C as in Charlie opened in Noho in the fall of 2022 from industry veterans David JoonWoo Yun, Eric JaeHo Choi, and Steve JaeWoo Choi, all of whom had grown up together in Atlanta. The Korean Southern tapas— inspired by their upbringings — is enticing on its own, but the restaurant, which is located at 5 Bleecker Street, near Bowery, has also gotten lots of buzz for its vibes. Here’s the scene at C as in Charlie at 7:30 p.m. on a late-July Thursday.
The vibe: The atmosphere inside the packed restaurant felt akin to a pregame, and complimentary welcome shots of sake certainly helped set the tone. The crowd is young and casually dressed, with a sense of being on the way to another cool spot later. Lively, energetic, and busy, it’s not the place for a quiet, chill dinner nor for having conversations that should be spoken, not yelled. The high decibel and energy levels are less to do with music and more the result of laughter, chatter, and even birthday singing. The restaurant glows with red lighting, like a manifestation of that thrumming, summer, raring-to-go out feeling.
That being said: Diners put off by the party vibe inside will be pleased to know that good weather seems to offer the option of essentially two different C as in Charlies. There’s the raucous red-tinged dining room inside, and the more quiet, spacious, streetlight-lit dining area outside. The latter overlooks a stretch of Bleecker that’s an official Open Streets location, making it more pleasant than some of the city’s outdoor dining corrals.
What to drink: Sake is the obvious choice. It takes up the top third of the drinks menu, and judging by the tables within earshot, the very friendly staff seems quite into it. Drinkers who aren’t into sake will be satisfied by the similarly sized selection of natural wines, mostly from Italy and France, or the tighter lists of beer and Korean spirits, including soju and yakju. In a nod to the South, sweet tea is available for 99 cents.
On the menu: On a list of 12 items plus dessert, All the small plates clock in at $15 or less. The dishes lean heavy, with standouts including the butter-topped “Seoul’sbury steak” over a smear of gruyere grits, and a carbonara-esque oxbone cream pasta. Naturally, there’s snacky, fried drinking food like popcorn chicken. Almost every table seemed to have an order of the toast roll, and with good reason: It looks like an egg roll but is really shrimp toast, with a side of pickled onions and chili mayo. There are a few fresh, cold options like tomato salad, edamame hummus, and ceviche. Five dishes was enough for two people with no need for leftovers but no room for dessert. One of those is a trompe l’oeil bagel made with a wafer shell and cream cheese gelato.
Go to the bathroom: C as in Charlie follows the disco bathroom school of Bonnie’s and Wenwen, both known for their mirror selfie-worthy lighting. The blue light here won’t be great for makeup touch-ups, but it definitely carries on the restaurant’s playful vibe. Though some things are worth leaving as fun surprises, know that there is Listerine and disposable cups to help prepare for the night’s next destination.