One of my best friends in high school lived in historic Ferger Place, so I have driven up and down Main Street — the part not currently undergoing an impressive renaissance — for almost four decades, and seeing any new growth there is pretty great.
I try to frequent The Spot in the space once occupied by the Ladies of Charities resale shop, where I bought all of the shirts and ties for school, as often as possible. I was happy to see that the old Charlie's Quick Stop had reopened as a barbecue joint. The restaurant is directly across from Eastside Elementary School.
If the line that was out the door on the day I showed up is any indication, I'd venture to say others were happy as well. In fact, I overheard several customers thank owners Wes Agee, his fiance, Elizabeth St. Clair, and their co-owner, Stacey Anderson, for opening the place. This was before they'd eaten.
If you go
› What: Charlies BBQ & Bakery, 2309 E. Main St.
› Hours: 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Saturday, closed Sunday
› Prices: $3.09 for sandwiches served with slaw, mayo and pickle to $16.99 for a full slab of ribs by the pound; dinner deals available
› Phone: 423-541-1500
Now, that I've eaten, I want to thank them myself and welcome them to the neighborhood, so to speak.
This was a last-minute decision for me, as I'd only heard of the place the day before. I was in a hurry to get something to eat, it was close and it was my turn to review a new restaurant. When I mentioned it out loud, a co-worker was ready add her order to the to-go lunch, so this was perfect.
Charlies offers pulled pork and smoked pulled-chicken sandwiches for $3.09, and a sliced beef brisket for $3.49. Each comes with slaw, mayo and pickle. This is what my co-worker wanted. More on that later.
They also offer the same as a plate, adding two sides and a drink for another $3. For a little more, you can upsize the plates to 1/3 pound for about a dollar more. These larger plates also have smoked leg quarter ($7.99), and rib options ($8.99).
For another dollar, you can buy by the pound and a full slab of ribs is $16.99 per pound.
From the bakery, you can order chess pie, which is available for $10.99 whole or $1.50 by the slice; cobbler of the day for $21.99 whole, $10.99 half or $1.50 slice; or cookies of the day for $1.69.
As I said, my co-worker wanted just a sandwich with the slaw on the sandwich and not on the side. I had no idea what I wanted upon standing in line looking up at the big board with all of the choices, but then a voice from above gave me the answers.
Actually, it was a really tall guy in front of me who asked if he could get a combo plate. Genius.
I ordered pulled pork, chicken and brisket, as well as potato salad and baked beans. I was later told they were out of chicken, so I opted for the ribs, which is what I should have gotten in the first place. I have panic issues when actually at the register and it's time to order. No idea why.
I also ordered a slice of chess pie, because, well, when do you get to have a slice of chess pie?
Since I'd gotten there during a rush, and the place was open about a week, I expected to wait. I was surprised when my order came out in about seven or eight minutes, and I was on my way. It wasn't until I got back to the office that I realize I'd been shorted the sandwich.
I've worked in restaurants, including new ones, so here's my take on that: Things happen. It's how you respond.
I went back and explained the situation. They were very nice and asked if I wanted sides. I explained it was not my order and my co-worker had asked only for the sandwich, but I was sent back with a nice serving of baked beans, cole slaw and potato salad.
That's how you handle that.
Settling in to eat, I was about five minutes in when I realized two things: One, I needed to breath, and two, I'd never be able to finish any of it. Each of the protein servings was more than enough on their own. As a trio, well, I'm pretty sure I'm still having the leftovers in some fashion tonight.
The baked beans have big slivers of pork in them and the potato salad was the way I like it, which means not a lot of onion and not too soggy from too much mayonnaise. I also got the hot sauces, which you get yourself from the sauce station. Don't forget that if you get a to-go order.
The meats were delicious, and there was plenty of it. I imagine some of that might change as the staff gets settled in.
It's an old grocery story, and the new owners have tried to keep much of the character. Vintage vinyl 45s and LPs hang alongside old gas station signs and rusted parts of old automobiles. Classic rock from Elvis to Neil Diamond plays through the speakers inside the cinderblock building.
The conversation pieces are the old glass cooler doors that separate the counter and the cooking area. The staff use the four doors to communicate with the cooks and customers get to watch the action. It's different and cool.
Outside are several picnic tables. This past week was a great time to finally dine al fresco, and the big group of co-workers in front of me took advantage.
We had a hiccup, but it was handled. Everyone was very helpful and seemed genuinely thrilled to be there. As were the customers. I'm looking forward to my next visit.
Contact Barry Courter at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6354.