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Harlem’s Fried Chicken King Mounts a Comeback on the Upper West Side

Charles Pan-Fried Chicken opens the first of two new locations planned for Manhattan this year

An overhead photograph of fried chicken with mac and cheese on a paper plate from Charles Pan-Fried Chicken in Harlem, Manhattan.
Fried chicken and mac and cheese from Charles Pan-Fried Chicken.
Gary He/Eater NY

Nearly three decades after launching as a sidewalk operation on Amsterdam Avenue, Charles Pan-Fried Chicken makes its return this week. The Harlem institution known for its fried chicken — prepared in a cast iron skillet, rather than a deep fryer — is here with the first of two new locations set to open in Manhattan this year.

The restaurant at 144-146 West 72nd Street, between Amsterdam and Columbus avenues, opened on the Upper West Side on Monday morning. It’s the first of several openings for chef and owner Charles Gabriel, who closed the sole location of Charles Pan-Fried Chicken last year and vowed to open as many as five restaurants citywide in its place.

Gabriel and chief operating office Quie Slobert planned to open the first location of the restaurant last spring at 340 West 145th Street, at Edgecombe Avenue, in Harlem, but a series of gas and electric delays has postponed the opening for the near future. The restaurant is listed as “coming soon” on Instagram.

The expansion plans will bring Gabriel’s tender, crispy chicken to more neighborhoods, and possibly even Brooklyn. From the new restaurant, his fried bird is served with biscuits and sides, smothered in gravy, and perched atop waffles. The chef is also using the expansion to pilot new menu items, including barbecued pulled pork and fried chicken sandwiches.

The restaurant now known as Charles Pan-Fried Chicken has operated under a number of names during its decades-long run in Harlem. Gabriel first launched the business from a folding table along Amsterdam Avenue in 1995, before expanding with a food truck called Charles’ Mobile Soul Food Truck. The name changed to Charles’ Southern Style Kitchen when Gabriel opened his first brick-and-mortar restaurant, and then again — to Charles’ Country Pan-Fried Chicken — following a temporary closure in 2008.

The name has changed, but Gabriel’s chicken — fried in a series of cast iron pans and seasoned exactly three times, as his mom taught him — consistently ranks among the city’s best. The New Yorker found the chef to be making “some of the best fried chicken and Southern sides in the city,” while the New York Times called his battered legs and thighs “the Platonic ideal” of fried chicken. “This is chicken I’d die for,” the latter publication wrote in 2019.