Charlie’s Sandwich Shoppe is my go-to breakfast place in Boston. Although my first visit was in 2003, I’ve only been a regular since 2011 (if visiting at least once during my annual trip to Boston makes me a regular that is!), which is when I started staying in Boston’s South End. Charlie’s is the quintessential family-run American diner, although it’s now in the hands of local chef, Evan Deluty. It’s so much a fixture of the neighbourhood that it’s even got its own Wikipedia page!
To the detriment of my waist-line, I’ve always been a fan of American breakfasts: fluffy, buttermilk griddle cakes, smothered in maple syrup; a plate full of eggs, fried potatoes with a couple of slices of toast; there are reasons why I put on half a stone whenever I go to America.
Charlie’s supplies these in abundance, along with bags of friendly atmosphere. It’s best experienced sitting on a bar-stool at the counter with a mug of coffee and enough food to last you for the day. There you can watch the regulars come and go, read the Boston Globe, or, increasingly these days, browse your smartphone or tablet. Not that Charlie’s has succumbed to the lure of wifi just yet…
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
I first came across Charlie’s Sandwich Shoppe in 2003. It had had a great write-up in the Lonely Planet, but back then, I didn’t have the same appreciation of American Diners that I do now. So, frankly, I was slightly disappointed: no restrooms, cash only, very old fashioned. Never fear though, Charlie’s soon won me over.
I’ve wanted to write about Charlie’s even before I started the Coffee Spot, but the draw here really is the breakfast rather than the coffee and I never felt entirely comfortable putting it in as a Coffee Spot. However, as a Saturday Supplement, Charlie’s is a perfect fit. Indeed, it was one of the main motivations behind starting the Supplement in the first place!
Charlie’s has been on the same spot on Columbus Avenue since 1927, serving good, old-fashioned diner food, and mountains of it, to the folks of the South End. And the occasional tourist such as myself. Now it’s my default breakfast spot when in Boston, save for the occasional trip to the South End Buttery or Render Coffee when I need a break!
Charlie’s was very much a family business, having been in the hands of the Manjourides family since it was set up in 1927 in partnership with a man called Charlie, after whom it’s named. In 2014, however, the current generation retired and local chef, Evan Deluty, took it over, necessitating Charlie’s closure for a complete refit. It was 18 months before Charlie’s was able to re-open its doors in January 2016.
Despite the refit, Charlie would probably still recognise the place, since many of the fixtures and fittings haven’t changed much over the years, although my favourite, the ice-box, is now gone. A wooden affair which sat at the far end of the counter since 1927, its glass doors and brass hinges and fittings have at least been reused as a picture frame on the wall!
I love everything about Charlie’s. It’s long and thin, with the counter running down the left-hand side, the griddle/range in plain view against the wall. My favourite spot is perched at the counter on one of the red-topped bar stools which date back to the 1930s. If you’re lucky, you can sit watching the chefs work the griddle, making Charlie’s famous griddle cakes..
Alternatively, there are several four-person tables on the right-hand side, including one in an alcove in the wall, at the back of which is the picture frame made from the old ice-box. Although quite thin, the alcove makes Charlie’s feel that much bigger, while mirrors on the back wall give it an even greater sense of depth.
I’ve only ever been in for breakfast. My usual favourite is two eggs, poached, on wheat toast with home fries and a single griddle cake on the side. The griddle cake, for the uninitiated, is a pancake, but made on a griddle, not a pan (although there’s plenty of pancakes made on griddles these days, so let’s not get hung up on nomenclature). The extra griddle cake is overkill, of course, but they’re so good, light and fluffy, that I really couldn’t go there and not have one. The alternative is to have a stack of three, and skip the eggs, but these days I don’t think my system could take it…
February 2016: This is an updated version of the original post I made in July 2013. Back in June 2015 I thought that Charlie’s Sandwich Shoppe had closed for good, but fortunately I overstated the case! It had merely been closed for 18 months for a refurbishment, which you can read all about, along with how Charlie’s came to be closed and then rescued, in my Coffee Spot Update, which I wrote a month after Charlie’s re-opened.
|429 COLUMBUS AVE • BOSTON • MA 02116 • USA|
|+1 617 536 7669|
|Monday||07:00 – 15.00||Roaster||N/A|
|Tuesday||07:00 – 15.00||Seating||Counter, Tables|
|Wednesday||07:00 – 15.00||Food||Breakfast, Lunch|
|Thursday||07:00 – 15.00||Service||Table|
|Friday||07:00 – 15.00||Cards||Cash Only|
|Saturday||07:00 – 15.00||Wifi||No|
|Sunday||07:00 – 15.00||Power||No|
|Chain||No||Visits||Original: 26th, 28th February 2013|
|Update: 23rd February 2016|
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