As convenience foods and restaurant dining become more ingrained in the fabric of daily life, home-cooking has become a novelty.
Hearty meat-and-potato meals seem downright exotic by current standards. Charlie B's on Wheeler Road capitalizes on this trend by being downright retro, and proud of it: "We thought there was a need for great-tasting meats, vegetables, sides and desserts carefully seasoned and cooked the old-fashioned way," the menu explains.
Now, we can't promise that Beaver's mom will cook your meal at Charlie B's, but the restaurant serves up hearty home-cooking with a flair that would leave Ward Cleaver ooohing in contentment.
We visited on a Sunday for lunch and were impressed by how efficiently the restaurant managed the after-church crowd. With ample seating, large booths, roomy tables and fast service, Charlie B's seated us comfortably within 10 minutes of arriving.
It took us considerably longer than that to decide what to order. The menu is as jam-packed as grandma's pantry. Offerings include soups, salads, sandwiches, burgers, chicken, turkey, catfish, shrimp, meatloaf, steak and stick-to-the-ribs breakfasts, served all day. The menu carries different selections for lunch and dinner, but either can be selected any time of day. Lunches come with a choice of two side dishes and bread; dinners offer three side dishes, bread and a salad for an extra $1.99. Also offered are desserts and a kid's menu.
Nothing on the menu is fussy or fancy. Charlie B's calls it "Sunday dinner - every day," an apt synopsis.
A basket of fluffy biscuits and corn muffins got us started, plus a crisp, refreshing house salad ($2.99). The salad lacked the customary cucumber slices for some reason, but the nicely manageable croutons and juicy tomatoes made it a winner.
For entrees, we chose from the lunch menu and are glad we did; the portions are huge and fully adequate even for dinner. Our selections were Southern fried chicken ($6.79) and fried catfish ($6.69). The chicken was perfectly seasoned and fried to the exacting specifications of crispy outside, juicy inside. Delicious. The catfish fillet was plump and tender. Our accompanying butter beans were tasty, though slightly waterlogged. The hashbrown casserole was a bit dry, and the collard greens were overly sweet for our taste.
Our desserts (cinnamon butter cream cake, $2.99, and banana pudding, $2.49) were downright scrumptious.
Service was hit-and-miss (our clutter meter went ballistic), but the server was sweet and helpful - just really, really busy. And Charlie B's is busy for a reason. Since home-cooking is hard to come by in the home these days, the restaurant very nicely fills the bill.
THE EATERY: Charlie B's
ADDRESS: 3730 Wheeler Road
HOURS: 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, effective Monday
PHONE: (706) 210-9696, or fax at (706) 210-9353
THE RATING: *** 1/2 out of *****
THE FINAL WORD: Sunday dinner every day.
Mary Deriso is the retired general manager of the Pinnacle Club, a private dining club in Augusta. Christine Hurley Deriso is a writer whose children's book, Dreams to Grow On, is available on Amazon.com.