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TLO Restaurant Review: Charcoal Oven

It was last Friday around noon when my precious pup Sean and I decided we were going to trek to the newly reopened Charcoal Oven, 3604 N. May Ave., mostly due to their strange restaurant hours, closing daily at 5 p.m. Yet, somewhere around N.W. 30th—the point of no return, at least for me—it started to mildly drizzle.

Sean loved it, sniffing and smelling everything coated in the fresh rain while, as you could guess, I hated it. Still, I soldiered on with him in tow, down to the new site of Charcoal Oven, formerly the home of one of my old places of employment, Blockbuster Video. I wonder if they found that crate of previously viewed titles I stashed in the back…

With no dogs allowed inside—of course—I tied Sean’s leash to the metal railing outside, by the picnic tables. As I went into the new establishment, it was duly packed, with plenty of cronish elders staring at my dog and then at me disapprovingly, the force of a thousand daggers piercing my heart. But, after I quickly placed my order, I figured I’d be in and out. Figured.

After a wait of roughly 45 minutes—one where I went back and forth to make sure Sean was alright in the inclement weather—admittedly there was a part of me that was seething over that long a wait for a fucking hamburger. As soon as I got my bag, I went outside to sit with him as he excitedly jumped around, these meaty treats being one of his favorite foods. I know the feeling.

Check out this burger:

As I spread my bounty on the wet concrete table, I started with the classic Charcoal Oven Cheeseburger ($6.29). As I bit deep and hard into their trademarked sandwich, slowly those angry emotions drained away into a damp puddle on the floor, the rich hickory sauce and shredded cheese doing their best to calm my tale of wet woe, bringing back recovered memories of the friend who worked at the old location that would give me a few free burgers if I ever came by. But that was the 90s.

As we had another bite or two of the memorable burger, I shared a handful of large Suzy Q Fries ($3.99) with Sean, a moment of shared love between a hungry man and a hungrier beast—who is who I’ll let you decide—with each spiral-cut potato, purely ridiculous in both length and rotation of length, the perfect size to share with a much-loved pal.

And as much as I would have liked to of finished the sandwich, as I looked over to the side Sean had ingested most of the remnants off the table. I guess I taught him well.

As the weather now had alternating surprises of shower bursts and humid dryness, I took out the next burger for a bite or two—I believe Sean had had enough by now—living in the misbegotten past with the Penn Square Cheeseburger ($6.29), a 1/3 pound blessing of meat with many of the same accoutrements as the previous but with lettuce, pickles, onions and…well, I guess that’s it.

Truthfully, it’s mostly plain, much like Penn Square Mall itself now, but with minor moments of tasty delight. “At least I didn’t get shot…” I said to Sean, him staring at me with a ravenous glean in his big brown eyes, unaware that dogs can’t eat onions. Sorry boy, I’m trying to save your life!

I still had one last sandwich to sample though, the fabled Chick-A-Doodle-Doo Sandwich ($7.19), the probable meal of choice for most of the Oven’s aged customers and, honestly, mine too, even if I died a little inside saying the embarrassing name to the cashier.

With a ferociously large cut of fried chicken and a couple of onion rings on top—plus a liberal amount of thousand islands dressing—as the rain began to fall harder, I smiled…this was the taste that I remembered and, cutting a small chunk of bird off for him, one that Sean will remember. Or would have if he took the time to actually enjoy it. Cómpralo ya!


Follow Louis on Twitter at @LouisFowler and Instagram at @louisfowler78.

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