Local

"Charlie" brings smoked ribs to North Shore

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

ABC7's Hungry Hound has been braving the Edens Expressway recently -- going in search of a few guys named "Charlie" in Northbrook.

Our first "Charlie" has been grilling chicken for the past fifteen years. He started out in Buffalo Grove and then moved to a Northbrook strip mall. But more recently, he bought a giant smoker, and is now smoking ribs, brisket and pork to the delight of his North Shore regulars.

For more than 15 years, Chicken Charlie's has been a constant on the North Shore. They've succeeded, in part, from being consistent.

"The things that remain core are the Chinese Chicken Salad, boneless breast sandwiches and grilled chicken," said Alan Kray, Chicken Charlie's.

But Kray heard something recently that got his attention.

"The statistics that I read are that there is about 1 barbeque place for every 100,000 people in Chicago," said Kray.

So like any good businessman, he adapted. In February, he installed a hefty smoker, and now slow-smokes baby back and St. Louis ribs, plus whole pork shoulder and brisket.

"I was shocked to see the response, which has been overwhelming both in the store and in catering, on the new items," said Kray.

The pulled pork is served on a soft bun, dressed with a zingy barbeque sauce, leaning more sweet than vinegary.

You could opt for a Carolina-style experience by placing some vinegary coleslaw on top of it. The brisket - smoked for more than 15 hours - is a beauty: served either sliced or chopped, it's a barbeque lover's dream, the previously tough cut rendered totally soft and moist from the slow cooking; it's also served with a slathering of sauce. Chicken is also successfully smoked, it arrives tender and juicy, not overcooked.

Good sides include coleslaw - both creamy and vinegary - plus a tomato-cucumber salad and sweet, peachy baked beans.

Kray says he never knew it, but apparently his customers were craving barbeque all along.

"In the few short months that we've had it, it's already crept up probably about 30 to 40 percent of our business, and it just keeps on growing," said Kray.

Another recent addition is sides of mac and cheese and if you want their famous Chinese chicken salad to go, you can also get it in a wrap.

Chicken Charlie's
1143 Church Street, Northbrook
847-559-9090

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