Charlie’s Sandwich Shoppe, the quintessential family-run American diner, had been in the Manjourides family since it opened in 1927, serving the people of the South End from 429 Columbus Avenue. I discovered Charlie’s in 2003 and when, in recent years, I started to stay in the South End, it became my go-to breakfast place, dishing up my favourite staples of poached eggs, home fries and griddle cakes.
I wrote about Charlie’s Sandwich Shoppe in 2013, visiting again in 2014. However, towards the end of that year, I heard troubling rumours that Charlie’s had closed. It was only when I returned to Boston in June 2015 that I was able to confirm it for myself. I swung by in the vain hope that it would be open but it was well-and-truly shut, although deep inside I heard sounds of construction. Disappointed, I went on my way, ending up in the nearby Render Coffee.
However, when I returned this year, I was once again walking down to Render, and, instead of finding the empty shell of Charlie’s, or something new in its place, there was Charlie’s itself, looking superficially very much as it had year after year. Intrigued, I stepped inside.
You can see what I found after the gallery.
As it turned out, when I swung by in 2015, the demise of Charlie’s Sandwich Shoppe had been over-stated. Rather than having closed for good, it was merely sleeping, undergoing a thorough and extensive refit, to re-open at the end of January this year (itself a big enough story to make the Boston Globe). I learnt all this when I walked in the door and sat down at the counter on, I believe, one of the original 1930s bar stools, first of all talking with the staff and then with the new owner, local chef, Evan Deluty.
Superficially, not a lot at Charlie’s has changed. The layout is essentially the same: long and thin, the tables are still on the right, while the counter and its historic bar-stools remain on the left, the griddle/range behind the counter itself. However, look a little more closely and you’ll see a host of changes. The kitchen has been totally ripped out and replaced. The counter itself is new as well, while there’s a shiny new ceiling and some lovely lighting. The old mirror at the counter’s end has been replaced by a new set of mirrors and, down the right hand-side, things have been opened up. The heavy pillars have been replaced by thin ones and there’s even an alcove in the right-hand wall, allowing another table to be slipped in. All-in-all, the refit’s managed the trick of actually providing more seating while seeming to be less crowded. There’s even a restroom now!
Talking to Evan, the story is even more dramatic. The Manjourides family retired in 2014, Evan buying the business and undertaking an essential refit. This ended up taking a full 18 months and involved totally gutting the interior, replacing all the wiring and plumbing. The ceiling even collapsed during the process! Having learnt everything that had gone on, I’m impressed that Evan and his team managed to get it as close as they did to the original Charlie’s.
However, keeping the look and feel of the old Charlie’s is one thing, but what about the food? Well, I’m happy to report that this too is just as it should be, the menu essentially unchanged since Charlie’s closed in 2014. On my return, I planted myself at my favourite spot, on a bar stool at the counter, just across from the griddle, and indulged myself with my usual: two eggs, poached, on wheat toast with home fries and a single griddle cake on the side. The griddle cake is overkill, of course, but they’re so good, light and fluffy, that I really couldn’t not have one.
Relax, Boston, Charlie’s Sandwich Shoppe is well and truly back!
|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|
If you enjoyed this Coffee Spot, then take a look at the rest of Boston’s speciality coffee scene with the Coffee Spot Guide to Boston and Cambridge.
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