Not since the chicken tender have diners demanded an upgrade of fried chicken. That de-boned development was good enough to appeal to those too hungry or too tidy to navigate the purely carnivorous act of biting through the crisp and salty breading of a fried chicken leg, or separating light from dark meat from an offering of slow-spun rotisserie. Downtown newcomer Charlee’s Chicken has textures, flavors, and sides to satisfy any chicken craving, and wet wipes on the table to take care of any unintended consequences of the interactive elements of eating its offerings.
Their chicken is dry rubbed and rotisseried, or battered and deep-fried, then doused with creative sauces that make it a standout from what you might find at any chicken shack competitors. Their signature dish is rotisserie chicken pieces served bone-in and piping hot, crisp-tender skin roasted to perfection, locking in juices that diners will want to sop up with an extra biscuit. Or, just order the biscuit and green chile gravy as one of two generously portioned sides included in your meal.
For your second side, I recommend the whole-fried okra. Unlike the competition’s okra—fried into unidentifiable oil-logged coins—this lightly fried dish still resembles the vegetable. Slightly salty, crispy on the outside but still crudite fresh, Charlee’s fried okra retains its bright-green garden hue.
This diner was admittedly out of practice in navigating bone-in chicken, but I could not put the Gangnam Style chicken down. The wing, leg, breast, and thigh were battered thick and fried, then doused with a sticky, spicy-sour sauce that met every hope I had for it. The crushed peanut topping drew out a nuance and depth of flavor to the sauce and the chicken itself. This diner will be returning to enjoy it again.
The restaurant motif is a minor remodel of previous restaurants which have come before it, located in the building just south of the Barfield on Polk. The high ceilings and spacious dining room make the rectangular structure seem even longer than it is, and the lights are bright enough to highlight menu details as well as any delicious morsels that might have been inadvertently left on your bone-in chicken. Charlee’s full bar boasts brews and liquor, plus a palate-pleasing wine selection which elevates the menu and complements their food offerings.
A note that only those of us who have spent time working in restaurants that were more pirate ship than luncheonette will recognize: The staff are helpful to customers and to each other. Upbeat as the pop hits playing in the background, enthusiastic about the flavor profiles they offer, and proud of the scratch-made food they serve, the staff seem to really like what they do. This translates into an overall friendly, welcoming and uplifting atmosphere—the real secret sauce to enjoying any dining experience. It’s what sets Charlee’s Chicken apart.