After much prodding from friends, relatives and colleagues to check out Charlie?s, we finally decided to head out to Kapitolyo, Pasig to give the burger joint a try. And given the volume of recommendations we?ve received, expectations were set remarkably high.
Upon pulling up to Charlie?s, we notice the obvious disconnect between the establishment and its location. Imagine a gourmet burger joint serving Stella Artois nestled within a car wash place (we kid you not, inside!), inside an un-gated middle-crust residential community. We reckon that Charlie?s target audience is composed of either Kapitolyo-based pedestrians or chauffeur-driven diners; because parking here is not just a challenge, it?s a reason to grab a Quarter Pounder instead. Upping the risk factor is the fact that these parts are notorious for petty thieves who break into cars in search of laptops, cameras and other gadgets. So, unless your vehicle is one that thieves would not take an interest in, we suggest that you have your car washed instead of parking along the street.
Looking at the other tables, the Black Angus burger with fries is an apparent favorite. This arrives on the table in a basket, with melted cheese peeking out from within the bun, and loads of fresh tomatoes, onions and lettuce stacked liberally on top of the patty. The burger itself is delicious, but not out-of-this-world extraordinary. The meat is tender and flavorful, but dry. And, being the burger-smooshers that we are, we were mildly disappointed when the patty broke after pressing down the bun. Surprisingly, what makes this dish worth it are the French fries. Delightfully salty and spicy, thick, greasy, unpeeled, and made from real potatoes, it?s the fries that make the basket worth 150 Pesos. Now, saying that the fries are better than the burger itself? that says a lot.
Black Angus Burger w/ Fries
Not limited to beef burgers, Charlie?s kitchen whips out a variety of other diner favorites such as fish and chips, philly cheesesteaks, buffalo wings and gourmet chicken burgers. Charlie?s serves vegan-friendly Portobello mushroom burgers too.
Gourmet Chicken Burger with Spicy Fries
The gourmet chicken burger, as with the beef burgers, has a chicken patty coated with melted cheese and the standard burger accoutrements. The patty is a disc of ground meat blended with spices and God knows what else, which, to be honest, caught us by surprise, as we were expecting a solid fillet of chicken breast instead of processed meat. Perhaps the burger was deliberately designed this way so that the meat could be flavored well, but given the 150 Peso tag attached to the dish, we were looking forward to the real thing. And, as with the beef burgers, it is the fries that make the dish ? salty, spicy, thick-cut and greasy. We?d pay fifty bucks for the fries, but that doesn?t necessarily mean we?d shell out a hundred bucks for the burger.
Spicy Buffalo Chicken Wings w/ Blue Cheese Dip and Veggie Sticks
If there?s anything in Charlie?s that would make us risk losing our cars and go back, it would be the buffalo wings. The buffalo wings come in varying levels of spicy-ness -- nuclear, hot, and for those with smaller thresholds for heat, sweet honey dijon. Since our tastebuds tend to favor heat, we tried the hot sauce, which made the wings sufficiently spicy and tangy. Without tasting entirely like Tabasco, the wings are juicy, plump and meaty, unlike the snipes most restaurants pass off as chickens. The ranch dip is smooth and cool, so it cuts the heat of the wings nicely. What might be a plus for some (but not so much for us) are the carrot and celery sticks served with the wings.
Being the beer lovers that we are, we were certainly knocked off our feet when we saw the fridge stocked with Stella Artois, Gordon Biersch and Flying Dog, among others. Reasonably priced at just over 100 Pesos (considering that these are foreign beers), Charlie deserves a pat on the back for understanding that the average Joe wants a good beer to go with his gourmet burger.
Like the typical fast-food establishment, Charlie?s is pretty much self-service. Don?t expect to be seated by a receptionist or your order to be taken by a waiter; instead, diners must fall in line in front of the counter to place their orders. Then, after what seems like forever or somewhere between fifteen and twenty minutes depending on your level of hunger, your order will finally be brought to your table.
With burgers at less than 200 Pesos, this is the place to go to get stuffed without burning holes through your pockets. Sure, there are probably better burger joints in Manila, and if you?ve tried In-n-Out, you?re likely to deem this place lackluster rather than satisfying. But considering the size of the burgers and their relative affordability, Charlie?s does not disappoint. After all, where else in these parts would you find a Big Mac-sized burger minus the calories and the icky greasiness of mass production?
While Charlie?s does not offer any delivery service, people may call in advance to place their orders and pick them up. This is definitely a plus for those who love the food but are less than happy about the parking conditions and the car wash setting.
It would be unfair to say that Charlie?s barely met our expectations, because the bar was set considerably high, and because the food is actually pretty good. And while we were looking forward to knock-our-socks-off burgers of the authentic American diner kind, we must admit that, looking back at the melted cheese slowly oozing out of the burger buns and the crispy fries haphazardly piled into the baskets, Charlie?s is not bad at all.
3 out of 5 salt & pepper shakers
11:00 AM ? 1:00 AM
501-0137 (pre-order for pick-up)
16 East Kapitolyo Drive, Pasig City
How to get there:
Charlie's Grind & Grill google map