The opening salvo at Charlie's, onion rings stacked higher than Tulane's Kappa Sigma house.
Want to know why New Orleans is different? For two and a half months we abuse our bodies with binge drinking and gluttonous gorging. We make poor decisions, commit multiple sins, and smoke too many cigarettes during Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's and Mardi Gras. But on Ash Wednesday and the first Friday of Lent, we have convinced ourselves that if we don't eat meat the charms and delights of heaven, nirvana, or the fields of Elysia await should we meet an untimely death on St. Patrick's Day.
Which is all the more reason why on the first Friday of Lent, I crave a steak. Because of my Catholic schooling, I know that God expects us to yield to temptation, so long as we repent. Not one to let God down, I headed out to Charlie's Steak House on the first Friday of Lent to do some sinning. Charlie's occupies a blink-and-you-miss-it block of Dryades Street about two blocks off Napoleon. Its the kind of neighborhood joint that once littered the New Orleans landscape, before NIMBYs decided such things were as welcome as a varmint bearing Wal-Mart plans.
You enter through the bar, and veer left into a dining room lined with photos, newspaper clippings, and wood paneling. You should feel right at home if you remember the old lions of New Orleans dining - the Brunings, the Mr. Ed's, Bull's Corner. The wine list is short and sweet, but the Old Fashioneds are stout and cold. Soon a plate of onion rings arrive, thin and begging for a few good shakes of salt. The onion rings come not with some newage guacamole aioli, but some hot sauce and ketchup. They are fried crisper than a new twenty dollar bill.
Sometime after eating half of the onion rings, a salad will show up that is so tragically unhip, its cool in the Bywater. Iceberg lettuce, a chip of sliced, grayish red tomato, and a thick blue cheese dressing. If you are a person who looks at wings as an efficient delivery mechanism for blue cheese, this is your salad. Also, we may be soul mates. Pro tip: add the onion rings to the salad.
Your options are limited: a T-bone, a filet, and a newly added ribeye. The ribeye is a massive shingle of glistening fat streaked beef. The filet is taut and thick cut allowing a maximum ratio of charred exterior to rosy or in my case, red, interior. The steaks suffered from a slight lack of salt, but this was remedied by combining the steak and mushrooms bordelaise into one bite. Very rarely does one plus one equal three, but in this case it does. Feel free to skip the potatoes au gratin which are clunky.
Here is the thing with Charlie's. This is the kind of place that isn't anywhere near perfect and it doesn't try to hide its imperfection. You come to Charlie's for the service, which is sharp and funny, the ambiance, which is slightly garage band in a good way, those onion rings, blue cheese dressing that is richer than a Gates, the mushroom bordelaise and a well-cooked steak. I wouldn't recommend coming to Charlie's just once, but if I had to pick one restaurant in New Orleans to become a regular at, this would be in the running.
The road to eternal salvation may not be paved with steak on Fridays, but the path to the garden of earthly delights is.
Charlie's Steak House: Is It Worth It? Yes.
4510 Dryades St.
Dinner only, Tuesday - Saturday