Nov. 28 2014 08:37 PM

County-fair staple promises (some) gut-busting favorites at its new location

Fried-chicken-and-ribs combo
Photo by Mina Riazi

Charlie Boghosian is the king of deep-fried food. It's a well-deserved title, considering the ever-growing list of foods Boghosian has dunked in a deep fryer throughout his decades-long career. Twinkies, Klondike bars, avocados and Oreos begin the high-calorie lineup, followed by Doritos, chicken skins and cookie dough.

Boghosian's eponymous county-fair stand offers countless heart-stopping eats, including the "broasted" chicken, accomplished by pressure-frying the bird. But if you want a side of hummus with your "totally fried" artichoke hearts, you can get that, too. Or better yet: tabouli salad. Yes—perhaps as a joke, or perhaps in an effort to quiet the parsley-preaching crowd—Chicken Charlie's serves up the vegetarian Lebanese dish. And, no, it isn't deep-fried.

Boghosian's greasy county-fair beginnings recently morphed into a Clairemont restaurant opening. The roomy, light-filled joint is fitted with red booths, high-octane-yellow walls and several flat screens. Appropriately called Chicken Charlie's FryBQ, the eatery is located in a sprawling shopping center (5407 Balboa Ave.), just doors down from the newly opened 85 Degrees Bakery.

Throughout the years, Chicken Charlie's has cooked up a devoted fandom: Fried-food aficionados swarmed the restaurant on its opening day, satiated with menu samplings while waiting in a long line. On a recent Sunday afternoon, the fry emporium was filled with a few other indulgent eaters.

Boghosian's multiple TV appearances have earned him quasi-celebrity status, so when I spotted him behind the counter talking to a few servers, I felt star-struck. Fortunately, the feeling dissipated after a few seconds; I regained my composure and surveyed the menu with a clear mind.

Chicken Charlie's FryBQ snubs the most audacious county-fair offerings, including the beloved zucchini nachos and fried Twinkies. Fans of the infamous Krispy Kreme triple cheeseburger won't find it at the brick-and-mortar, where the menu sticks to the familiar: Ribs, shrimp, grilled cheese and several iterations of chicken fill its pages.

I get it. The slightly pedestrian menu suits the suburban, shopping-center setting. Plus, Boghosian probably wants to ensure that people continue visiting his county-fair stand during its annual appearances. By limiting the restaurant menu's scope, he can better achieve that.

Still, I was slightly shaken when the server asked if I wanted my chicken "roasted." Why would I visit a "fryBQ" for roasted chicken? Minutes later, my combo of fried chicken and ribs arrived with a side of roasted potatoes and coleslaw. Two Hawaiian sweet rolls complete the $13.95 dish.

I realize I might invite a barrage of dissent admitting to this, but for a place that touts its food-frying abilities, the chicken was rather unremarkable. Though tender and juicy, the meat was hugged by a bland, lackadaisical coating. The roasted potatoes, boasting sticky skins and warm, creamy-soft innards, were delicious, though. As were the baby back ribs—which made up for the fried chicken's lack of seasoning with their robust flavor.

The chicken sandwich is another menu standout. A crisply fried chicken cutlet meets a chubby bread roll, slathered in mayonnaise and topped with a fat tomato wedge. But it's not all chicken 'n' ribs: Dessert awaits the most ambitious eaters. And in true Charlie fashion, the offerings are anything but ordinary.

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