1160 Williston Road, South Burlington 802-862-1211
We all know the story — friends who have known each other for a decade suddenly realize it's love. While I've always enjoyed what I've had with Charlie's (still known as Chicken Charlie's to most of us), we recently took it to the next level. And it's serious: I've eaten there three times in the last three weeks.
Why the change? This is going to sound stupid, but even though the place specializes in rotisserie chicken, I had never ordered it. A few weeks ago, that changed. I had an intense pollo a la brasa craving, and though I knew I couldn't get the Peruvian bird in Burlington, I figured Charlie's would be the next best thing. It easily surpassed my expectations.
The half chicken that I tried was juicy inside, but it was the crisp, fantastically seasoned skin that made the dish. I don't usually go crazy for the taste of unadorned poultry, preferring it as a vessel for sauces. Not this one. Though it's great dipped in a little bit of the sweet and slightly creamy-tasting housemade balsamic vinaigrette I put on my salad, anything else simply overwhelms the delicious natural flavor.
I like to forgo the coleslaw and starch (and the tomato-soup-like concoction called "Charlie's Gravy") in favor of a big, fresh salad, with a tub of the aforementioned balsamic dressing on the side. No brown fast food lettuce here — everything is fresh and flavorful. Even the tomatoes, so often tasteless even at high-end restaurants, have a strong, properly tomato-y flavor.
Last night, I was really hungry, and decided to spring for ribs with my chicken. According to the menu, I was getting four meaty baby back bones with my quarter chicken for $13.49. It turned out to be six-and-a-half bones, which would probably cost $13.49 on their own most places. They were tender inside with a light layer of crisp char outside, and once again, surpassed my expectations. The tomato-based, sweet-and-tangy sauce brushed on them was nice, too.
My feelings have also been sparked anew by the jumbo tenders. Most really flavorful fried chicken is speckled with herbs and pepper. Not at Charlie's, where the light breading is a pure amber color. I don't know why the meat tastes so great, but I suspect a brine. Whatever the answer, the things are addictive. No matter how many I get I want more, and once again, I think they taste better without sauce. It must be love.