Harlem Buffetaissance: Lunch at Charles Southern Kitchen

March 26, 2005 | By | COMMENTS

Meet David and Rebecca. David is an actor whose show “Mama’s Knishes” features him in your kitchen, dressed as his great grandmother cooking knishes for you and telling stories from the past. You can read about it on his website, Knish.org. (Check out the praise from The Wall Street Journal–it even has a cartoon of David!) I’m trying to convince him to perform it for me and my classmates. If he does, I promise to tell you all about it.

He and his friend Rebecca met me today at Macy’s on 34th Street where we boarded the D train and headed up to Harlem. David and Rebecca are big fans of the site and they wanted to take me somewhere I’d never been before. David settled upon Charles Southern Kitchen, reputed to have the best fried chicken in New York. I said I was game and up we went.

Here they are, David and Rebecca, in front of CSK:

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David knew a great deal about the area. We were near the old Polo Grounds he said. “Oh, where the Dodgers used to play?” I asked.

“No! The Giants!!” he responded calmly.

Inside Charles, there’s just a few tables, a TV playing soap operas, a fridge with sweet tea and lemonade and this buffet:

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The menus are matted to the table and are pretty straightforward: lunch buffet, all you can eat, complete with drink: $10. A good deal if I ever heard one!

I loaded up my plate and got some sweet tea. It was great to have sweet tea—that’s in my Top Five things I miss most about Atlanta. And here’s the plate I made for myself:

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Starting at 12 o’clock we have collard greens treated with smoked turkey. I didn’t care for it–it was a truly unusual flavor–but I appreciated its unusualness. Then, at 2 o’clock, my hands-down favorite: the candied yams. The yams weren’t soaked in sweetness, they were just sweet with hints of spice to them. They were terrific.

The chicken was top-notch. It wasn’t hot and that takes it down a slot for me, but in terms of New York fried chicken it’s among the best I’ve had. (Ok, I haven’t had much fried chicken in New York, but still…)

The mac and cheese was maccy and cheesy. We all enjoyed it.

The atmosphere was friendly and unique. We laughed as a soap opera played overhead, though one of the waitresses watched it with rapt attention. When Rebecca went to the bathroom, a man held the door for her and said: “Welcome to the bathroom!”

On the walk back to the subway, we saw a dead cat. That was depressing. Otherwise, I enjoyed some of the sites of Harlem. Like Jackie Robinson park—that’s a neat complex. On the train back, an Asian woman came on with a Bible and told us it was Good Friday and that Jesus died for our sins and that we should follow his word. I mulled it over.

No, the Asian woman didn’t convert me on the train. But the fried chicken? And the candied yams? They may have done the trick. Praise Da Lord! And thanks David and Rebecca for taking me up there!

Categories: Harlem, Manhattan, New York, Restaurant Reviews

  • SLOLindsay

    Happy Easter, Adam — that meal looks delicious, no matter what you’re celebrating. Mac and cheese…mmm.

  • Seanchai

    You and and David have to be careful or you will lose all of your hard earned NYC street cred. The Polo Grounds was the home park of the old New York Giants (now SF Giants). Ebbets Field was the home of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Crucial info if you want to pass as a native!

  • http://www.amateurgourmet.com The Amateur Gourmet

    Oh no! David said that! He said giants! I better change that right away!