I’ve been to a million brunches in Boston before – it is a city that knows brunch and does it well. Any neighborhood will be dotted with Saturday- and Sunday-morning lineups of young people in Red Sox hats outside, waiting for their omelette, coffee, and OJ.
My friends always lived on the north side of the river, so we never really headed over to the Back Bay for brunch and I didn’t know where I was going to go that was near my hotel. Thankfully, I had picked up the Wallpaper City Guide for Boston, and its “24-hours” (in Boston) section started with breakfast at Charlie’s. The guide ended the blurb on Charlie’s with “After all, any eaterie that has been in business since 1927 must be doing something right’ – that was good enough for me, and as it was only a 10-minute walk from the Back Bay Sheraton, we headed over for a bite.
Got there at about 10am, and there was a lineup – but within 20 minutes, we were inside. Inside at Charlie’s is pretty rustic, or I think the more polite way to say it would be ‘well-loved’. With the numerous pictures of famous local and international celebrities on the walls, it was apparent that we were in a neighborhood landmark. There are a few tables in the place and a long counter – and they will seat smaller groups together, communal-style at the tables. i actually enjoy this – we were jointed by two visitors from Belgium and two from Texas, and while Charlie’s obviously attracts its share of tourists, it still has that ‘neighborhood greasy-spoon’ feel to it – a good thing.
M ordered the broccoli and cheese omelette and I ordered Charlie’s famous Turkey Hash. Both came with toast – your choice of white, wheat or rye. The omelette came with salad and fried potatoes, and the turkey hash came with a couple of eggs on top.
A lot of neighborhood greasy-spoon places look great, or are charming, or are just the nearest place to eat, but a lot of them don’t have particularly great food (the Senator in Toronto comes to mind, it’s challah toast excepted). At Charlie’s, actually the food was pretty darn good. The Turkey hash is a dark brown slab of potatoes, onions, lots of turkey, and a few other unidentifiable but delicious ingredients. The eggs on top were perfect sunny-side-up (as I had ordered). I’d order this any time. The omelette was huge, thick but light, with big chunks of broccoli and that marvel and evil, processed cheese – but it was good. The fried chunks of potatoes (home fries? hash browns? I’m not sure) would have been just what the doctor ordered if the night before had been a bit later with a lot more beer.
Service was friendly and quick; I ordered an OJ which was huge, and the coffee was half-decent. The place is a bit noisy, but you don’t mind as the food is great, everyone is friendly, and a lot of regulars come in and get a warm reception from the staff.
Bottom line: Charlie’s is great. For lack of a better analogy, it’s like a much-loved recliner or baseball hat that fits perfectly and you know what to expect. It’s a friendly place that’s as authentic a neighborhood greasy spoon as you’ll ever find, and the food will fill your belly and get your Saturday off to a great start. It’s been open since 1927 because it does what every restaurant should strive to do: it serves good food, serves it fast, and it’s worth the price.
$30 breakfast for two including tax and tip with 2 coffees, 1 large OJ, 2 waters, an omelette and the turkey hash. Expect to wait if you come after 10am.
Charlie’s Sandwich Shoppe
429 Columbus Ave
Boston, MA 02116-5959
Tel: (617) 536-7669