The weekend after New Year’s, when we finally got the Baby-It’s-Cold-Outside weather, was the perfect time to eat at Charlie’s Burger Bar. The restaurant is located on the grounds of the popular Mexican eatery Crab Island Cantina at HarborWalk Village.
You enter the Cantina complex, then inside another set of doors into the cozy, clubby atmosphere of the Burger Bar. There are TVs everywhere, the walls are brick, with sports, liquor, and beer signs, photos (the Blues Brothers, Archie Bunker, etc.) and assorted blue-collar touches. The bar runs all along one wall, and I counted 27 varieties of whiskey, foreign and domestic, on the menu, available in taster and standard pours, as well as in a Manhattan or Old Fashioned. There’s also an impressive selection of beer in cans, bottles and on draft. It would be a good place to stage a tasting.
I was with my wife and our soon to be five-year-old daughter Grace (the Tiny Diner). We were there for lunch, and the menu is available all day on weekends. The server seated us, brought menus and took our drink orders.
As the name indicates, the burger is the star at Charlie’s. However, there are some non-burger choices on the menu, and a meal can be made from one of the “without the bun” selections. If you came for a burger, you can choose one of the specialties, or build your own with the user-friendly five-step guide. There is also a kids’ menu, which comes with a side of crayons.
A burger is a substantial meal, but we wanted to sample one of the apps, so we ordered a plate of fried dill pickle chips. My wife and I are fans, and Charlie’s version did not disappoint. A generous portion came fresh and crunchy from the fryer, with a Chili Pao Pao Ranch dipping sauce. We ate about half, and Grace, who is conflicted about pickles, ate the spicy breading.
Other starter/bar snack options are sauteed edamame, chicken wings, funky French fries (topped with chili, jalapeno cheese, chorizo or plain cheese), baked nachos, seafood and chorizo gumbo, chili beans with ground beef and steak, iceberg wedge salad with chorizo, and chicken Caesar.
Burgers can be ordered of Angus, bison, Wagyu beef, turkey, lamb, wild boar and ostrich. We were feeling adventurous, so my wife chose bison and I decided on ostrich. TD was not feeling adventurous, so she ordered a grilled cheese. For the record, my daughter did her own ordering – for the first time in a restaurant.
I’ve had ostrich once before, but never ground. Mine came with Monterey jack, grilled mushrooms, and applewood smoked bacon, on challah with lettuce, tomato and onion. The burger was thick, cooked as ordered (medium), the challah firm and buttery, and I had to cut it in two. Ostrich is a lean meat, most flavorful cooked medium (or medium rare). There were seasoned fries on the side. Other side options are onion rings, baked beans, mac and cheese, potato salad, cole slaw, and sauteed vegetables.
The list of specialty burgers ranges from classic (with American cheese and pickles), through deli style with corned beef and sauerkraut, Carlito’s Way (with poblano, guacamole and pico de gallo), the “hammy” with ham and cheese, turkey with blue cheese, brunch style with fried egg and hash, Greek style with lamb and tzatziki, Caribbean with scotch bonnet peppers and jerk sauce, po’ boy style with andouille, and a vegetarian option of grilled portobello mushroom and sauteed spinach. There’s also a grilled chicken sandwich, roasted chicken, pork chops with apple mushroom cream sauce, and a ribeye steak.
My wife got her bison medium, custom-topped with Swiss cheese, mushrooms and sliced avocado. Like the ostrich, it was cooked as ordered. Avocado makes a fine topping for a hot burger.
Other build-your-own garnishes include American, cheddar, pepper jack or blue cheese, grilled onions, jalapenos, chili, fried egg, poblano chiles, and guacamole. Bread options include traditional, brioche, pretzel and gluten-free.
Charlie’s offers three traditional desserts – bread pudding, cheesecake and key lime pie. There are also ice cream and fruit shakes for all ages, and some for adults, with various liqueurs and spirits. We were full, with packed leftover boxes, so we skipped dessert.
TD is sometimes a picky eater at restaurants. Not this time. She made off with one-half of her sandwich, pronouncing it to be “the best grilled cheese ever.” Her praise spilled over onto the restaurant itself, continuing into the parking lot, completely unsolicited. Bingo.