. (You might get five wings or three breasts in a 10-piece meal.) But you can also order pieces à la carte if you must have those drums. The crust has relatively unremarkable seasoning, but the meat is succulent.

David A. Lee

Charles Pan-Fried Chicken review image

Cornbread

This moist cornbread is closer to a slice of cake than it is to the crumbly, dry squares you find at a lot of places. Lucky for you, you'll get some automatically with almost anything you order here.

David A. Lee

Charles Pan-Fried Chicken review image

Smothered Turkey Wings

It’s entirely possible that you only eat turkey once a year, so we want to remind you that turkey wings are huge. That means it takes a ton of brown gravy to properly smother them. We love pouring some over white rice or grits and tossing in shreds of turkey meat and fatty pieces of skin.

David A. Lee

Charles Pan-Fried Chicken review image

Barbecue Smoked Ribs

All the meat is tender here, but none more so than the ribs. The meat slides right off the bones, and if you have any potato rolls at home, you can make yourself a pretty amazing sandwich. The ribs are plenty sweet and peppery on their own, so we suggest getting the thick and tangy BBQ sauce on the side.

David A. Lee

Charles Pan-Fried Chicken review image

Baked Mac & Cheese

You’ll see this on the menu and most likely order it reflexively. But this mac and cheese tastes dry overall, and the pasta is mushy. We’d order every other side dish in this rundown before this one.

David A. Lee

Charles Pan-Fried Chicken review image

Black Eyed Peas

Each little bean has a slightly crunchy, hard shell, which is a nice contrast to the mushy inside part. There’s not a ton of salt used, so you can really taste the subtle sweetness of the black eyed peas.

David A. Lee

Charles Pan-Fried Chicken review image

Collard Greens

You probably don’t walk into a place and ask, “What do you have that’s bland?” So we’re going to guess you like deeply flavorful things like these collards. Make them a part of any order.

Grits

The creamy grits are great on their own, but when they start to stiffen after cooling a bit, mix in some sides (like okra, black eyed peas, or collards) or gravy from one of the smothered dishes.

David A. Lee

Charles Pan-Fried Chicken review image

Banana Pudding

The consistency of this pudding is a little gritty, and we wish it was creamier. You should skip this dessert and go for an extra side instead.

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